I am fairly out, and you are fairly in.

President Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy, 1960

"I am fairly out, and you are fairly in. See which of us will be the happiest." This is a quote President George Washington said as he passed the presidency to John Adams. I thought about this today as tomorrow is my last day as AIGA president. On July 1, the job is Su Mathews-Hale's. She will be a dynamic, smart, and visionary president. And, clearly infinitely more patient than me. The floggings will stop.

I stepped in for a second term 2 years ago. I did this, not because I have a huge ambition for power. If I did this is the wrong job. AIGA was in the midst of a controversial issue, the sale of the building. This and the next challenge, the search for a new Executive Director, were critical. And I might be of some help.

Me and Debbie Millman (my first term) 2008

AIGA Presidents, L-R: Clement Mok, Sean Adams, Bill Drenttel, Debbie Millman, Michael Bierut, Ric Grefé (Executive Director), Michael Vanderbyl, 2009

My first term as president from 2007-2009 was like the Eisenhower years. It was a good time. Membership and revenue was high, chapters were growing and thriving, and the organization was efficient and had a remarkable support system of Ric Grefé, Denise Wood, an amazing staff, and nation of volunteers. We had board retreats in Palm Springs (yes, board members pay for it all themselves). The only thing missing was Mamie.

Mamie Eisenhower, 1954

This term was more like the Clinton years. Change is never easy and progress seemed to happen in hard jolts, not a seamless walk. Social media and online conversations create an immediate response to every decision. This is good because dialogue is the basis of a vital democracy. The downside is that rumor and conjecture quickly became facts. At times it felt like there was a vast right wing conspiracy. But, to keep it in perspective, it's AIGA, not the United States Senate.

President Bill Clinton

President Bill Clinton

me at the end of my second term, 2015 (OMFG!)

me at the end of my second term, 2015 (OMFG!)

People ask me how I feel about leaving after so many years. In fact, I'll be staying on the board to work with the Executive Director search committee, but my days of demanding that others bow to me are unfortunately over. 

The best part will be the chance to devote more time to education, supporting young designers, and actually designing. I look forward to spending less time on conference calls (which I hate because I never know who is speaking, and am easily confused). But, I will never again feel the same pride, as I do now serving the profession. 

Me and the fabulous Katie Baker, May 2015, Grand Rapids, Michigan

AIGA is more vital and stronger than any time in history. To all of you who have been part of this two year journey: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the organization and design profession stronger, and we leave it in good hands. All in all, not bad.

I will leave with the greatest pride for this organization of ours and eternal optimism for its future. Su, you're on.

The flawless Su Mathews-Hale, Madam President

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Mash-up o' Crap

I have a big plastic bin labeled “Favorite Things”. This bin is filled with; you guessed it, our favorite things. Every few months I go through the bin and weed out the garbage. It seems that the Favorite Things bin can become a dumping ground for any item that has no home. If you came into the office and found the bin, you would probably say, “Whoa, what a bunch of crap.” I imagine Michael Bierut’s Favorite Things bin filled with beautiful items designed by Massimo Vignelli, Paula Scher, and Woody Pirtle. Bill Drenttel and Jessica Helfand’s box has rare books by Paul Klee, Alvin Lustig, and Paul Rand. Michael Vanderbyl must have a box filled with a magnificent collection of classic black and white photography.

Our bin, as you can imagine, is filled with Dixie Cups, a piece of wallpaper with a repeat pattern of antique cars, 1972 maps of Berlin from a European Bus company, and other worthless artifacts. Today, I will begin the slow reveal of the items. Today’s mash-up of crap is a 1964 travel pack of Kleenex Tissues, a Technicolor brand envelope, a lovely package of napkin/guest towels, and a Dinah’s Fried Chicken menu. Don’t say you can’t find the height of western culture here at the cabin.

The Big Cold

Before I started BurningSettlersCabin, Bill Drenttel asked me if I would do an article for Design Observer on refrigerators. Bill specifically wanted to see designer’s refrigerators. So I sent notes to a bunch of friends and asked them to send me images of their refrigerators. Immediately, Marian Bantjes sent me her photos. Thank you Marian. Then, nothing. I asked again, and everyone said, “no problem.” But nothing ever arrived. It seemed that I had asked for something too private to share. I have no idea what others keep in the fridge that is so shocking. We found a stack of frozen Big Macs in my dad’s refrigerator. Maybe famous designers are doing the same, but can’t reveal that.

I love my refrigerator, and have no issue showing it. It’s a Sub Zero Pro 48. When I have guests, they invariably ask, “Sean, just how do you keep your refrigerator so neat?” The secret is plastic bins. Keep all the mustards in one, and all the miscellaneous condiments in the others. Anything oddly shaped is kept separate. I worry that my refrigerator is too big, but we have 7/8 sized refrigerator at work, so it evens out. My advice to everyone is not to use plastic bins in the fridge (although you should), but to look into every designer’s fridge when you visit. Just what is so shocking and terrible that everyone runs when asked?