Hear from past presidents – Marvin Forte

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

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

When I took on the role of president, I outlined the overarching goals I had for the chapter while I was in charge.

First, I saw my most important job was to leave the chapter more organized, more standardized and more fiscally sound than when I took over.

I believe I succeeded on those items, at least to some degree:

  • Our meetings became shorter, more inclusive and more efficient. 
  • We wrangled the archives and all the miscellaneous materials that had been in storage into shape. Thanks, Kathy and Jim! 
  • We launched a new website, based on the updated web toolkit from AIGA National. 
  • I brought in Kathy Morgan to help us with the books and the infrastructure of the chapter, and she proved to be the perfect choice. If I did nothing else, that one action would stand on its own. 
  • I helped start the wheels rolling on the legacy committee, which included the advisory board.

I also wanted to continue making the Arizona chapter more visible within the local design community, and more recognized nationally within AIGA, something Mark Dudlik and Jim Nissen had kicked off with Phoenix Design Week. 

Some of the memorable local programs from my tenure include: 

  • The Film Bar Film Series
    • “Charles & Ray Eames: The Architect and the Painter”
    • “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child”
    • “Waste Land”
    • “The Universe of Keith Haring”
    • “Marwencol”
  • Creative Speed Date: Matching up Web Designers and Web Developers
  • Say Anything: Popular Roundtable Discussion Series
  • Adobe Workshops with Brian Wood

But surely the biggest event during that time was the AIGA National Conference: Pivot, which came to Phoenix in 2011, just as I was taking over duties as president. I worked with the folks at AIGA National to help plan many of the associated events for Pivot, by providing insider insights. I was tasked with producing a printed Culture Guide for conference attendees and recruited Mike Campbell to help with the design prototype. This guide introduced attendees to local food, nightlife, tourist attractions, and outdoor attractions Phoenix had to offer. I also worked with AIGA National to incorporate the data from the printed Culture Guide into their app. I ran Studio Tours for conference attendees to visit some of the best design studios in Phoenix. Some of the shops we toured included Kitchen Sink Studios, PS Studios, After Hours Creative, and Moses Anshell. Mark Dudlik and Tanner Woodford also created their Design History Museum Popup, which Tanner is still running as the Design Museum of Chicago.

Lastly, I wanted to help build an environment that groomed board members to grow into more leadership responsibilities. It’s been a thrill to see the board members from my days blossom into chapter leaders and even AIGA national leaders.

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

The Phoenix Design Community is unmatched. While I was president, I got to know almost every person who came to our events. I met so many people who were new designers and are now design leaders. I moved to the greater Portland, Oregon area in 2017, and I truly miss the design community in Phoenix. Everywhere I went to AIGA, people talked about the Phoenix Design Community. It’s up to you all to make sure that legacy continues. Keep pushing forward and find ways to plug in, connect and grow.

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

There was a huge push in those days to tell designers they must also be developers. I fought this trend during my stint and hope I helped make a difference locally. There’s nothing wrong with being a designer, a developer or a designer and developer.

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? 

The world may be savvier to design trends and visual aesthetic, but I believe it’s still not so savvy about the strategy of design and branding. I believe good design is good design, regardless of analog or digital. I started off all analog and these days, I’m about 90% digital. Social media has brought good and bad. It connects us in ways not possible before the Internet. But we now live in a world where people can instantly judge the new logo for a company (based on looks alone) and have an audience of thousands to hear that critique.

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

Too many. We tried to get the mentorship program off the ground during my time, but it fizzled. I wish I could have instituted more standard practices for the board and gotten things a little more prepared for my successor, Niki Blaker.

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

The world? Why not.

By Matt Adams
Published September 20, 2019
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.