AIGA: A family connected by design
6 mins read

AIGA: A family connected by design

The American Institute of Graphic Arts chapter at USD is a group with unique minds and unique designs. Students in the organization use design skills to work with a multitude of projects and interests, both in and out of the classroom.

AIGA is a professional membership organization for design with more than 70 chapters across the nation and more than 25,000 members.

Cory Knedler, chair of the art department, said USD’s chapter has about 20 active members. The group meets weekly in the Warren E. Lee Center for Fine Arts.

“I get to see a lot of the students and hear about the projects they’re working on,” Knedler said. “AIGA is a real bonding experience. It’s a good opportunity for them to interact with other graphic design students. It’s an opportunity to work with projects that help beautify the campus and the community.”

Pins as inspiration

Cam Renkly is a senior majoring in graphic design from Harlan, IA. Her specialty is making pins. Photo illustration by Louisa Hansen | The Volante

Cam Renkly, a senior graphic design major, has been part of AIGA for two years.

She started as an art education major before switching to graphic design and joining AIGA.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, I just knew I wanted to do art,” Renkly said. “I went to graphic design just to try it out, and I ended up really liking it.”

Renkly said she views AIGA as a way for designers to connect with each other.

“AIGA is much bigger than a school chapter,” Renkly said. “It’s a nationwide group and it’s kind of like a LinkedIn for graphic designers.”

AIGA is hosting an art sale in the Muenster University Center on Oct. 24 and 25. Renkly said she plans on selling her custom graphic lapel pins.

Renkly originally started creating the pins for the sale, but has already found success selling them on her own. She has designs of many notable faces, such as “Bob’s Burgers” characters and her personal favorite, Frida Kahlo. She also takes requests for pin designs.

“They kind of took off on Snapchat,” Renkly said. “I’ve done a few ‘Star Wars’ ones, and there’s more on the way. I’m doing some Halloween ones, maybe like skeletons with flower crowns or the three witches from ‘Hocus Pocus.’ Bob Ross is very popular in the art department. I (also) have people ask me to make pins of their dogs.”

Renkly’s pin designs include characters from “Star Wars,” “Bob’s Burgers” and other influential figures including Barack Obama, Frida Kahlo and more. Photo illustration by Louisa Hansen | The Volante

Designing can be a time commitment for Renkly, but she believes the dedication she puts into designing is worth it.

“On a daily basis, I spend probably a solid seven or eight hours on graphic design work,” Renkly said. “I’m on the computer all day, every day.”

As a senior, Renkly said she’s looking forward to working in a design firm.

“I think that, as a graphic designer, you can learn to market yourself,” Renkly said. “I would like to either work at a firm or an independent studio group that takes on a whole bunch of different clients. I’m probably going to go to Colorado or Oregon.”

Building a brand

Eugene Buhian is a senior majoring in graphic design from American Samoa. He hopes to open a social media marketing agency. Photo illustration by Louisa Hansen | The Volante

Eugene Buhian is another senior graphic design major in AIGA. He came to South Dakota from American Samoa, where he said “’aiga” is a completely different word, meaning “family.”

Buhian said it was his love for video games that got him interested him in graphic design.

“Graphic design was the only thing that stood out to me,” Buhian said. “I feel like I wanted to do graphic design work, even before I knew I wanted to do it. When I went home this summer, I actually found out that I did graphic design work in high school that I didn’t even realize was graphic design.”

Buhian also works for creative services on campus, and is currently working with website design and infographics in classes. Outside of school, he has a website in the works for Taeao, a clothing brand he began developing during his junior year.

Since the start of his time as a graphic designer, Buhian said he’s discovered his passion of working with sports-related designs as well.

“Everybody knows what the Nike swoosh is because their marketing and their graphic design has such an impact on everybody,” he said. “Design has such a big effect on everyday life, and I want to be part of that.”

Buhian’s involvement with AIGA helps him stay in touch with other designers and art students through the AIGA meetings, he said.

“We work with the art students to have one big meeting and talk about art projects, art sales or fundraisers,” Buhian said. “We’ll talk about casual hangouts or trips, like if we want to go to a museum or if an artist is speaking at the school.”

Buhian said he compares his hours spent on designing to a full-time job.

“There’s a lot of walking and thinking,” Buhian said. “If I’m walking to the MUC, I’m still thinking of graphic design. A lot of my biggest inspirations come from just living life.”

Buhian said he hopes to continue building his personal brand as a designer and plans to find locations online where people can look at his work. Some of his other goals include opening a social media marketing agency and supporting community service projects, especially those in his homeland of American Samoa, he said.

“I want to have enjoyable, productive habits, something that’s benefitting me, either financially, physically, mentally,” he said. “I want to help people realize who they are.”