The American Institute of Graphic Arts, better known as AIGA, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. That’s a remarkable milestone when you consider that graphic design didn’t really exist as a profession until the 20th century. Before that, printers and commercial artists handled such tasks. Interestingly, graphic design owes its rise in part to the First World War, which started in 1914 and set off a scramble for army recruitment and war bond posters. This accelerated the production of posters (and demand for graphic artists) as governments sought to rally citizens to support the war effort. The First World War also happened to coincide with the widespread adoption of offset lithographic printing, which enabled mass production of affordable pulp novels, magazines, packaging and other paper-based media.The graphic arts industry was suddenly born. Today there are more than two million graphic artists and designers in the U.S. alone.
Some of the leading works of the past century are preserved in the AIGA Design Archives at the Denver Art Museum’s Department of Architecture. Tomorrow night (October 8) the AIGA Denver Chapter is hosting a benefit for the Archives with AIGA Medalists Milton Glaser, Kit Hinrichs and Katherine McCoy headlining. The three legendary designers also created special posters for the occasion. Limited edition, signed posters will be auctioned to support the Archives. If you’re in the neighborhood, go.