September is the traditional month for all the major organizations for creative professionals to resume business, announcing new Boards, events and initiatives.
This September is unique in that it is the first time since the start of this site that all three organizations announced new leadership at the same time. We thought it would be a great time to check in with the organizations — and their new leaders in particular.
While AIGA National was founded in 1914, and certainly the oldest and largest professional membership organization for design, the Connecticut Chapter of AIGA is the relative new kid on the block in the state, becoming an official Chapter in 2008.
Lisa Burns, now project manager at finalsite, got the ball rolling, “because I couldn’t get to Boston or New York City for events. And I couldn’t understand why Connecticut did not have a chapter with all the talent we have within the state. So I called national headquarters and started asking questions. Before you know it, I was able to gather enough interested designers and agencies to sign a petition to start the chapter.”
“We had been overlooked as a state leading in design – yet we have world class design happening here,” explains Amy Graver, Owner and Creative Director at Elements, who served as interim Vice President to Burns as interim President. “I’m not certain why it took so long. It was a gross oversight.”
After becoming a Chapter and holding their first official election, Graver remained Vice President — and Michael Scricco, a former partner at Keiler and 2010 AIGA Fellow, became its first President. After a two year term for Scricco and another two years for Rich Hollant, Principal and Design Director for CO:LAB, the torch was officially passed in August to Christian LoGrasso.
Christian has over 12 years of creative and leadership experience. He currently works as Manager of Creative Strategy for Valassis Communications, Inc., the Nation’s leading media and marketing services company. In this role he works closely with the organization’s top clients to develop and strengthen compelling print and digital creative campaigns.
“When I originally joined the Board,” says LoGrasso, “I was a new member and was looking for a way to solidify my commitment to the organization and our profession. I felt that becoming a board member was an ideal way to get more involved and show my dedication.”
“I have been involved on the board for two years, holding the dual role of Membership and Partnership Director. From a membership perspective, I represented the chapter’s members and focused on ways to grow the chapter’s member base. From a Partnership standpoint, I focused on forming mutually beneficial partnerships with businesses and organizations that helped broaden and diversify funding for the chapter’s operations.”
His greatest accomplishments so far? “I think we’ve had a lot of collective victories at AIGA CT. With relation to my past role, growing to an organization of over 200 members statewide was great validation that our efforts were being realized. Also moving from a sponsorship model based on more immediate needs to one that formed solid longer-term relationships was something that proved highly beneficial. The funding and connectivity from that shift has significantly helped the chapter grow and branch out in a very stable and sustainable way.”
The path to President just seemed to make sense for LoGrasso. “I have always been a very active board member and sought to learn and understand much of the chapter’s operations in order to be as effective as possible. I became heavily invested in helping to ensure the organization’s success during my first two years on the board, and it just felt natural to continue to move things forward from a leadership standpoint.”
“AIGA just relaunched a brand new membership structure, which offers both incredible opportunities for Connecticut designers to engage with the group, as well as challenges from a transition standpoint. My previous efforts in a membership capacity made the transition into the role of President timely as I know I can help lead through this change.”
“I think the Connecticut chapter is doing a lot right. From a strategic standpoint, we’ve sought to broaden our conversations to include not just designers but also those connected to design and those benefitting from the power of design and design thinking. This elevates the profile of the designer as a problem solver, and demonstrates the universal potential of their role in the problem solving process.”
“We have engrained a sense of social consciousness to many of of the organizations endeavors, partnering with community organizations to solve real problems and connecting designers to organizations in need to yield the positive social impact. And through all of this we create an opportunity for design to play a more significant role at the table.”
“We are transitioning out of our ‘startup’ chapter phase and have now grown to be an established and more sizable organization. We are now in a phase where we are formalizing the foundation of what has worked in the past and building upon that, as well as creating more formal protocol so that we can continue to operate efficiently as we grow.”
“I think there are a lot of operational and logistical details that will help our board operate more efficiently and help our organization continue to grow. Because we are a statewide chapter, were are now more actively branching out throughout the state with our programming and meetings in order to ensure we are providing value for all of our constituencies.”
“Our chapter’s mission and focus is naturally moving in a direction that continually provides opportunities to demonstrate the power of design and elevate the role of the creative professional, while also creating opportunities to engage with the beneficiaries of design, whether they be communities, individuals or businesses.”
“From a programming perspective, we are establishing a foundation of core programs in line with that focus, institutionalizing the best of what has worked well in the past. We are building upon that foundation with a layer of new dynamic programming that has the potential to bring new voices into the conversation.”
“For example, one of the newest areas of focus for the chapter is on in-house creative teams. Those who currently follow content on AIGA.org may have noticed the increase in the amount of content for in-house creatives, and our chapter is working to produce a line of programming that provides value for this audience. Members will also see new programming that supports the idea of sustainability, as well as a reinvigoration of our educational programming.”
John Gibson, creative director at Bertz Design Group, and “the newly ex-treasurer of AIGA Connecticut,” says “the Chapter is in exceptional fiscal shape. With great leadership, a committed board and lots of sweat equity, growth goals set two years ago were well surpassed. And with the luxury of financial stability, thoughtful choices can be made about the direction of the organization’s path forward.”
“But more importantly, our success, particularly in a down economy, attracted the attention of the governing AIGA organization. Coupled with a focus on social value initiatives, I think it’s fair to say we’ve made quite an impression on the national stage.”
“Many of the folks continuing on the board were instrumental in these successes. They know the formula and have the requisite drive for proper execution. With a solid foundation built over the last four years, and the caliber of folks I’ve met who have committed to volunteering their time on the new board, I am confident the Chapter will do great things in its future.”
“During my time on the Board alongside Christian,” adds Lisa Burns, “he has shown the organization and this chapter how dedicated and impartial he can be. He is the future for this chapter and I support his efforts to move the members in the right direction.”
First up for AIGA programming, they continue their “Breakfast Epiphany” series on September 18th. “Join TJ Clynch, founder of Civic Mind, for a morning of inspiration and conversation, and learn how TJ has become an entrepreneurial success story through projects that include Downtown Yoga, Hartford’s first yoga studio, and ‘Cycled Energy,’ a green cycling class were participants power the electric grid through sweat equity. No stranger to adversity, TJ overcame setbacks sustained after being hit by a truck, refocused his career goals, and set out to combine his passion for civic responsibility with his appreciation for health and wellness. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear TJ’s inspiring story about how he redefined success through entrepreneurship and the cultivation of our community.”
Connecticut Art Directors Club
Ironically, the history of the Connecticut Art Directors Club had its roots in the AIGA as well. Peter Good, state design legend and 2009 AIGA Fellow, recalls, “There was no statewide club for creatives at the time. We wanted to be an AIGA chapter right from the beginning, but we were stuck in this awkward triangle between New York, Providence and Boston. And this was before they really had chapters.”
“The team at the time,” says Good, “spent a good year working on what I would call ‘the minutae’ — the by-laws and legal structure of the organization.” CADC became official in 1975, electing Mark Vogt as President to Good’s VP of Communications.
Fast forward 37 years, and the reins are being handed over to Lorena Iturrino. Graduating Magna Cum Laude in 2006 from Central Connecticut State University, Lorena spent the first six years of her career at Outthink, racking up numerous CADC Awards wins, before moving to CO:LAB in 2012 — “to put her experience and skills to work for organizations that are committed to social value.”
“I became a board member five years ago,” says Iturrino. “Throughout the years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people who have inspired and influenced who I am as a professional today. I’m both excited and honored to be a part of a club that was founded 37 years ago by some of the most transcending people in our industry.”
“I’m thrilled to have the support of a fantastic board,” continues Iturrino. “We’ve been working hard to plan a great season of events that I’m sure will inspire you.”
“We are starting with a crawl around New London. Then there’s a Noble WordPress event early October. We are also pushing out a new series for members only called Show & Tell.”
The New London Crawl kicks off the season on September 28th, with stops at the Hygienic Art Gallery and the studios of Patti Murphy, Mattias Lundbland, Killer Minnow and Kat Murphy, before adjourning for a drink at The Dutch Tavern.
There are many reasons to join the CADC, as exemplified by the rest of the new Board.
“Working by myself, I missed spending time with others who understood what it’s like to get excited about a new font or the challenges of new coding languages,” says Karen Stevenson, Owner of Thumbnails Designs and new Vice President. “After getting to know the people supporting this history-rich group, I wanted to become more involved and joined the Board.”
“Leaving an agency for an in-house operation can result in a feeling of isolation,” says Christine Ballestrini, Web Designer at University of Connecticut and the new Secretary. “When I made the jump, I joined the CADC board to stay connected to the design community, old colleagues and mentors and to meet inspirational people.”
“CADC is a fun way to meet new friends and spend time with old friends who I have shared my love of design with for years,” says Kat Speranza-Ryan, a creative director at Outthink and the Club’s new Treasurer. “I enjoy working closely with board members on developing new and innovative ideas for events and club happenings.”
The Advertising Club of Connecticut
The Advertising Club of Connecticut is the largest professional marketing and advertising association in the state. Their 2,000+ audience includes ad agency executives, media reps, PR professionals, printers, photographers, creatives, web gurus, videographers and corporate marketing/communications departments. Members enjoy monthly networking events as well as their annual events — a Charity Auction, Holiday Party, Out-of-Home Competition, Job Fair, plus their signature event, the Annual Awards Show.
Sandra Brangiero, owner and creative director of SLB Design in Marlborough, joined the Advertising Club in 2001. “A friend of mine was then President,” says Brangiero, “and asked that I become a Board Member to help out with the Annual Charity Auction. I have been committed to being a part of the organization’s growth since then.”
She was Marketing Director of the Club for eight years, then became Executive Director of the Club in 2008.
What does she consider her greatest accomplishments during this tenure? “I do not think in terms of ‘my’ greatest accomplishments, I am only a small part of a larger vehicle. I would have to say that the continued growth and success of the organization because of the strong commitment of our Board and our members is what stands out in my mind… The simple fact that we can and do work together to produce a better and stronger organization every year is a great accomplishment in and of itself.”
Her continued commitment to the organization made her Presidency “the next logical step.”
Their mission has always been a clear one: To promote the highest standards of excellence in advertising and marketing throughout the state — emphasizing professionalism, educational programs and seminars, networking, social media, scholastic mentoring, exchanging of ideas and the recognition of creative excellence.
The crowd at Ad Club events are certainly different than those at CADC or AIGA. “The Ad Club is a unique organization within the state,” says Brangiero, “as it promotes membership and its services not only to the creative community, but to the industry in its entirety. So, be they a creative, marketing professional, media outlet or rep, or in any other part of advertising and marketing arena, they will all gain by becoming a member.”
Many of the state’s top ad agencies continue to support the Club through their participation. “It’s a very important way for us to cement our creative reputation in the local ad community… which also helps with recruiting new talent,” says Don Carter, creative director at Adams & Knight. His favorite event? The Awards Show. “Clients like getting awards, too — knowing that they have placed their trust in an agency that has a winning creative product.”
“The Ad Club was my first introduction to the advertising/design ‘community’ all those years ago,” says Wayne Raicik, VP, Associate Creative Director at Cronin & Company. Raicik concurs that the Awards Show is their flagship event, even though he points out that he’s “never been a big awards guy. To me, it’s more about seeing what people are up to, the good work they’re doing, and hopefully getting some form of inspiration from that. And, I was never one to pass up a cocktail shrimp and scotch and soda.”
The Ad Club has kicked off their season by announcing two new events:
They will begin the 2012-2013 season at Thomas Hooker Brewing Company in Bloomfield on Thursday, September 20. From 5:30pm to 7:30pm, there will be networking, music, appetizers and a beer tasting from one of Connecticut’s finest breweries!
Then they launch their Professional Development Seminar Series on Wednesday, October 17. The first topic in the series of three will be “How To Sell When No One Is Buying,” held at The Hartford Courant from 7:30am to 9:00am. The goal of the event is to help anyone, in any industry, who has to sell a service, product. The lecture will be presented by Chris Socha, VP of Sandler Training/TEM, a sales training and consulting company with offices in CT and NY.
“The Club will be put to the test this year,” says Brangiero. “As we are in our 99th year and moving toward our 100-Year Anniversary, we have the daunting task of creating an event memorable and worthy of an organization that has lasted this long.”
“Why are we unique?” says Brangiero. ”It is our 100-year legacy, our commitment to advancing the status of our profession, our ability to generate excitement and awareness of all our industry can do to make this state a more viable and productive entity… It is our love of advertising and marketing, our desire to be the best.”
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