In 1911, Fred Goudy, Alfred Stieglitz, and W. A. Dwiggins came together to discuss the creation of an organization that was committed to individuals passionate about communication design. In 1913, president of the National Arts Club, John G. Agar, announced the formation of The American Institute of Graphic Arts during the eighth annual exhibition of “The Books of the Year.” The National Arts Club was instrumental in the formation of AIGA in that they helped to form the committee to plan to organize the organization. The committee formed included Charles DeKay and William B. Howland and officially formed the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1914. Howland, publisher and editor of The Outlook, was elected president. The goal of the group was to promote excellence in the graphic design profession through its network of local chapters throughout the country.
In 1920, AIGA began awarding medals to "individuals who have set standards of excellence over a lifetime of work or have made individual contributions to innovation within the practice of design." Winners have been recognized for design, teaching, writing or leadership of the profession and may honor individuals posthumously.
In 1982, the New York Chapter was formed and the organization began creating local chapters to decentralize leadership.
Represented by Washington, D.C. arts advocate and attorney, James Lorin Silverberg, Esq., The Washington, D.C. Chapter of AIGA, was organized as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Incorporated, Washington, D.C. on September 6, 1984.
The AIGA, in collaboration with the US Department of Transportation, produced 50 standard symbols to be used on signs "in airports and other transportation hubs and at large international events". The first 34 symbols were published in 1974, receiving a Presidential Design Award. The remaining 16 designs were added in 1979.
In 2012, AIGA replaced all its competitions with a single competition called "Cased" (formerly called "Justified"). The stated aim of the competition is to demonstrate "the collective success and impact of the design profession by celebrating the best in contemporary design through case studies".
Between 1941 and 2011 AIGA sponsored a juried contest for the 50 best designed books published in the previous year, entitled "50 Books/50 Covers". Jurors included booksellers, book publishers, and designers such as George Salter.
On February 17, 2012, AIGA announced that it would cease organizing the contest and that future contests would be organized by Design Observer. This move has been criticized.
The 365 was an annual design competition for all graphic design other than book design. The last “365” competition was organized in 2011, after which it was replaced by the "Cased" competition.
AIGA organized two conferences, the AIGA Design Conference and GAIN: AIGA Design and Business Conference. Both conferences were held biennially and the two were held in alternating years. Beginning in 2016, the AIGA Design Conference will be held annually with the 2016 conference held in Las Vegas.
The first AIGA Design Conference took place in Boston, Massachusetts in 1985.
Past AIGA Design Conferences include:2016 - Las Vegas
2015 - New Orleans
2013 - Minneapolis
2011 - Phoenix
2009 - Memphis
2007 - Denver
2005 - Boston
2003 - Vancouver
2001 - Washington
1999 - Las Vegas
1997 - New Orleans
1995 - Seattle
1993 - Miami
1991 - Chicago
1989 - San Antonio
1987 - San Francisco
1985 - Boston
The 2016 Conference was hosted by Roman Mars.
As of 2016, the national board consists ofSue Mathews Hale (President)
Andrew Twigg (Treasurer)
Julie Anixter (Executive Director)
Jennifer Visocky O'Grady
Jenny Price (President's council representative)
Sean Adams (Ex officio)
Between 2005 and 2009, AIGA was briefly a member of Icograda (now called Ico-D). In 2010, it withdrew from the international organization, citing financial reasons.
AIGA opened up membership beyond local chapters in 2014, benefiting creative professionals living and working outside of the USA.
In 1947 AIGA started publishing the AIGA Journal of Graphic Design (ISSN 0736-5322), which in 2000 was renamed Trace: AIGA Journal of Design (ISSN 1471-3497). The journal ceased publication in 2003.
Between 2000 and 2003 AIGA published Loop: AIGA Journal of Interaction Design Education, an “interactive, web-based” research journal on interaction and visual interface design co-sponsored by Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center for Design Studies.
Between 2004 and 2011 AIGA published Voice: AIGA Journal of Design, an “an online publication for the discussion of design matters” listing Steven Heller as its editor. Although the journal was stated in “What AIGA is doing and why” and had been cited in scholarly research, after AIGA revamped its website in May 2011 it was subsumed under AIGA’s main site and ceased to exist as a distinct entity.
As part of its strategy to “publish critical thinking about design and designing”, AIGA also “copublishes selected works by thought leaders in design” under the imprint of “AIGA Design Press”. Published titles includeThe Open Brand: When Push Comes to Pull in a Web-Made World (Kelly Mooney and Nita Rollins, 2008)
Digital Foundations: Intro to Media Design with the Adobe Creative Suite (Xtine Burrough and Michael Mandiberg, 2008), which was released under a Creative Commons license
Designing for Interaction: Creating Smart Applications and Clever Devices (Dan Saffer, 2006)
Designing With Web Standards (Jeffrey Zeldman, 2006)
Inside/Outside: From the Basics to the Practice of Design (Malcolm Grear, 2006)
ZAG: The Number-One Strategy of High-Performance Brands (Marty Neumeier, 2006)
Do Good: How Design Can Change the World (David B. Berman, 2008)
Writing for Visual Thinkers: A Guide for Artists and Designers (Andrea Marks, 2011)
AIGA has also published the periodically updated AIGA professional practices in graphic design including a translation to simplified Chinese.
AIGA also maintains the AIGA Design Archives, which was identified as a publishing activity.