From the Design Desk: Staying Connected

The other day a designer friend of mine asked me, “Are you a member of the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Artists)?” She wondered how I kept in touch with the design community—as an in-house designer at a large corporation, she can bounce ideas off of a few colleagues, but was looking for further creative support. So I thought about it, and here are some of the ways I find design inspiration:

There are always changes in technology, trends, typefaces, and professional struggles. Connecting with other designers helps you stay stimulated and engaged. (It’s not enough that graphic design is everywhere you look.) At Chronicle Books, the designers congregate in an airy corner of the building, which is flooded with natural light and an array of inspirational materials, from handmade stationery to mini bocce ball sets. We have show-and-tell meetings to share our design questions and mull over neat finds. Everyone here, not just the design department, seems to have some sort of outside artistic endeavor, from choir singing to improv theater. An appreciation for design happens naturally. It is not uncommon for us to find “must-have” design books by our editors’ desks or to end up chatting about an artist or design project we love.

As nice as it is to be able to turn around and instantly survey five other designers on line length, leading, or cover color options, we are not an insular group of book-loving grid-mongers. Yes, we are members of the AIGA. I highly recommend their CompostModern conference in San Francisco and their biennial national convention, as well as their many lectures by prominent designers. We also work with a lot of outside designers who never fail to bring something new into the fold.

Another constant source of inspiration: design magazines and annuals. When the first issue of Task by Emmet Byrne, Alex DeArmond, and Jon Sueda came out, we jumped to get it and it’s been slowly making the rounds from designer to designer (it’s not a quick read). When Jake Gardner returned from a Geoff McFetridge show at Mollusk, we all drooled over the art in the monograph and the book design. I’m dying to get my hands on the first issue of Design Mind, published by Frog Design.

We stay connected to the design community through one another, conferences, lectures, art shows, magazines, and, of course, blogs. When waiting for our galleys to print, or when simply seeking inspiration, DesignSponge, Book By It’s Cover, Grain Edit, and DesignObserver are some of the sites that often come to the rescue. I can’t possibly mention all the blogs, magazines, and design-friends that keep us connected and inspired, and more is always welcome. (Leave a comment with your favorites too!)

As I’m writing this post, illustrators Mike Perry (Hand Job, Hit Me With Your Best Shot and the upcoming craft pad Iron Me On), Jim Stoten, and textile designer Brie Harrison, along with photographer Anna Wolf stopped by our offices for a visit. Now this is the dreamiest way to connect with our creative community. The only thing better than an office visit from the artists you dig, is the plan we made to get drinks together after work.

Suzanne LaGasa

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  • LorraineDesign July 28, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    What a great round-up, Suzanne! I also work in-house as a part of a small team, and it can get rather isolating at times. I’d recommend Print & Pattern ( for a quick creative jump-start, or Newstoday, and I’m adding Book By Its Cover, Grain, and Task to my list!


  • Matt July 31, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    I’m a single lonely freelancer, but seeing your post makes me miss working in an office and interacting with other designers. Being employed by the coolest publisher on the planet must be the icing on the cake.

    (Grain Edit is one of my faves, too.)


  • Suzanne August 1, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Hey Matt, thanks for your message! I’m glad to you liked the post. Your illustration work seems super fun. ( And yes Grain Edit rocks. David Cuzner who runs it also stopped by our offices the other day. He brought along some awesome vintage book for us to see. I guess there are some perks to working in an office… But online connections are nice as well. 🙂


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