Amy Fidler and Jenn Stucker, co-founders of AIGA Toledo and professors of graphic design at Bowling Green State University, are incredibly active forces in the design community of Toledo (and beyond). Since forming our chapter in 2007, they’ve continued to make waves throughout the design community – through their students, their own work and their passion for AIGA as an organization.
It all started with attending an AIGA conference in May of 2007 and an idea to bring events closer to home. Jenn noted the desire to get the most out of her AIGA membership at the time. “If I wanted to go to events, I had to go to Detroit or Cleveland. I wasn’t getting great member benefits.” In the car on the way back, Amy had the idea to start a chapter in Toledo. Initially, they thought that the minimum chapter membership numbers would be far too high for a city of Toledo’s size, but after some research they found out that Chattanooga only had 34 at the time. “So the internalized motto became ‘Beat Chattanooga.’” After filing all of the paperwork and tapping into an already rich design hub thanks to Toledo’s AAF (formerly known as the Ad Club), the chapter was established, events were planned and a dedicated design community emerged. “It seemed like a missed opportunity not to have something here.” Since then through ebbs and flows, the chapter has remained steadfast in its momentum, and both founders are very proud of the way it has developed over time.
McDonald’s of Design
As long-standing professors at Bowling Green State University, Amy + Jenn have great pride in the work they do for their students. “Over the years, Amy and I have been intentional about being socially engaged with the work…I want my students to be thinkers, to be aware of the content they’re creating and making and where it goes.” Many of their students go on to become professional designers, and Jenn’s hope is that they remain authentic and purposeful in their work, not doing ‘stuff’ just to do it. “My students hear this all the time, but I don’t want them to be the McDonald’s of design…I want them to think about what they are creating and why instead of just doing it.”
Amy and Jenn’s relationship with their students has played a large role in the success of AIGA Toledo because they often bring their students to events and encourage them to take full advantage of the organization. Amy notes, “We worked on it [AIGA] to benefit the students as well as the professional community and ourselves so we were selfish in that way, but it wasn’t selfish truly because it benefited everyone.”
There is no single organization, business or person left untouched by the state of the world as 2020 continues on for what feels like forever. When events cannot be held in person, the shift has been to go digital, and it’s a shift that Amy feels holds a lot of promise. “No one is working on the physical right now. You’re maximizing on remote opportunities and pulling in a diverse range of voices and people. It’s helping get recognition of people who are fresh faces and have so much to contribute.” With the recent success of events like AIGA’s Midwest Design week, those ideas ring true and give hope for continued connectivity. The transition to online content also directly benefits students. “One of our goals has always been to serve students, and the remote learning works beautifully. The students turn into professionals, retain wonderful talent and go forward.”
Jenn and Amy inspire so many students and people with the work that they do. So when asked what inspires them currently, their answers were varied. Jenn’s main inspiration at the moment is running. “I set a goal for this year to run 1,300 miles. It’s one thing I need – not directly inspiration, but decompression.” Her other main inspiration has been her coursework for her PhD in Higher Education Administration. “We read 6 books in 7 weeks, all on the topic of equity and justice in higher education.” The powerful lessons have reinforced her passion for teaching and showing her students just how transformative design can be.
Amy has been drawing inspiration from her own reading material. “The books I’ve been reading are more novel-based books dealing with race relations and other things.” She’s actively trying to broaden her scope outside of design. “I’ve been looking at other ways of being inspired, so mostly reading other forms of authorship and fine artists more.” In an effort to broaden her knowledge of new things and people, she has reshaped her social media and hopes to become more connected with the world that way.
A Word of Thanks
AIGA Toledo wants to send a quick “Thank You” to Amy + Jenn for their continued years of support, guidance and talent in Toledo. Your herculean efforts to lift young designers’ voices are never unnoticed, and we would (literally) not be here without you!
Do you know someone in Toledo that would be perfect to spotlight for our new local creative series? Are you a local Toledo artist and want to talk to us about upcoming projects or events? Reach out to Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org and say hello!