Hear from past presidents – Jim Nissen

Celebrating our 30th anniversary as a chapter
Hear from past presidents

Jim Nissen

What do you think was your most important contribution to the chapter or in the Arizona design community during the time you were president?

With the enduring help of many like-minded, different-minded, strong-willed and ultra-well-intentioned creative leaders and rebels, I feel I was able to leverage the power of the AIGA, to quietly underwrite the PHXDC (Phoenix Design Community) movement. We broke down the stereotypes, shared ideas, got vulnerable and truly connected. That energy spawned, among other things, the first Phoenix Design Week, officially putting Arizona on the map.


What message would you like to leave to the future about where we’ve been as a design community, and where we’re going?

Phoenix, and the whole of Arizona, is one of the most connected and honest group of creators in the country. Keep pumping out the great ideas, the solutions, and the answers. Keep being inclusive of all the voices – loud and soft, from every corner of the community, and every level of experience. You have diversity built in and are stronger because of it.


Name one thing that is different about design now compared to when you were president. This refers more to the overall world of design.

Design now has a seat at the table. When I was president, we were fighting to get our voice heard at the C-level. We were seen as decorators. AIGA was absolutely instrumental in getting the attention of business and delivering the goods. There is a chief design officer at every major company now, and design-thinking is a core skill used to shape our world.


Name the single most significant shift in design that you’ve experienced. Is the world more or less design-savvy these days?  For example, how the shift from analog to digital design, social media or the web affect designers? 

Design is now understood to be a process-led endeavor and not just the printed page. Visual language is the backbone of professionals and the delivery is getting savvier every day. Luckily, at the same time, design artifacts like magazines and packaging are as delightful as ever, and leverage the senses of touch, form and even smell to bring us into the physical world of a brand or community.


Is there anything you still wish you could have accomplished as president? 

To cheer Mark Dudlik up.


What would you like to see the AIGA Arizona chapter tackle next?

I’d like to see more documentation and then sharing of processes. The way AIGA AZ keeps reinventing and delivering is inspiring, and I think the entire organization could benefit from an under-the-hood type channel. Putting on PHXDW in itself is a feat, let alone all the rest of the things you guys do. And, if I know you guys, you could craft a way that is not only informative, iterative and interactive, but sustainable with new folks coming in all the time.

By Jessie Garrett
Published January 16, 2020
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