Every morning when I get into the office, I pour myself a big cup of coffee and I pull up a few regular tabs in my browser before I start the day. I have my standby’s always loaded.

– LayerVault News
– LinkedIn
– Tweetdeck
– I Got Birds
– Asana – for my own project management purposes
– Basecamp – for AIGA project management purposes
– AIGA Inbox
– AIGA Chapter Website Dashboard
– AIGA National Workspace
– And If I am eating breakfast, Imgur

I typically get in an hour and half to two hours ahead of my agency work day start time. I use the quiet time in the morning to check analytics, read news and find good resources to share on Twitter, read updates from AIGA (nationally and locally), respond to chapter related emails and post updates in Basecamp to further projects. Once the day begins, I keep email and Twitter open to catch things throughout the day and respond when I can. I typically walk down 2nd Street to Neato Burrito or to Jimmy Johns if I don’t pack a lunch. I grab something quickly and head back to the office and on my lunch break, I write a few more emails in between bites. I’ll write and send a few emails to educators, other designers in the community and with the board members to make sure their needs are taken care of so they can do their tasks efficiently. Once the day at the office is over, I head home to work on some freelance, plan for the week ahead and write a few blog posts. It’s not uncommon that I’ll work on a few items for the chapter in the evening. Some evenings, I meet up with designers to chat about the chapter and what they would like to see happen in the area. In off evenings, my girlfriend and I will catch up on a few TV shows, make dinner together and relax.

Since I was voted in as president of AIGA Central Pennsylvania, I have been working incessantly to make this community worthy of its members. My colleagues produce some of the smartest advertising and design work that is of the same caliber of work being produced in New York City, Austin, and San Francisco. I’ve realized in the last few years of living and working in Central Pennsylvania that this area is a sleeper region. Nestled between Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City; Central PA is centered in the heart of some of the best work being created in the world. We are surrounded by prolific talent, but we have prolific talent as well. It’s amazing to see our agencies and studios, in-house teams and freelancers creating award winning work in the mid-state for local clients to international entities.

There is a certain mentality in Central Pennsylvania. When many think of Harrisburg the typical first responses are about government related entities due to it being the state capitol. To those in the region, Harrisburg tends to leave a sour taste in most mouths because of a history of local corruption, mountains of debt, and crumbling infrastructure. While these points are accurate, it does not constitute the whole of Harrisburg’s reputation. Lancaster is another city in the mid-state that conjures up several distinct attitudes. Many outside of the region think that Lancaster is chock full of Amish and Mennonites. Yes, we have Amish and Mennonite communities, but the city itself is one of the most digitally savvy and modern small cities on the East Coast. Google recently named Lancaster as the digital capitol of Pennsylvania and the reputation is well earned…unfortunately many can’t get past the Hollywood stereotype that has been placed over the county as just a rural, backwoods neighbor to Philadelphia. Movies such as Witness and For Richer or Poorer continue to fuel that stereotype. York is another city that has suffered from a poor reputation in the past. Located halfway between Harrisburg and Baltimore, York has seen its share of racial strife in the 90’s as well as a crumbling infrastructure that bred certain attitudes that caused a noticeable amount of city blight. Carlisle remained mostly unscathed due to Dickinson College’s presence, but unsavory elements from the trucking industry have helped to mar its reputation. Practically everywhere else in the region, from historic Gettysburg to State College; from quaint Chambersburg to Morgantown, is considered rural not given too much thought from those outside the area. For designers and other creative professionals, the environment and view towards our industry were very much at odds with the majority population that works in the manufacturing, transport and service related industries. Because of our close proximity to the cities that can support and encourage our craft, we have experienced a massive amount of “Brain Drain”; a collective mass exodus of young, educated professionals seeking opportunities away from the areas they grew up in.

These poor perspectives and truths have tarnished the area’s reputation. Slowly, behind the scenes, a growing civic movement has been gaining steam to change attitudes and perspectives about Central Pennsylvania to plant the seeds of industry and culture with a sense of social justice and transparency. These sleeper groups that have Central Pennsylvania’s interests at heart are no longer in the shadows and working quietly behind the scene, but are out and in front for everyone to see. The young professional groups in Harrisburg, Lancaster, York and Carlisle are made up men and women who want to see business development, cultural identity and civic virtue become part of the fabric of everyday life. Their initiatives have inspired and spurred individuals to venture into businesses that help raise the quality of their neighborhoods and further inspire others. Our area has what I like to call the triumvirate of co-working spaces. Anne Kirby of The Candy Factory was the pioneer to bring co-working in the mainstream in Lancaster. Through her tireless efforts, she has built a new Lancaster venue that is considered a new institution for businesses. At The Candy Factory, professionals from all types industries share resources and work together, redefining the traditional office environment. Not too long after The Candy Factory’s opening, similar spaces started popping up in Harrisburg and York. StartUp Harrisburg was conceived by Adam Porter and Adam Brackbill from a networking event with Harrisburg Young Professionals. StartUp Harrisburg has become a nexus for networking, business development and community outreach in Harrisburg. Through StartUp Harrisburg, many discover The Friends of Midtown; a civic activist group dedicated to the revival and growth of the midtown area in Harrisburg. Down in York, JJ Sheffer ventured into co-working and civic development through her prodigious connections and knowledge by starting CoWork155, a co-working space and event venue that hosts a number of progressive programs. She has been one of the leading figures in York’s urban revival. The Parliament is an artist’s collective in York that works toward providing professional development programming and assistance to artists. Their gallery and studio spaces have given opportunity and inspiration countless in the creative fields. Lancaster, Pennsylvania held its first WordCamp, a one day conference dedicated the open source content management system; WordPress. Designers, developers and business strategists gave talks on sustainable business models and growth while reaching out and helping others. Harrisburg has become the city for the startup movement to be realized and grown with the help of the PA Technology Council, Harrisburg University and other business and civic-minded groups. With so many amazing individuals and groups helping to progress and move Central Pennsylvania forward, this is an exciting time our design community.

For our area to have an engaging community for designers, we need several things in place. First, a designer needs to be willing and wants to be open with others about their work, technique and process. Second, we need strong connections with similar industries, disciplines and organizations that have design thinking as part of their core beliefs. A great community is about collaborating, sharing, educating and advocating and working with others can bring in new ideas and perspectives that challenge all of us to do better. Third, we need a strong leadership that is serious about advancing the community and empowering others. I personally view the leadership of our chapter as the stewards of the members, those who tend to community needs with utmost importance. Fourth, we need to connect with others outside of our circles and extol the community we are a part of.

I see this happening now in Central PA. I see a reinvigoration happening in our area. I can hear when I talk with others; I can see it when I drive through Midtown, Downtown Lancaster and through the heart of York. I hear from others who talk about what they can do instead of talking about what they can’t. On many fronts, Central Pennsylvania is changing; progressing…and the design community will be there as an integral part of this renewed zeal for the mid-state. This couldn’t be a more perfect time to get involved with AIGA. The benefit that AIGA provides us to shape how the design industry will evolve and progress together, which is a powerful ability in the hands of its members.

Our board varies in age, experience, knowledge and resources. When we get together each month for our community meetings, you see the depth of passion and love for community exuding from them. They all have a precision about them that allows them to articulate an idea and share its value for the region. They work very hard to help realize the potential this area has for design. I am very proud and honored to be able to work with them.

When I was voted in as president, my designer jokingly said “So, I guess we have to call you Mr. President now!” I laughed and gave him a salute to carry on. The title president is a nice one, but it’s only a title. My responsibilities go well beyond being then just being the head of the board of directors. As president, I am responsible for fostering the community, the board and those around me with positive feedback and collaboration. I’m charged with being the person to help make difficult decisions and reviewing what the best course of action to take. I share with everyone that we are not a faceless organization and upon meeting me, they know exactly who to talk to with their grievances. Along with my colleagues on the board, we help to plan, budget and execute events and programs that are both meaningful and relevant to designers. I work closely with each department chair to develop the chapter through all fronts, from finance and education to the membership and communications. I make it a point to connect with others, inside the design profession and out, to share with them our mission and goals and why design is an integral part of everything. If that means going to after hours meetings, conferences and attending networking events, I’m there talking AIGA and its importance for Central Pennsylvania. Being president isn’t a glamorous position, but it’s a very meaningful one when taken one with respect. Many have shared with me advice such as don’t overextend myself, make sure to take time for yourself, it can be a thankless position so make sure you’re happy with being behind the scenes. I can see their point and I value their advice. With all of that in mind, I continue my daily routine to ensure a strong design community, led through AIGA Central Pennsylvania. In two short years, I’ll hand off the reins to someone just as eager and they will continue to strive for a better community for design in Central PA.

I started off this post wanting to talk about my role as president and my daily routine, I shared some of the sorrows that Central PA has faced and how it has affected the area’s creative industry, the revitalization that is occurring now and I came full circle with discussing what I believe to be my responsibilities are to my board and the community at large. My hope is that my passion bleeds through in this post and that you, the reader, can understand what my fellow directors and I are trying to accomplish. New times for designers is coming in Central Pennsylvania, a time that we all can be proud to say we helped cultivate and shaped. Not only will we build this community for designers, but Central Pennsylvania as a region will come to understand and respect our the designers and creatives who call this place home.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer an invitation. If you live in Central PA and you would like to learn more about AIGA Central PA, please email me and come out to an event. Every third Saturday, you can find me at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg hosting our Coffee & Critiques. Our last big event for 2015, In Haus Kreativ, is this Saturday at The State Museum of Pennsylvania. This event is a six speaker panel discussion and presentation with in-house designers and directors all working in Central Pennsylvania. Our good friends from Prime Beer Company will be on hand for the occasion with two unique brews just for our event. Pluralsight will be raffling off a one year pro-subscription to their online training library for one lucky attendee. It’s going to be a fun time. I look forward to the next two years…I’m stocking up on coffee now.

November 10, 2014

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