2019 AIGA conference through the eyes of attendees and speakers.

April 4, 2019 7:45-ish AM — 1,600+ creatives from all over the country converge at the Pasadena Convention Center to attend this year’s AIGA Design Conference, which would kick off with Studio Tours to Walt Disney Animation Studios, Corita Art Center, BLT Communications, Judson Studios, LA-Más, and Metro Design Studio.


Over the next 3 days, emerging designers will get to meet their design idols, while seasoned legends will have an opportunity to mingle with the future leaders of design. Ashleigh Axios, 2019 conference chair, will speak eloquently (as can be expected from a former Creative Director for the White House) about this year’s overarching theme—Culture. Roman Mars will introduce and interview keynotes in his trademark silvery voice. Over a dozen of symposia will take place on subjects varying from Design Education to building a personal brand. Jessica Hische will sell out of her book “Tomorrow I’ll be Brave” and admit to peeing her pants a little while on stage. So many design-related and design-adjacent conversations will take place during lunches, happy hours, and afterparties…

Photo credits: AIGA LA Team

The following is a recap of those 3 days as experienced by 3 different attendees.





As experienced by Euri Park, USC Graphic Design Senior

The 2019 Pasadena Design Conference was my first AIGA Design Conference I attended and I was impressed more and more each day. From the silk screen printing booth, the wall of designer doodles, to the typewriters [in the registration lobby], this place felt like my designspiration and dribbble dashboards came to life.

The general sessions were more impressive than ever with Roman Mars hosting with a live version of his podcast, Liz Jackson’s passionate and eye-opening speech [about disability], and Chris Do’s motivational message. The Command X contestants and judges were a pleasant surprise as I didn’t expect such high competition or strong critiques. I don’t think I would ever have the confidence to go up in front of thousands of people to compete with my designs, but maybe one day I could come back as a judge.

I knew I made the right choice by participating in this conference and I was so excited to come back the next two days to hear from more of my favorite designers.

Simrit Brar, Design Director, Flying Squirrel, on who she thinks were the toughest and the most lenient judges at Command X this year:

“I think Louise Sandhaus gave the most balanced feedback. Pum was the toughest and most unpredictable but absolutely valid each time. I think I might have been the most lenient. I had told myself—just be kind. If it was real client work I’d have been waaaaay tougher!”

Thinking of participating in the next year’s Command X? Read this Eye on Design post from 2017 on how to survive the live competition.





As experienced by Daisy Rosas, Otis Graphic Design Senior

Day 2 of the conference was an emotional and inspiring day! I got to see my mentor Sheharazad Fleming deliver a speech about the challenges of working in-house. I was extremely proud to see her deliver so much energy and inspiration to the whole room including myself. It really gave me a window into her incredible design journey and an insight into art direction. One thing I will always remember from Sheharazad’s speech is that working in-house at any scale is about finding opportunities within your role to dream big and create something you are proud of by staying true.

“It was like butter.”

Sheharazad Fleming, Creative Director, Otis College of Art and Design, on her feelings about having the conference in her own backyard and participating as a speaker.


Another highlight was seeing my graphic design professor Silas Munro from Otis College of Art & Design deliver such a powerful speech about the Graphic design history timeline and the inequality within those narratives. He spoke about the prolific designer W.E.B Dubois. This really opened my eyes to the forgotten stories of multicultural designers that are never told in history books. It’s vital for the design community to continue searching for these legacies and keep them alive.

Lastly, I really enjoyed Francois Mouly’s speech at the end of Day 2. I enjoyed learning about her art direction role on the New Yorker Magazine Covers. I loved her message about how each cover is very conceptual and it’s up to the viewer to decide what the message is, these covers are meant to start conversations and that’s so important in this digital day and age!

Craft: Type & Tacos Party


As experienced by David Mayes, Typecraft

Friday afternoon of the AIGA Design Conference, an invitation went out randomly and surreptitiously to folks. Our idea was for AIGA LA and Typecraft to sponsor a party for attendees during the conference.

A video invitation was made by Rick Griffith from Matter in Denver. It is appropriate that he did the invitation to this party since Louise Sandhaus introduced me to Rick at the AIGA Design Conference in Phoenix in 2011.

The idea was to invite enough, but not too many people to Typcecraft to celerate with AIGA LA. It worked out perfectly with amazing food from Jesus and Foody Taco and Tecates from Bevmo. It was a little scary, because we didn’t know if 50 or 400 people would show up. In the end, there were about 200 who came to Typecraft and celebrated the conference being in Pasadena, finally!

There were also selections from the Typecraft Design Library on display. And the best part of all was the party favor poster that Rick made that was printing with hot pink ink on the HP Indigo 12000 press during the party.

All went smoothly with the most dedicated revellers ending up at a Speakeasy at the end of the evening.

Photo credits: David Mayes & Hector Torres




As experienced by Paul Elliston, ACD Copywriter

Writing this piece makes me glad I didn’t delete the [2019 AIGA conference] app — which contains the full conference and my own personal schedule. Walking into the conference at 8:15am (I never sleep particularly well in Hotels), I witnessed large groups of people settling in for their roundtable sessions. I momentarily wonder what topics they’re discussing, just as I wondered what topic I’d be discussing the roundtable day before…something I hope organizers address for next year’s conference.

For the morning session I end up in the “Customer Experience” stream which focused heavily on AI. Initially reluctant I found the program to be highly informative and pulled a few significant golden nuggets—for transparency, I worked on two AI-focused brands last year and was hoping for a new topic.

“It was wonderful to get to experience this year’s gala as a community. By being part of the conference, the gala was much more accessible to designers from all over the country. The inspiring ceremony was a perfect way to end the weekend.”

Aaron Ganci, VCD Associate Professor, Herron School of Art and Design, IUPUI


We were on our own for lunch, then returned to the auditorium for the afternoon session. The speakers were motivational, the live student competition went through its final phases to crown the winner and then, following a dinner break, the AIGA Award Ceremony awarded and inducted the evening’s featured companies and medalists*. Inspired we were directed to the courtyard for food, drinks, music and frivolity. And so ends the 2019 AIGA Design Conference.

*You can read more about the 2019 Awards Ceremony and the medalists on aiga.org.
By AIGA Los Angeles
Published April 18, 2019