2020 Year in Review

What. A. Year.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (wait, haven’t we kind of all been doing that??), you’ve probably heard about 3000 times what a “unique” or “unprecedented” year it’s been. That’s putting it mildly. A global pandemic, rampant social injustice, and an election cycle unlike any of us have experienced…but for AIGA AZ, some good was able to shine through. Correction: a lot of good. As I plan my exit as Chapter President, I look back on this crazy year in awe and with complete admiration for what this board of kickass humans was able to do amidst the chaos. Add to that one stellar creative community that kept us and each other going and let’s just say…I’m damn proud to be a part of it all. 

Enough with the mushy stuff…time for some braggin’!

Given the uncertainty and stressful circumstances 2020 brought, it would have been more than acceptable for all of us to take a long, hard pause. We tout the importance of mental health and we stand by it! But what happened instead was truly inspirational. This board of a couple dozen volunteers (yes, 100% VOLUNTEER!) pivoted, navigated this “new norm” — both in their personal and professional lives — and were still able to provide much-needed programming, resources, content, and support to our creative community. 

A lot of “firsts” for the chapter:

  1. Hosted the Annual Town Hall (AIGA AZ’s open board and community meeting) virtually 
  2. Launched our Board Explorer program successfully onboarding a “graduate” onto our Communications team 
  3. Shifted our in-person Portfolio Reviews, which normally take place at 5 different university campuses around the state, online and successfully hosted over 100 students and emerging designers and 50 professional reviewers.
  4. Pivoted our premier event, Phoenix Design Week (PHXDW), TWICE, ultimately hosting a full 8-days of events, you guessed it – online – for the first time.
  5. Converted our Best of Design Exhibition submitting and voting system 100% digital, and launched the Legacy Archive for all submissions – soon to be live on the AIGA Arizona website!
  6. The CreateAthon team was able to take the 24-hour design-a-thon completely virtual, and still provide marketing solutions to 5 non-profit organizations as well as an invaluable (and fun!) experience to all creatives who attended.

This year we hosted Jacinda Walker, Creative Director of designExplorr, for a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) seminar where she covered topics such as Equity vs. Equality, Racial Bias, and more. The AIGA AZ board, already knowing a culture shift was necessary, walked away enlightened and with a better understanding of how to make sure DEI is intertwined in everything we do, not just initiative programming.

For a good chunk of 2020, the Communications team, hand-in-hand with the rest of the board, re-evaluated all content and programming and pledged an overhaul through a DEI lens, taking on tough subject matters, both internally and externally, in a series of blog and social posts to publicly offer love, encouragement, and support to our community.

On top of our ongoing content – Member of the Month, resources, and job opportunities – this year, we introduced local industry leader spotlights, as well as hyper-targeted social media shares provided by our initiative directors to keep the finger on the pulse of our industry here in Arizona.


More chapter accomplishments to be proud of:

At the end of 2019, thirty of us got together (when that was still a thing) to plan 2020 events and other initiative-based programming. Out of the 26 events planned, the AIGA AZ Directors and their committees, with the help of our rockstar VP of Programming Nicole Norgren, still put on 21 – 80% – of them, even going 100% virtual. Some of the events changed completely and some easily adapted to a virtual setting.

Business of Design

The BoD committee started off the year with an in-person goal planning event at Mac6 to hear Matt Adams share tips and advice on planning for the best year ever. 

After a quiet spring and summer, while everyone got their footing in a new work-from-home (aka live-from-work) era, we brought two great BoD events to PHXDW. First, What I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know from board member Jen Flaks with useful advice from her lessons in business on taxes, planning for change, and growth. We also had AIGA AZ board Alumni Amy Robinson, with her talk on Design Double Dippin’ about successfully running your own business while working a full-time gig, all while balancing some family time, self-care, and football watching in between. 

Rounding out our year, we did a little Zoom-side chat with Melissa Blatt of Indipop on health insurance and alternatives for the independent contractor. 

Design for Good

The AIGA AZ Design for Good committee sure lived up to their name in a year where we may have needed it the most. 

During the summer, we hosted a timely webinar with Dr. Ofer Berenstein who is a non-partisan voter consultant. He discussed the details of creating a successful “Get out the Vote” campaign and how to identify the different types of audiences and predict what design content will, and will not, appeal to them.

Responding to a great need, D4G then put on a Mental Wellness panel for creatives. Their goal was to have a candid conversation with mental wellness professionals and remove some of the stigma around therapy/life coaching. Multiple professionals were there as a resource for the community so if someone was looking for help, they could start there. 

D4G had a full mental health track at PHXDW as well. Dr. Margaret Rutherford conducted a workshop and discussed her book Perfectly Hidden Depression. Those who attended were able to hear about the relationship between perfectionism + creatives and why that can be so dangerous to your mental health. Also featured on this track was local designer Jon Arvizu, illustrator extraordinaire. His talk Empathy FTW related to the difficulties of living and working during the pandemic and how to still have meaningful relationships during this time. We weren’t crying, you were. 

Over the weekend of December 5–6, we had our first VIRTUAL CreateAthon. With 20 designers and five local non-profits, our volunteers created entirely new websites, logos, social ads, and marketing campaigns in 24 hours. Powered by caffeine and the desire to make a difference, these creatives really represented what it meant to design for good. 

Education + Mentorship

Our annual statewide Portfolio Review held in March, typically at five locations including Arizona State University (Tempe), Arizona State University – Polytechnic (Mesa), Grand Canyon University (Phoenix), The University of Arizona (Tucson), and Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff), was quickly able to pivot to a virtual event when the pandemic hit.

Design students and emerging designers with less than 5 years experience had their work reviewed by local design leaders in 15-minute sessions. Despite the shift to online, we successfully maintained 50 reviewers and over 100 participants. 

Get Out the Vote Social Impact Challenge: A collaborative social impact design challenge aimed at encouraging voter registration and voting. GOtV designs will be submitted to a virtual gallery that leads users to register and/or vote. View the gallery here.


  • 68 Designs Submitted
  • 333 Pageviews
  • 46% Female // 54% Male
  • 61% Age 18-34 // 39% Age 35+
  • 7 Countries Reached
  • 9 Languages Read

Mentorship Meetups: You talked, we listened! Based on conversations during the AIGA AZ Town Hall, we redesigned the mentorship program. The all-new AIGA AZ Mentorship Meetup events provide our design community with leadership and learning opportunities. Each event will focus on a topic and/or speakers suggested by the community. Facilitated through Zoom, there will be a 10-minute talk from each mentor followed by a 60 minute Q&A with the mentees (event participants).

PHXDW Education Panel: Design educators and students joined to discuss current successes and opportunities in design education from K-12 to higher education and pre-pandemic, in pandemic, and looking forward to post-pandemic. If you missed the panel you can view the presentation slide deck.

In-House Design

“In-House” took on a whole different meaning in 2020, as many of us transitioned from working in corporate office buildings to working remotely in our homes. Circumstances required all of us to find new, creative solutions to adapt processes, gatherings, and communication. 

The in-house initiative started strong in February with the annual Food for Thought event sponsored by Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. Over 27 attendees helped raise more than $450 for the nonprofit organization No Kid Hungry. Allison Black, Grimaldi’s in-house Creative Services Manager, kicked off the event with a brief presentation followed by dinner, trivia, and networking. Little did we know this would be one of the last times we would be able to meet in-person, and how much the money raised would mean to families in the coming months.

In July, the In-House team organized their first virtual event, RGBe There, with guest speaker Rick Burress. About 50 creatives joined in for a Zoom lunch date to learn best practices for designing and printing in color. 

For the in-house track of PHXDW, we featured SNAPS: In-house Design Showcase. More than 70 individuals registered to hear local creatives present campaigns from the past year and discuss how they adapted their marketing to address COVID-19 and social injustice. Organizations represented included American Express (Patience Walton), Discount Tire (Theresa Johnson), Grand Canyon University (Jason Boesel and Diana Cheek), and Reshoevn8r (Julian Martinez).


While we were sad to announce the cancellation of the 2-day conference that has come to be the showcase event of Phoenix Design Week, what we ended up with was one freakin’ amazing turnout for our virtual week of events that spanned over 8 days, included nearly 60 online events, and brought in 340 attendees from around the world. The team launched the first online shop of official PHXDW 2020 swag as well as dedicated some digital space to help support local and drive business to local makers. We also gave away dozens of prizes consisting of professional subscriptions, event tickets, and various local goods.

During the week, the AIGA AZ D&I committee hosted a Poster Exhibition encouraging participants to share artwork on what Diversity & Inclusion means to them. You can view the submissions to the exhibition here. 

Oh yeah, and if you were one of those lucky attendees, just a reminder that all of the session recordings are still available for viewing until the end of this month.

Tucson and Flagstaff

AIGA AZ services the creative community ALL over the state. Our satellite boards in Tucson and Flagstaff helped us spread the love too. The team down in Tucson assisted in bringing the great (and major AZ fan) Aaron Draplin in for three workshops as well as coordinated an extremely inspiring talk by Maurice Wood of Inneract Project during PHXDW in October. In Flagstaff, they were able to host three creative mixers, a design talk, a kickass virtual student portfolio review, and racked in huge NAU student participation in the Get Out the Vote initiative, which most certainly helped with the increased voter turnout in this year’s presidential election.   

Perhaps one of the greatest silver linings to our circumstances this year is that we were able to share events from chapters all over the country that our community could attend and benefit from. Likewise, many creative professionals all over the world attended online events hosted by our chapter – shout out to our Australian PHXDW online visitors!

Our initiative Directors and their committees want to thank all of you for your encouragement, engagement, and support this year. If you have any questions or ideas for them, head over to our Meet the Board page to find the right person and reach out.

What a community to be a part of…

While the AIGA AZ board tasked themselves with focusing on ways to provide for the creative community without the need for extensive sponsorship, we were floored by the amount of support we still received from our beloved sponsors and partners. 

Thank you to all who contributed to our chapter in 2020:

Phoenix Design Week
Agency Partners
OH Partners

Official Print Partner
Artisan Colour

Community Sponsors
Grand Canyon University

Title Sponsor

Event Sponsor

Website Sponsor
Extra Small Design

In-House Initiatives

Design for Democracy
Gould Evans + Canary

NEW Chapter Website – Coming 2021
Factor 1 Studios

So what’s next?

Our board is excited to continue creating an inclusive community for all AZ creatives. On top of brainstorming useful ways to bring you relevant content, helpful resources, and special online events (we get it, we’re all sick of staring at the screen so much too!)… we’re working on an all-new mission, vision, and value proposition. We’ll be sharing all of this as well as a brand new website very soon. And as we navigate this “new norm” we’ll keep doing our best to keep the community connected with diverse programming and content.

That’s a wrap!

From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all of our chapter sponsors and partners, every one of our committed board members who worked tirelessly despite their own personal and professional struggles, and of course… to all of YOU, our creative community. We’re so proud to call you our AZ family.

Whatever you celebrate this season, make it a safe and joyous one. Sending giant virtual hugs … er… elbow bumps to you all! “See” you in 2021.

– Jenn Monroy,
AIGA Arizona Chapter President

And the 2020-2021 Board of Directors

By Jenn Monroy
Published December 15, 2020
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