Citizen Designer Now!
is an initiative from AIGA NY to connect and empower designers to take action in today’s volatile political environment.

Tactics for Using Design in Civic Engagement

Whether you’re a designer at a nonprofit, a design advocate at a big corporation, a design studio intern or a grad student developing your thesis, you have the skills and resources to actively participate in our democracy. Leverage your agency and start wherever you are.


Soon after the 2016 presidential election, AIGA/NY convened an emergency town hall titled Citizen Designer Now! In the wake of an election that has sown distrust, anger, and fear, we felt a deep responsibility to ask what role design has to play in society. We saw a need for the creative community to uphold its shared beliefs.

Designers are entering a tense new era in which values they hold as universal have become politicized: Greater transparency, inclusion, and fairness, to name a few. These are principles built into the design practice, whether you are a graphic designer or digital product designer, liberal or conservative.

We must hold fast to those ideals. We believe the design community can bring about a better country, by designing better ways for Americans to effect change. That point was put forth by Blue State Digital creative director, Laura Kunkel, at the Citizen Designer Now! town hall. She pressed on: “Can you be the designer in your group that comes up with the next thing to do?”

Our mission is to turn talk into action. To push the community forward, the board of AIGA/NY is turning Citizen Designer Now! into an ongoing initiative. We’re starting with a pledge to act.

No matter your politics, now is a time that demands renewed civic engagement. None of us can afford to wait for the government to act in areas ranging from climate change to immigration reform. We must take direct action to improve our communities and our country.

Solving the problems we share demands that we break the confines of today’s political debates. To effect change, we should be willing to step out of our comfort zones. Or, as Christine Gaspar, another panelist and the executive director of the Center for Urban Pedagogy, said, “If what you’re doing is comfortable, then you’re not doing enough.”

The individuals below commit to:

  • Voting in every local election open to us, not just once every four years—while encouraging our friends and family to do the same
  • Choosing at least one cause to focus on for learning, knowledge sharing, and volunteering
  • Meeting with fellow Citizen Designers to share stories, tools, learnings, and new action items at least once a quarter
  • Attending a local governance session once a quarter

The companies below commit to:

  • Allowing staff time-off to vote in local elections as well as national ones
  • Dedicating resources to at least two civic causes per year
  • Donating time or resources to support the broader community of citizen designers—whether by serving as host, organizer, or sponsor
  • Encouraging employees to either donate one working day a quarter to civic causes — more if possible — or participate in internally led civic projects

Citizen Designer Now! commits to:

  • Creating a resource, whether by email or web, to link worthy organizations in need of services with individual designers who want to help
  • Organizing social events that link the design community with worthy civic groups
  • Organizing meet-ups that:
    • Showcase inspiring work being done to improve our social fabric
    • Allow organizations in need to share the problems they’re tackling

In 2017, we will dedicate ourselves to solving problems larger than the ones we already know. We will be heard through the things we do. Sign the pledge now.

Sign the Pledge

* indicates required
I'd like to:*





*This is an effort with many authors. The board of AIGA/NY would like to thank all those who led and continue to lead this initiative, including David Frisco, Cliff Kuang, and Joe Marianek. We’d also like to thank Shannon Copfer Brace, whose continuing dedication to the CDN community is of immeasurable value, and whose first draft of a designer pledge inspired our own, as well as Jennifer Kinon; and Lindsey Liu, who helped draft the pledge. And finally, we would like to give special thanks to Stacey Panousopoulos for her invaluable management and support of the process.

Set in GT America