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Photo by Stu Alden

I spent this past week at the American Institute of Graphic Arts’ (AIGA) NEXT Conference in Denver, Colorado. For those of you who know me well, yes, this was the conference about which I rambled on all summer while I awaited the results of the selection process of a contest for designers under the age of 26. See the file I submitted as my application for the contest, called Command X. (I know that for many of you the summer seemed endless as I waited for the deliberation. Thanks for sticking with me.)

While I was not accepted as a finalist, a recently made friend at NC State University, Mathew Muñoz, had been –and I won’t deny it… for many nights I explored the possibility of injuring him so the AIGA would call me to take his place… then again, that’s what bad boys are all about isn’t it? jejeje– and in typical Caribbean fashion, at the very last week, I decided to attend the conference as part of the regular audience (and cheer for Matt with an innocent, yet covetous eye).

This was my first AIGA conference, and only the second graphic design conference that I’ve ever attended –the first one being that of Barcelona’s Graphic Designers and Art Directors’ Association (ADG-FAD)–. I was certainly overwhelmed. I had never been surrounded by so many designers, a condition that, as you can expect, led my anthropological notions to shock (jejeje).

The conference, as experienced by my young, immature, and recently re-educated critical eyes, was exceptional.

I was exposed to new ideas –and to old ones as well–. I was personally stunned when in one of the affinity sessions about design education, in response to a question about social design and the possibility of it being executed by a young designer, the panel embraced a dialogue about the possibility of graphic designers collaborating with social and sustainable practicing architects in developing better communication strategies to aid in the understanding between them and the communities which are bring helped. (This is what I have been exploring here at NC State University during the last month, so you can imagine my excitement.)

Ok. Back to the conference…

I rekindled friendships, made others, and even un-digitalized some that had existed, up that point in my life, only in pixel form (it’s so great to give a face to a name). Every ten minutes I experienced those common immaturity-blessed moments of “Oh my god that is such and such!” which I tried to hide under the most unemotional curtain wall style façade that probably did not fool the blindest man in Denver. I introduced myself to many famous people that probably forgot about me two minutes after our conversation. I was ignored by others. I went up to talk to people that I admire, only to realize that, once I had said “hi, I wanted to introduce myself”, I had no clue what to say to them (I bet it was fun during their lunches to talk about the mute retarded Puertorican… jejejej) It was just awesome and great!

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Watching the Helvetica movie. Photo by Stu Alden

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The 50 Books / 50 Covers Exhibition

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Detrás del Silencio exhibited

Regarding the programming, (again, taking into account that it is my first conference) I found it to be interesting, critical, solid, fluid and relevant when seen against the context of today’s prevalent design rhetoric. There was a balance in the content between community sessions, affinity sessions and hands-on activities. The variety of panelists was impressive, the Helvetica movie great, the on-site foil-stamping machine beautiful and the co-creative in nature graffiti wall a typographic heaven. I don’t need to talk about the 50 books / 50 covers on-site exhibit since having one of my books is in the group makes me very biased.

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Matt’s redesign for Pancakes and Sausage on a stick! Photo by Stu Alden

In the end the week itself was great. Matt –the now famous– Muñoz, was second runner up in the Command X contest, Kelly MK brings true meaning to the now classic reggaeton metaphor “break the floor with your blender”, Robert may be away from L.A., but we cannot strip the L.A. away from Robert, Emily will probably never talk to us again after spending the week with us and I had to go to Denver to meet a Puerto Rican girl graphic designer who is my age…

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With Scott, a girl i did not know, Matt and Kelly.

So what’s NEXT with me? Let’s just say, for now, that primary and secondary colors loom in the horizon…

p.s. I have to admit that I had my 5 minutes of personal satisfaction when someone recognized me as one of this year’s Bad Boys of Design and made a big deal about meeting me in the middle of a hallway in front of other people. I certainly never found out about the room were the drugs were being handed out for free, but I imagine this person came directly from that room, for there is no other way to explain his excitement.


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