AGDA – Give it a try

Published:  May 19, 2011
AGDA – Give it a try

To read Andrew Moffitt’s opinion piece from desktops may issue, click here.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” - Greek proverb

I was extremely disappointed to read Andrew Moffitt’s opinion piece in desktop‘s May issue, where he posed the question ‘To join or not to join AGDA’. He explains that he didn’t renew his membership and that decision stemmed from “how relevant I felt they have become in my outlook as a creative professional.”

Moffitt then goes on to explain that the reason he joined was for “self-worth” – to be in the awards book and to receive recognition within the creative industry. But then continues to say that awards books are now outdated and that he felt he received more personal satisfaction from “a student in India blogging about my work than an award hanging on my wall or sitting on my shelf.” To conclude, he relates this to the cost of membership, and feels that the annual fees of AGDA do not “represent value for what I get in return,” and that until “we start demanding more we will continue to get the same service.”

There’s quite a lot of ground to cover in this shotgun-blast approach to his articulation of AGDA’s value. I think my first impression of the article was that it’s a self-centred, subjective view that’s completely missed all of the existing work that AGDA does on a day to day basis. It expresses a mindset that I find extremely unhelpful and unnecessarily damaging.

For starters, AGDA is not ‘them’ – it’s ‘us’. Every councillor is a practicing designer. AGDA is not some faceless corporation that’s out to siphon money from poor, struggling designers to fund the largesse of a few. It’s an organisation founded by some of Australia’s most respected designers, who saw a need to work together to create an industry-specific body for graphic design. The spirit of this carries through to the councillors of today – they’re not here to dictate how things are run, they’re here to facilitate initiatives to better our industry.

To the point on awards, I find it repugnant that you would enter the awards simply to gain personal accolades and create recognition within the industry. The awards aren’t about point-scoring over fellow designers to see who is ‘the best’. They are about curating a snapshot of some of Australia’s most enduring, successful and challenging design work over a two year period. This collection of work serves to demonstrate to business, to government and indeed to the rest of the world the value, process and sophistication of Australian design. It exposes us to diverse styles and approaches from talented studios that you may not find elsewhere.

Recognition within the industry is better gauged by your level of engagement, leadership and respect afforded to those who have already helped to shape the profession. By participating in AGDA – and not just in the awards, but as a member – you are representing your fellow designers and the industry as a whole. You can help to create and fund initiatives. If you see a gap, feel free to identify it and contribute to its solution.

You get to share the benefits of your work with everyone else. If you’re still asking, “what’s in it for me” then you would be most welcome to look at the news, the events, the articles on the website, listen to the supporting voice and advocacy that a professional organisation affords. Or better yet, speak to someone at AGDA who will run through the benefits in greater detail for your individual needs.

Value? You get the most value out of the things you put most into. If you feel strongly enough about your career, or the industry you work in then get involved. It’s that simple. You get involved by joining a professional organisation, you contribute, you share and you support. You don’t just get value, you create value. $247 buys you a voice – pretty cheap at only $5 a week.

AGDA is run by individuals who are open to listen and to engage. One needn’t air grievances on a public forum or “demand” to enact change. One can simply ask. All the email addresses and contact numbers are available on the AGDA website to contact a councillor in any state, or indeed National Councillors. Starting up a conversation can happen pretty quickly.

Even better, turn up to an AGDA state meeting and discuss your points in person. See just how much fellow AGDA members share a passion for changing the graphic design industry for the better. And for creating a stronger platform for the designers of tomorrow.

Give it a try.

Simon Mundy is the Victorian President of the Australian Graphic Design Association. The views expressed in this article reflect that of the author only and does not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinion of the Australian Graphic Design Association.

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105 Responses

  1. Clinton Duncan

    Sorry Simon, I can feel the passion and belief in your post, and can see the altruism you are displaying, but ultimately this response simply demonstrates how far out of touch many within AGDA are with the needs and interests of most designers.

    • Liana Lucca-Pope

      Can you expand on that Clinton – what do you mean by out of touch? What is it that you want or would rather have?

    • I have to agree. From my experience of being an AGDA member, a couple of relevant talks a year with paltry savings for members does not represent good value for money.

  2. That was a very calm, concise and professional response….

  3. Steve

    “$247 buys you a voice – pretty cheap at only $5 a week.”

    This idea of paying to be heard just enforces the boys club mentality that AGDA is renowned for.

    What else is being done? Can you discuss the behind the scenes work that AGDA does?

    Why isn’t AGDA doing things to instigate industry change, like bench tests similar to AIA for architecture or even AIH for landscaping, a membership you need to practice. The only thing we seem to hear from AGDA for years now is ‘no free pitching’. Surely as an industry body there are greater reforms that can be done. Only then I can see being part of this organisation having real world value as I can find exposure or a voice on a number of design/creative related websites such as this for free.

  4. @Clinton Duncan – do you have any suggestions in how you as a designer need things to change?

    I think the comments made by yourself, Simon and Andrew Moffitt illustrate that there’s a gap in communication between AGDA and it’s members and this issue isn’t going to go away by simply saying that AGDA is “far out of touch” with it’s membership.

    Instead, this could be a good place to start a new conversation which involves communicating what you think needs to change to help bridge the gap.

    • Liana Lucca-Pope

      Sam I think you’re right. The councillors (and I’m one of them) work their butts off trying to “do the right thing” with very little input from the member base. We LOVE hearing from members about what they want, appreciate and value because that helps inform what we do. In the meantime all we can do is plug away doing the things that we personally value as designers and members of the community and that meet the broader AGDA objective to “to facilitate the advancement of the graphic design profession in Australia”. And the councillors are a pretty good cross section of the design community – we’re all very different and very few of us know eachother to start off with – trust me it’s no boy’s club. The thing we have in common is that we all care and want to contribute something meaningful. It’s pretty easy for people just to bash us (which is rather painful I’ve gotta say when you put in so many hours as a volunteer) but it’s just not constructive. Any members can come to council meetings (no-one ever does), any member can nominate for council (very few do). I’ve been a member for 15 years and a councillor for 5 and what I know is, the more you contribute or just participate as a member, the more you get out of it.

  5. @Steve No, no boys club attitude. Like any organisation you need to be a paid member to have a vote. That’s no different to any industry organisation.

    There has been widespread debate re: benchtesting and/or accreditation for a few years. No one solution has yet proven to be a good model as – unlike, for example, architecture – there are fewer metrics on which to base a ‘standard’.

    Instead, good business practices that benefit both designer and client are more short-term achievable outcomes. ‘Free pitching’ is only one. Better demonstration of the value of design is another – hence the Design Effectiveness Award. There’s plenty of scope for improving this as well. Having a more comprehensive idea of fees/structures is another idea being discussed.

    I’m not excusing AGDA for lack of effective communication – it’s still a difficult task releasing information/ideas at the same time they’re being developed but it’s something that is also being addressed. The current National team has some wonderful initiatives in the works that will be expanded upon shortly.

    You can certainly have your say ‘for free’ on forums like this – whether those ideas or criticisms will be actioned is what really counts. That’s where being part of AGDA becomes really powerful.

  6. Steve

    I think the lack of communication is the real problem. I’ve been practicing as a design for close to 20 years and honestly have no idea on what AGDA does. Even on your website it is hard to see the real value of joining. I know you do events (which are expensive) but that’s about it.

    “You can certainly have your say ‘for free’ on forums like this – whether those ideas or criticisms will be actioned is what really counts.”

    Take it on the chin Simon, listen to the people you represent on free forums such as this and take action. Getting defensive about AGDA and what it does isn’t going to help if no one knows what you do. Even from your response above it’s hard to tell…

  7. @Steve That wasn’t meant to be a defensive comment. Just from experience I’ve seen a lot of things talked about but nothing ever came from it because the conversation never went further. Not sure which you’re from, but if you’re in VIC please feel free to contact me via and I or one of our councillors would be more than happy to run you through the value of AGDA

  8. I always found value in the competing against other designers to push my own skills and abilities further than I would have otherwise. But it wasn’t about a shiny award, it was about pushing myself and giving recognition to really outstanding ideas and work of others.

    Networking with other designers was always a big aspect for me when I was just getting into the industry, so AGDA was a great help for that.

    You get out of AGDA what you put in, so if it isn’t working for you, are you putting in? Or do you expect everything to be done for you?

  9. Steve

    Shouldn’t it be public knowledge Simon? This is what I’m saying – I shouldn’t have to email you or one of the members to see the value, it should be clear as day. Make it public and accessible to anyone.

    Happy to do so though, but in the interests of such debate I’d really love to see it here.

  10. Steve

    “You get out of AGDA what you put in, so if it isn’t working for you, are you putting in? Or do you expect everything to be done for you?”

    So, we can’t define what AGDA does, but it’s the communities fault for not giving back, and essentially giving back equates to $249.00.

    • Hey! You’ve just raised our price by $2! :) I take your point and have noted previously the lack of comprehensive benefits available on the website.

      However that doesn’t mean they’re not there. It’s also important to note that no-one is at ‘fault’. The idea of engaging members is not about attributing blame, it’s just about improving what AGDA does. Good communication needs constant attention and we’re doing our best to see that it is restored.

      We hope to break down the benefits more clearly – For a student, for a graduate, for a professional, for a studio. So it will be much easier to see what AGDA does and how AGDA achieves value. In the meantime our most effective way is to speak one-to-one.

  11. Andrew B

    I wouldn’t normally put in an opinion on things like this, but, I have had a paid up AGDA membership for the past 5 years. This year I decide not to pay my membership.

    The benefits that AGDA offer, and that I want to use, I feel have become obsolete in comparison to groups like AusInfront.

    I would much rather read articles of advise from people I admire with in the industry, and network online in my own time.

    Paying to attend networking events which consist of clique groups became out of vogue about 1 month after starting my first job in the industry, admittedly Simon him self is quite good at ‘working a room’.

    A sense of community and acceptance I feel does not exist with AGDA.

    I have never really felt like the membership fee has directly benefited me in anyway.

    Admittedly I did enjoy the Industry survey on wages and rates and Conversations with Designers was fantastic. But i found their mailouts more like stock ads then journals of valued content.

    You do only get out what you put in, but it still pose the question, are these things worth the fee?

  12. As someone who is old enough to remember a time without AGDA, I’d suggest that it is worth considering the positive impact that it has had on our industry as a professional practice.

    For twenty years AGDA has provided designers an opportunity to network with their peers, develop mentoring relationships with established practitioners, educate designers on best business practice, benchmark their work with the best in the country, meet international designers through the speaker tours, etc …

    This ongoing work has had a huge effect on the industry we all now work in and will continue to do so for the next wave of designers.

    It’s easy to sit back and complain that AGDA is deficient or not value for money. It’s a much harder thing to get involved and try to make it work, for all designers, paid up members or not.

  13. I fully agree with @Andrew B

    I see more reason to join Illustrators Australia than AGDA. I felt I was paying $247 for a thin newsletter about the same old studios.

  14. Rachel

    My experience with AGDA has been short lived, but maybe comparison to other industry resources could provide an insight into how I feel AGDA is ‘out of touch’.

    For industry news, international sites like Design Observer, Creative Review blog, to portfolio profile blogs like FFF and Australian-specific like Australian In Front come free, and provide daily snapshots of the industry at large.

    AGDA’s weekly template newsletter provides info on events coming up in a few months time, and then repeats posts from a few weeks previous. There is no live blog feed.

    I paid about $180 for a Creative Review subscription, for 12 issues of a (mostly) informative, relevant publication, their extra little Monograph publications and access to their subscriber content (admittedly not a big deal). Their twitter feed is often and useful.

    AGDA – the only benefits I have noticed out of the membership fee is $10 off events that are occasionally relevant to me, and access to the job board, who’s usefulness is now overshadowed by AinF’s job board (again – free!), which they also update through Twitter constantly.

  15. Rachel

    Must add – that being part of a design community, hugely important to me. But I get more from Twitter links and retweets than the vague AGDA efforts.

  16. I just read thru and I’m thinking that AGDA’s strengths might be in the the areas of design advocacy and legitimacy, rather than its traditional emphasis on networking and discounts. As others have posted here, I feel a lot of the sharing/community stuff happens in a more effective way (and for free!) online. Perhaps AGDA needs to refocus its role towards the certification/official industry body side of things.

  17. Liana Lucca-Pope

    I agree that we need to be better at articulating the value of membership. It’s hard to define because it’s not about – well you get 10% off when you shop here or you get annual statistical analysis charts showing…” It’s less tangible than that. But I’ll try. Perhaps the things that I personally value.

    Networking & community
    Going to events and AGMs and parties etc over the years has meant that I have met a lot of people in the industry who have either led me to work opportunities or have been able to help or advise me or give me a sense of solidarity or simply been interesting to talk to. The people that turn up to these things tend to be interested in community and for me there’s enormous value in that alone. If we’re all on the same page – if we’re a strong community with a united perspective on best practice – we are a more powerful force.

    Professional development, inspiration, further knowledge. These things are worth paying for. From experience I know that AGDA Vic prices tickets as low as we can while still covering costs and if possible, there is no fee. As the industry representative, we have better access to great people and resources.

    AGDA is the point of call for queries from the public and private sector about anything to do with graphic design. What members don’t see is the masses of emails and phone calls we get regularly from people asking a myriad of questions that we answer as representatives of the industry. There’s also business events or talks we’re asked to participate in. With all of these things, we have the opportunity to educate business about best practice, fairness, the value of design – it’s of crucial value.

    I’ll also specifically mention;

    Question Time: This is a regular event where three industry professionals make themselves available to answer any questions from a members only audience in a relaxed studio environment. An amazing opportunity in itself.

    Member profiles on the website: Every member can put up a profile with work and information. I’ve gotton three new clients out of that in the past year. They each went to the AGDA website because they had no idea how to start looking for a designer and felt that designers who were AGDA members at least had the gravitas of professional membership and were therefore more trustworthy. And on that note:

    Kudos: Put “Member: Australian Graphic Design Association” in your email signature and on your website. It’s (perhaps not) surprising how many clients take note and take you more seriously. Use it like a qualification or like accountants use “CPA”. And the more of us that do it the more powerful it becomes.

    There’s more but I’ve got so much work to do, I have to get back to it! Lastly a special thank you to Andrew for those five words that warmed the cockles of my heart (Conversations with Designers is my baby) and Nic Eldridge for your perspective which came in while I was typing. And really everybody else who cared enough to contribute.

  18. Rachel

    Excellent responses from Trevor and particularly Lianna – advocacy is definitely one place where AGDA can stand alone and with real worth

  19. MichaeL

    Some thoughts;
    1. No more States. Operate as AustralianGDA.
    2. Publish a monthly magazine for members featuring related news, be it design or changes in the tax system.
    3. No more awards! Awards is for the advertising industry camouflaging their mediocre work.
    4. Open up the website, give members a voice to avoid this!
    5. Invite current designers of relevance! (talks)
    6. Organise a National Event for members. No not awards!
    7. Give up on the free-pitching thing. No ideal world!
    8. Be more edgy. Design(ers) changed…
    9. Australian graphic design as export product… your role?
    10. Oh and please get a new logo ;-)

    • A quick aside, Michael – members can publish on the AGDA website. There are both Member articles and Member blogs where topics can be raised for discussion at any time. The trouble we’ve had is people not writing as much as we’d hoped!

      The other points are noted – although ‘no more states’ is impractical in such a wide geographic area. We need to keep doing things at a local level where we see the most immediate benefits/change with that we do.

  20. Full Disclosure: I’m the Vice President of the Tasmanian State chapter of AGDA and up until recently have been on the AGDA National Council.

    Hi all.

    I’ve been meaning to write in on the piece by Andrew Moffitt since I got my copy a few days. I think Simon has covered a lot of the stuff I wanted to say.

    For me, the real point of AGDA is to be involved – it’s that simple. It never fails to encourage me to get better, work harder and also not to forget that I love my work. There’s a lot of questions about the actual real things AGDA does, and I’ll get into them in a second, but my line has always been if you want to get your money back on AGDA membership in actual direct benefits then you’re probably looking at the wrong way. (How often do you spend money and then expect all the benefits of spending that money as well as getting the money back as well?) I still think that’s the case. I’ve sold many a client of mine on the intangible benefits of design and I’d hazard a guess so have many of you.

    I personally can’t guarantee you’ll get your money’s worth because value is different for each of members and we do our best to keep everyone happy. Personally, intangible fluffy stuff aside, have I made my money back from my AGDA membership? Yes. Easily. Last year I earned more with client referrals from other AGDA members than it’s cost me to be involved to be in AGDA. Can I guarantee you this? Of course not, but I can personally say I’ve benefited from being involved. Does that alone make AGDA membership worthwhile? Not in my view. It’s everything else that makes it worthwhile.

    I won’t get into the stuff about volunteering and how much work it is for the people who do it, because I happily donate my time because I believe in the value of what we do, and I don’t expect a pat on the back from a stranger. You either get it or you don’t and I’m okay with that.

    If you’re after an idea of what we do, and what the actual concrete benefits of membership include, here’s a quick off the top of my head list:

    Events – this includes:
    • Our usual Design Speakers (local & international)
    • Workshops – hands on stuff
    • Professional Development Seminars (copyright, business management etc.)

    AGDA Website Access
    • Professional practice notes
    • Classified/job board access (It is my ambition to see this area open to all visitors at no cost)
    • Personal profile page & listing in directory


    From books, discount tickets to non-agda design events, free initial consultations with copyright lawyers, to discounts on new Volkswagens AGDA members are eligible for some very nice discounts.


    When Simon mentioned having a voice, he didn’t just mean that you’re entitled to post on the AGDA website and have your profile there. We actively lobby government to further the lot of all designers. What does that mean? Well for example, design curriculum is something we’re working hard to improve – so that students are better equipped for the real world and ready to work in your business. We speak with and make connections with your state’s respective Arts bodies and attend a lot of meetings to see how we can help connect designers with business. We speak with business industry bodies and organise cross-over events. A lot of this stuff seems really dry, but I promise you it’s this stuff that helps all designers (not just members) and we do it because we believe in the value of what we do. We want to protect our industry and when we talk about you having a voice, that’s part of what your membership dues pay for.


    Spending time with other switched on folk who care about their work is always rewarding (personally as well from a purely monetary perspective). Can I get this kind of interaction elsewhere online? I’ve been a member of AustralianInFront for years, and I can honestly say that fills a different gap for me. I like being involved as it’s fun – I enjoy my work more as a result of spending a bit of time each month with my peers.

    Old Boys Club:

    You get to be a member of an exclusive Old Boys Club. … Just kidding. Membership costs money, but that’s the end of it. Everyone is welcome to come along (you can come along to our events as a non-member, but obviously that costs more). Everyone who I have met who has been involved with AGDA from a state or national council level has been friendly, genuinely interested in growing our industry and has dedicated time to the industry. EVERYONE is welcome at events – if you feel like it’s a bit cliquey – please please please just bowl up and introduce yourself. I always try and introduce myself at events to as many people as possible, but it’s super hard to get around the room.

    Let me tell you a brief story: When I was a student I went along to an AGDA event and wrote a bit of a pissy email to Dennis Ogden (then State and possibly National president) about how hard it was to talk to the professionals. He immediately (and with good humour considering how petty my missive actually was) got me involved and I discovered that I had completely misjudged the situation. I subsequently learned I was too shy to strike up the conversation and it was nobody’s fault other than my own.


    Being involved will reward you in tangible and intangible ways. You’ll make connections and friendships and if you’re doing it right, you’ll probably enjoy your work more. Not bad for the cash I reckon.

  21. Liana made an excellent post while I was writing mine. Apologies for any overlap (not trying to bore anyone to death!)

  22. Daniel

    As a non member I’d like to see them drop the cost significantly, offer benefits of REAL value and get some sort of accreditation up and going. If the MBA and CPA can do it, why can’t we?

    Do that and i’ll jump on board.

    • What sort of figure did you have in mind for membership Daniel? And what did you mean by benefits of ‘real’ value – if we’re going to address a shortfall of services or tangible benefits then we’ll need to hear in a little more detail what it is you feel we’re not offering

      • Daniel

        Simon, the price for membership is really dependent on what we get back in value. $247 to have a “voice” is not good enough. It needs to provide some tangible value to be more attractive. Going to conferences and award nights does not appeal to me as much, because it’s just extra cost and time I cannot afford. One thing I really dislike is the advertising policy is way too restrictive. It makes no sense to me and just reinforces the old boys club.

        Also some of the other points I agree with. Dump the states and make it National. Dump the awards nights. Have an online forum that is open to all and encourages participation.

        • OK, it’s just that you wrote you’d like to see the cost drop significantly. The advertising policy is interesting – in what way is it too restrictive? Do you mean you’d like non-members to be able to see ads?

          Re: Awards night – if there were no awards, how would you propose that we show a 2 year collection of Australian Design?

      • Daniel

        Classifieds – allow non members to view and post ads (charge them a small fee to post if you need to). Free to apply to all ads. But restricting everything to members only is just stupid. And restrictions on the number of posts per month… even more stupid!

        Showcasing work – Give members a profile page they can show off latest work. Forget the back patting over bloated awards nights. They are so old school.

        The site design (and site map) could be a bit more friendly and less sterile… (no offence to you). More community vibe, less like an organisation.

        • Hey Daniel – non-members (also called ‘web guests’) can indeed advertise via classifieds for a nominal fee. But as far as members-only viewing, that’s certainly something that can be discussed.

          Showcasing of work via Member Profiles already happens at – every member gets to put up their own profile and folio pieces.

          Site design is constantly evolving – no offense taken! :) Like all other aspects of the organisation it needs to be revisited constantly to ensure it’s doing the best job it can.

  23. I think this whole debate is something that’s been floating around for some time. I have to agree with both Andrew Moffitt and Clinton Duncan. But I do see Simon’s point.

    I’ve been in the same boat and have joined, let it lapse, re-joined, and then completely removed myself from any association with ‘that crowd’ all within the short time I’ve been practicing.

    I feel that AGDA could be a great tool but see it as more of a reflection of the wider problems that Australian culture places on things like ‘design’, ‘creative practice’ and what value this holds within the economy.

    AGDA is unfortunately a-bit of a symbol towards this problem. Why? Because not only are they out of touch with what matters but they lack the ability to show any real change.

    Many initiatives have come and gone and very few seem to stick, is it AGDA’s fault??? Not entirely, but their position as an industry body means they’ll have to take the brunt of the responsibility.

    I think we can all argue about the specifics and try and justify why AGDA is valuable. But I believe the biggest flaw in AGDA’s advocacy is its strategy and planning. It’s simply too slow!

  24. I have been intently following is thread all day and I think a lot of very interesting things have been discussed and I hope everyone has gained some inspiration to actually try to do something about these issues.

    So far I’ve read AGDA representatives outlining/defending the value they think Graphic Designers get from their AGDA membership as requested from the members who have contributed to this discussion. And then I’ve read from the members that the “value” AGDA represenatatives are outlining/defending aren’t enough to warrant their membership being renewed in the future….

    What I haven’t read, from both sides, is any solid ideas on how to resolve this issue. No one has provided any solid value adding initiatives or ways of how AGDA should move foward (I know I hate that phrase also) in order to retain their membership base ..

    What I have gained from this conversation today, is that you cannot change things by having an “I’m right, you’re wrong” a tug of war of words. The only way to change things is to get involved and put forward your ideas with an implementation plan to help make AGDA the type of Association YOU want to be a part of. If you keep waiting for someone else to do it, it’ll never be done to your satsifaction so get involved and start making the changes yourself.

    In saying that, I am now going to follow my own advice and write up a proposal on how I think I could make a positive difference to the association I belong to (Australian Web Industry Association).

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Liana Lucca-Pope

      Thanks Sam. The only thing I’d like to point out here is that the “AGDA representatives” are just members who have been willing to put themselves forwards to try to contribute or even make a difference to the Association.

  25. Matt

    Graphic design is communication. As an industry we should be setting benchmarks for our ability to communicate to one another instead of benchmarks for confusion.

    I’ve never seen the value in AGDA myself, to myself as a person, but I do understand their value (or more so, potential value) to the industry at large.

    What strikes me are the comments along the lines of people not seeing the good AGDA are doing. Well… as communicators, you should be best placed to explain what good you are doing. And what communicator would want to join a group that doesn’t communicate to a level they find satisfactory?

    Just my 2c.

  26. Some interesting points being made. Discussion is a good thing, and like many other public forums out there, there’s probably 100 times as many people reading this discussion than contributing to it so I’ll try my best to tread carefully.

    Personally I harnessed a lot of aggressive energy straight out of design school in the late 90′s to fight the old machine. Back then I felt the need to fight! AGDA, Ken Cato, old men dressed in black from head to toe… I (disrespectfully) called them the dinosaurs of design. I wanted in on design success and industry knowledge, but I wasn’t willing to pay for it, nor was I going to wait around for it to happen so I created the Australian INfront.

    We set out to help, hard. We were 100% not for profit. It felt great. We met so many other like-minded people of a similar age (we were young). I personally put so much into it that I think the load of running INfront and running a design business at the same time burnt me out.

    INfront died somewhere along the line. In retrospect maybe the not for profit model failed us. Money from membership, or sponsorship might have helped us to keep it alive, and potentially do even more? Maybe we just grew old. Maybe I shouldn’t have fallen off the horse? Who knows, past is past.

    Today I have nothing at all bad to say about AGDA. I’ve heard more negative than positive but as I’ve never been a member I’ve got nothing to say from personal experience. I can say however that if it was free for me to be an AGDA member I’d sign up and I’d most likely contribute too.

    There’s a lot of talk about money in here. $250 doesn’t seem like too much, but as has been mentioned above, it’s potentially a lot of work. IE: You really have to make that $250 work for you by putting a lot of work in.

    Advocacy – I think this is perhaps the major point of difference between AGDA and many other design related online communities. I like that AGDA are trying to “fight for our rights” as designers whether you’re an AGDA member, or not. It’s nice to know there’s a group of people out there who are willing to get political (lobbying to Government is something that doesn’t interest me in the slightest!). It’s “proper” and I respect the idea of it a lot.

  27. I don’t have an AGDA membership (its on the list of things to do) but I can say that as a graphic design student I see AGDA’s support for both Agideas and Positive Posters, two organisations that are super relevant for designers and have helped me a lot in my career development. Their support for other design outlets means good things for everyone.

  28. Haven’t had time to respond today but I’ll be sure to check back in tomorrow with a few words.

  29. Steve

    Quite surprised by the emotional responses from AGDA reps on here, acting like bullies and the like.

    This is an organisation that is meant to represent us all yet we are being told what they do is good yet we still don’t have a clear idea of what they do apart from networking and ‘advocacy’ (which any chump can pay for thus rendering it completely useless). Is it any wonder their is resistance to the fees if that is all that is on offer.

    What I’d want from AGDA:
    • An industry body that reforms workplace practices, if it becomes a union like the Screen Actor Guild then fine, thats what it needs to be and I’d gladly pay for it.
    • An industry benchmark or form of certification, then any such advocacy would have some form of merit.

    What I don’t want from AGDA:
    • More overpriced events from your boys club network of speakers. Take a note out of Australian Infronts book – they are doing exactly the same thing, for free. That’s actually giving back to your members and building a community.
    • Useless awards nights judged by the same team, giving the same members the credit where unnecessarily due.
    • Elitist publications.

    Listen to the comments here – it might not be your forum but its one of the general design public and if you want AGDA to thrive change needs to happen. Stop blaming others, start taking action. AGDA isn’t for all, its an organisation that is meant to represent us all so get off your backsides, stop the justification and do it.

    • I’m not sure that running free events is a sustainable model Steve (see Justin’s post above). As to the choice of speakers, however, who would you like to see?

      The awards judges are different each year. Why do you think the work that is being awarded is undeserving?

      I refer to your last point – we are listening and we will take action, we just need to get something more concrete to work with. I’m not sure if unpaid volunteers are going to respond well to being asked to ‘get off our backsides’ though.

    • Jack Bender

      Steve, you are the bully here. Take it easy

  30. Steve

    Why are you unpaid? Why are your speakers unpaid? This makes no sense to me, you charge incredibly high fees for such talks, awards, membership etc. Perhaps stop the spend on booze/food at said events, pay the people that make it possible, build a better organisation.

  31. The changes that have happened within AGDA are so slow they do not respond with the changes within the design community they represent.
    — AGDA’s website could become this platform. Member articles and Member blogs are poorly executed.
    — AIF, CR blog, It’s Nice That, etc. More contemporary and visited daily.
    — More recently Response magazine has launched but I can’t find it for sale.

    If past and current members feel that AGDA does not represent them or that communication is not two-way, then AGDA has failed them and needs to change.

    • Response will be up online for sale shortly, the AGDA website is having a completely new shop section being added. In the meantime, you can contact for a copy.

      Are you referring to the content or the presentation of the blogs when you say poorly executed?

  32. Cory

    I find that AGDA is helpful at times but I can’t see the value in $247 from what I have seen. Also as a student, $247 is a serious hole in my pocket.

  33. Pingback: AGDA Debate | SPAMVENTDOCUMENT

  34. Thanks to all of the contributors to this blog- it’s delivered some interesting comments and points of view and I’m really glad desktop published my article.

    I think Simon you are a passionate member who wants the best for AGDA but your predictable response doesn’t actually take on board what people are saying and therefore you again prove how out of touch you are and miss the point totally. You can be disappointed in me all you want, call me self centered, and be upset because I actually voiced my opinion in a public forum but at the end of the day the fact is that AGDA fees are too expensive and members are questioning the value of what they get in return. You can choose to ignore this sentiment as much as you like but it’s the overwhelming opinion amongst creatives I speak to and since writing the article I’ve been inundated with emails of support from students, creative professionals (of all levels) and some of your major sponsors.

    The common response from AGDA officials is to become more involved but that too implies that you need to come to more events and spend more money. I’m personally tired of the same responses relating to volunteer work and what’s happening behind the scenes because I understand that these are admirable initiatives but yet again it doesn’t cut to the issue of affordability and if AGDA wants to ignore it then they are putting their own future at risk.

    Stop wondering why people are asking ‘what’s in it for me?’ when they have handed over $247 of their own money. Start asking how can we make AGDA more accessible, how can we attract more members, how can we compete with the huge offering from other creative institutions. I think the answers are all in the comments posted on this blog. It may take some tough decisions, some cuts, and a whole shift in thinking but I think AGDA can do it.

    So Simon it’s really up to you now. Take this feedback to your next AGDA meeting and see what happens. Come back to the table with a constructive response and please remove your disclaimer from you next posting- I expect the Victorian President to represent the beliefs and opinions of AGDA. If your comments don’t then send someone who does.

    • Andrew, I’m not here as a sole representative from AGDA to voice the opinions of many, it’s my personal view. And I respectfully disagree with the manner in which you’re engaging with us. Or not, as the case may be.

      How much is “affordable”? I’d really like to work with some tangibles so we can meaningfully progress the discussion past rhetoric. Otherwise this conversation could devolve into a vent-piece and won’t be of any use to anyone.

  35. russell

    Hi, I am an AGDA member and I just wanted to say that I think there is a conflict of interest with the Awards. My question is how can work of the judges be voted on and included in the book? Surely there has to be some degree of separation between those that are judging work and the works that appear in the book. Maybe there should be a rotating pannel of judges that forfeit the right to submit work to the awards for the year they are judging. Just my thoughts but until this issue is resolved I won’t be participating.

  36. I think there’s two things going on here. It’s very hard for us to defend AGDA without appearing to be defensive, and even though we’ve gone to some lengths to address the points raised, it’s hard not to come off as being abrupt or rude. (Partly this is due to the deliberately confrontational tone of the original bit in Desktop, and also some of the comments here). We do this because we love it, and we give our time freely because we believe in the value of creating a better design community. We deserve the right to vigorously defend AGDA just as you are free to criticise it.

    It’s all very well to drop a few truth bombs, and stir the pot, but part and parcel of starting a debate like this is to actually do something about it. That’s why we encourage people to come along and get involved.

    The truth is, we can’t please everyone, but we do our damn best to look after our members and the general design community and I’m proud to be a member and also to be involved.

    Specifically regarding cost – the fact is that that’s your opinion, not an indisputable fact. We do the absolute best we can for our members for the money. Some people tell me that they’d only join if AGDA dropped the prices, but I know from previous experiences these are the same people who don’t turn up when we do free events. In short, I think we could drop $100 off membership and not improve the membership base dramatically. $247 a year for membership of a professional organisation isn’t a lot in my view, and the work AGDA does benefits all designers, not just our members.

    As far as people questioning the cost, I think Liana has put a fairly strong case of what you do actually get for the money – If these are not tangible enough, I can only cite my own experience where it’s put more back into my pocket than it’s actually cost me to be involved. Other than that, I could argue until I was blue in the face and not get anywhere. You either see the value in what we do, or you don’t. We’ll try harder to communicate that value better.

    Andrew, nobody at AGDA will ignore this and I would bet a fancy hat that this will be discussed at length. I don’t exactly know how to convince you that we don’t think we’re in a fancy white castle in the sky, and yes we do listen. For whatever it’s worth please be assured that yes, it will be discussed seriously.

    If you really want to pursue this, then it’s not up to Simon, it’s up to all AGDA members, and it’s up to people who care enough to put their money where their mouth is and make actual changes. As alluded to before, if you really want to shake things up, then get involved. You seem to have a clear vision for AGDA but you need to articulate that more clearly than simply saying that there needs to be “tough decisions” and a “shift in thinking” is superficial at best.

    I will carefully pick through this thread and look for stuff we can actually do, but some of the stuff raised is not actually possible while retaining the current level of services we provide to the design community. I would gratefully welcome any constructive discussion, either here, or please feel free to email me on njeanneret at

    Andrew, I’d really love to collect up the feedback you’ve received via email, I know there may be a privacy issue involved so if you could perhaps just copy and paste without identifying information that would be really helpful. We do actually ask for feedback on a regular basis, but we often have a problem with people actually returning those feedback forms. If you want to see the change, then having something for us to build a solid case for change is vital.

    Disclaimer: I’m the Tasmanian state chapter vice president and my views are my own. AGDA is a democratic organisation and it’s impossible and impractical for me to claim that my view is AGDA’s official stance.

  37. Monib Mahdavi

    Years ago I read something that I’m reminded of each time I come across discussions like this. It went along the lines that one of the greatest qualities a person can have is the ability to comprehend something without being offended. It struck me profoundly. In one word I think it’s called wisdom. I think that’s what is needed here from all contributing.

    The fact is that AGDA is committed to supporting the nations graphic design industry. How this commitment manifests itself may not be visible to some, and it may not be perfect, but there is no doubt they are trying. However perhaps publicly berating them isn’t going to foster the right attitude for learning and growth. Is that what we would do to our own family member in public or would we take a more wise and encouraging approach? It’s a fair analogy.

    The AGDA representatives should be commended for their measured responses. I don’t think there is any doubt that they will be trying to address these concerns when they next meet.

    In the mean time, perhaps we can try a change of tone. It should be reiterated for those who have strong feelings about AGDA’s vision and purpose – put your ideas forward, but do it with a spirit of encouragement and optimism. If AGDA can walk away from this with a list of recommendations that are practical and sustainable, and that can inspire them to make the organisation better then that’s a great outcome.

    Let’s comprehend that AGDA is the industry body, they are trying to represent everyone’s best interest, they rely on support, and that if things aren’t functioning exactly as we would wish them to then we shouldn’t be offended.

  38. I do know that certification would be a massive bonus, but having a union style association could be helpful in lifting the pay of the junior designers to a level that is at least reasonable. I have seen jobs advertised at 25k or less for juniors and that is just abuse for a Sydney based company to pay that and expect that it is okay.

    Yes, I am a member, and I do know about the member blogs and articles on the AGDA site, but lets face it, I don’t bother writing there as I have a bigger readership through sites like this one.

    I don’t get to many of the events as I live outside of Sydney and they become hard to attend after a long day of work and a long commute home.

    True, a lot of the AGENDA and similar stuff I am sent finds the recycle bin after a quick look. Instead of showcasing ‘legends’ of design, would it not be better to show off the work of the younger designers who need the exposure to the community at large?

    The relevancy of AGDA has been debated since I was at University, and there are always two sides, debating is it worth it, is it just a group of elitists, whats in it for me, why haven’t you called me, you promised you would call me!

    Being passionate about design is important, and having an association for designers is important (regardless of whether you choose to join or not).

    And I see the mentor program that AGDA runs as being something that should be given even greater coverage.

    We all have opinions, and I love reading the different opinions on this topic especially.

    It will be great if this debate causes some changes and improves the offering of AGDA, because without someone standing up and saying ‘you need to fix this’ it is not going to be fixed.

  39. Steve

    Pretty sure people have been offering ideas… many of them in fact.

  40. I never said that they hadn’t now been giving ideas, it was more intended to be if this hadn’t been brought up originally, it wouldn’t have made us all debate it.

    Change is good. Stagnation is bad.

    It is now up to how the council members take this feedback and work with it in their planning for the future.

  41. Having been on the board of AGDA NSW for 11 years and counting, I can say with conviction that all AGDA Councillors give it their all to provide value and relevance as an organisation to members, whether that be by producing quality events and programs, industry representation, forums for discussion or otherwise. We may not always get it right, but nearly all the feedback I receive (albeit this is from members who attend events) is positive and encouraging. It may not be apparent, but folks like myself, Simon and Nathanael are unpaid – and the effort we put in for AGDA is done so out of our desire to build a better Australian design community. I say this not as an excuse for any failings may have, but as an explanation that AGDA’s resources are limited and that the majority of the work behind the scenes is done by a handful of people who have their own businesses to run and whose time is limited. If there are any other designers out there, like Simon and Nathanael, who would like to see a stronger design community in Australia and an industry association that is relevant for them, then I would encourage you to come and join one of the AGDA state boards. AGDA is not a ‘static’ organisation and if you have drive and vision
    then I, for one, would warmly welcome you as my AGDA colleague.

  42. Steve

    I’ll come to the next NSW meeting, when is it? Perhaps list them all here so people can have a say.

  43. Clinton Duncan

    Below are some suggestions for AGDA, but I’d like to comment on the overall tone of this comment feed, and the debate. I think there’s some passionate declarations, and a few personal jibes thrown around, but overall this a fairly mature discussion, by internet blog standards.

    It’s funny that this has already started to pop off, as I was myself working on an opinion piece for Brendan in a later issue of Desktop. Moffitts beat me to the punch! Following are some of my thoughts from early research into diagnosing AGDA, it’s irrelevance, and ways it could improve.

    On The Subject of Pricing…

    I can definitely see the compelling argument of the pricing at the level it is, with demand being rather inelastic; ie. reducing the price $100 probably wouldn’t sell many extra memberships. But I also see the reticence of many to spend a the small stack of coin with no clear expectation of getting value.

    Run a 6 month membership sale @ $99. Reduce prices, and encourage existing members to ‘top up’ their membership at the lower price. New members can nominate an existing ‘referrer’ member, with a reward for the referring member.

    Another alternative is the ‘freemium’ model — have a free membership, with limited entitlements, and a paid membership, with better entitlements, this model is incredibly successful with online services.

    On the subject of connectivity, community, inclusion…

    One of AGDA’s original ‘reasons for being was to basically foster a ‘community’ of designers, and enable networking, collaboration etc. This side is essentially irrelevant — the fact this conversation is happening on twitter, on this blog, or in the Australian Infront forums, just shows how you can’t compete against technology, and win.

    Unfortunately for AGDA — it’s not that social, at all really. It’s a boys club (a number of people tweeted me about a lack of females involved in AGDA). It’s the same people, most of the time, making their silly, indulgent little printed invite pieces, getting together to talk amongst themselves at the events, and judging each other’s work ‘the best’ at awards. Why bother.

    Whoever is running the AGDA twitter feeds (particularly NSW) needs to be relieved of the responsibility. They’re not updated, they’re pointless and an embarrassment. If your ‘on’ a social platform, you’re ‘on’ all the time. Engage, discuss, converse, share. Look to Sanky and the D&AD for the example.

    Where is AGDA on Australian Infront? Why not submit one of these great ”members-only’ articles you speak of to AusInfront once a month, to demonstrate what non-members are missing out on?

    Use the AGDA marketing activities (that I understand have a low design budget) not as a ‘gift brief’ to an established, “seen all their tricks before” studio, and use it as a grant for student who is starting out in private practise, 25k for a years worth of invites is a great start for a 21yr old designer, and gives them the opportunity of a life time to strut theiur stuff in front of the industry.

    Run a state by state folio submission based competition for the grant, turn it into a big exhibition, similar to D&AD student award and Young Bloods exhibition.

    On the Subject of Education…

    It seems to me AGDA is non existant for most students. Either AGDA is an nkown, unvalued, or perceived as being of little utility. Also, there are many private colleges and (some) universities out there purporting to teach graphic design, and turning out rather crude and badly skilled mac monkeys. The standard of the average graduate is very poor.

    Create a league table, based on professional, academic and student feedback, of the best places in Australia to teach graphic design.

    Work with educators to be the bridge between what industry needs, and what academia needs to teach. This should be a full time, professional, national role with a strategic roadmap, KPI’s and perfomance milestones.

    Deliver an AGDA accreditation for education institutions that teach graphic design, and turn out graduates, the industry deems high quality, of value, and in sync with the modern approach of a graphic design professional.

    On the Subject of Accreditation…

    Observation & Suggestion/
    No matter how hard or difficult, it needs to get done. We’re not a serious, grown up profession without proper code of conducts, ethics, professional standards and finally, ENFORCEMENT, of them. Given the incredibly subjective nature of what our industry does, the need for some sort of objective ‘mark of certification’ is even more important, for that very reason.

    On the Subject of Awards…

    The boys club is hard at work, here too. Little boys love measuring their cocks, and unfortunately for a professional body about community and altruism, the personality types drawn to awards simply aren’t the type compatible with the mission. I’ve worked with many designers obsessed by awards, and I’d sum them up as vain, selfish, egotistic and elitist, just my own observation, not directed at anyone personally.

    Also, the judging is always off. Recently, the fact the packaging category at the last awards was so heavily dominated by wine labels by small boutique studios for small boutique vineyards, and the MASSIVE consumer branding sector of our industry was completely dudded of recognition of their very worthwhile contribution (whilst I personally can’t stand it).

    A bit ambitious, but here goes: Why not yearly, scaled down, more diverse judging panel, all facilitated over the net, displayed online, with big gala events in each state nationally, unified by live video feeds. Don’t publish a clumsy annual, put it all online, make it available to anyone (again, look to the D&AD to get best practise examples).

    I think I’m done for now.

    • Clinton thankyou for taking the time to put together your thoughts. There’s actually heaps of good stuff in there that I could see AGDA looking at. A couple of the suggestions you’ve made are great, but expensive, and would end up resulting in a not-insubtantial raise in administration overhead and thus cost back to our members. The cost benefit to our membership is a huge issue and bigger initiatives like those suggested have to be very carefully weighed up.

      Accreditation is a big issue, and comes up pretty regularly. The cost of implementing it would involve a substantial raise in membership (or perhaps just accredited membership if that category existed) costs due to the administration overhead. My personal feeling is that accreditation would be great, but I’m still not sure if it’s feasible.

      I did want to respond again about it being a boy’s club. Tasmania’s state council is majority women and we’d have a pretty even gender split at our events and workshops. I think you’d find that across most of the state councils it’d be pretty similar. The national council is 6 women, 9 men and our executive director is also a woman. I’m not sure how else to prove this, but I assure you, AGDA is not a boy’s club.

      (there’s a lot more great stuff in your post I’d like to comment on, but I need to do some actual work now ;) – I will definitely be coming back and collecting up these suggestions though).

  44. So I think there’s a fair amount of suggestions here to try and make some changes.

    What’s next? Same old routine or to shake things up?

  45. I’ve been following the discussion with interest. I have always been confused about the role AGDA played, like many of the commenters I was a member for a while but have long since lapsed. I have to say my union membership won out over my AGDA membership long ago becuase they have very tangible things that they do. And although MEAA pretty much ignore designers I know that they are in workplaces with designers working for better conditions. I’d like to see the AGDA and MEAA having a joint membership system where your membership counted for both, MEAA supplying the workplace rights side and recognising for once that they had designers as members, and the AGDA concentrating on the higher level lobbying, accreditation, and education standards. A system where young designers are talked to at the start of their career about joining and why sticking to a code of ethics is important. We need to be ‘networking’ within our own offices as well as with designers who work elsewhere. The only way we can sort out and get rid of $25k a year junior designer jobs is if we all work together.

    As for the pricing I pay more for my football club membership but the difference is you pay it over the year rather than a lump sum. Can you break up your AGDA membership? And what’s the joining fee for?

  46. Jack Bender

    How about the people who feel so strongly that things need to change, putting themselves forwards to do the work to make it happen?

    • Steve

      Urgh, juvenile much? Come on, its an industry body. One shouldn’t have to pay and then become involved to fix it. The industry body should be of merit enough to one want to join, not the other way around.

      • Jack Bender

        I thought that might make you fire up!

        • Steve, everyone is absolutely free to say whatever they want. Everyone who is on Council for AGDA is there to make it better. You can be assured we’re all paying attention to this, and will find as many things to change as is feasibly possible. We’re doing our level best to improve it each day and that will go on with or without your membership.

          However, The truth is (and I think I’m at risk of repeating myself) if you feel that passionately about the things we’re doing wrong, if you *really* want that changed then you have to roll up your sleeves and do something about it.

        • Steve

          Again – I shouldn’t have to pay to fix something, thats just stupid. I hate the service I get with Vodafone, so I took my business elsewhere. I am positive they don’t expect me to put up new towers to help improve their company, so why should AGDA expect people to pay membership and then fix theirs. I admire your passion but use some business sense.

  47. Michelle

    As a committee member of the WA AGDA chapter, I whole heartedly agree that we need to better communicate the benefits to the design community. It’s something we do recognise and are working towards.

    Getting ourselves on Facebook and Twitter has already seen a huge jump in the amount of people we see coming to events and we have many more ideas about things we’d like to see happen. We have also had two free events this year which were very well attended by non-members and are looking to work with Artsource, DIA, ISTD and PADC to put on combined events for all our members.

    I understand it’s a lot of money for a full membership and I would like to see more given to members in the way of information and articles. I’ve heard of a few things happening with the National committee in regards to this which I’m looking forward to seeing.

    Our committee is full this year, we had more people volunteering at our last AGM than we could handle and over half of us are women. We’re certainly not a ‘boy’s club’. Our president is a woman as well this year.

    Regarding students, we have three student committee members who are extremely passionate and actively involved. We also had a very successful event earlier this year for graduates where they had the opportunity to ‘speed date’ with professionals and receive feedback on their work. It was encouraging to see the amount of professional, accomplished designers who were willing to give up most of their Sunday and we were flooded with graduates wanting to attend.

    As well as the awards, there is the Poster Annual design competiton. It is judged by a committee but it also has a People’s Choice component which is judged by everyone online and last year they were exhibited at AIGA and the Pratt Institute in New York. Pretty good exposure if you’re wanting to get your name our there.

    Thanks to everyone for their feedback. I know our committee will definitely be talking about everything that’s been said here at the next meeting.

  48. Wow, great to see so much passionate discussion about AGDA.

    I haven’t read Andrew Moffitt’s original article, but after reading the posts above and chatting to some people I have a fair idea of the main points he was trying to make. And you know what, I actually don’t disagree with him. All associations and organisations are faced with the eternal battle of how to remain relevant and of value over time. Things change, and associations need reflect the changes within an industry or risk becoming stale and non-important.

    What I do wholeheartedly disagree with is the way that Andrew Moffitt went about bring up this topic. To come out publicly and slam and criticise something without offering any improvements or solutions is a complete and utter waste of time and does nothing but harm. I have no problem with people pointing out flaws within a system or service, as long as they are prepared to, at the very least, offer some ideas on how that system or service can be improved.

    I don’t understand how you can say, “This sucks, you fix it”. We all know that no one on the AGDA any of the committees get’s paid for their time and efforts, so instead of just pointing out the flaws which we all know are there and just walking away, you MUST be prepared to ‘jump in the trenches’ and get your hands dirty.

    I had a conversation with Jack Mussett on Friday and he raised a very good point. Any AGDA member is able to become a committee member. So that being the case, everyone who is criticising the way AGDA operates, should at the very least, be prepared to write down their suggestions on how AGDA can improve their service and send them in to the committee or better yet, join and donate your own time.

    I rang Simon Mundy yesterday after reading all of your comments and I said, “Tell me you are as pumped as I am that this conversation is happening!” I you know what, I think he is. It is so great to see people having this discussion, which honestly, I think is a discussion we needed to have, because now we all have an opportunity to get together as an industry and really work hard to turn AGDA into something that will be relevant and full of value. If we are happy with it in it’s current form, then so be it. If not, say so, get off your designer chair and do something about it. But please stop criticising people and organisations if you’re not prepared to do something to help improve them.

    Put your ninjas in the air for AGDA!
    Have a great Saturday.

    - Nick

  49. Nick- you haven’t read the article but you strongly disagree with it? People have the right to expect more from organisations and ask for change. It’s called democracy and it’s built on freedom of speech which strangely seems to have upset many people in this debate. Your own video blogs are perfect examples of your opinion- am I not entitled to mine? The people in charge of AGDA are answerable to their members therefore it’s their responsibility to take on board comments and bring about change.

    I started this conversation. Every comment stems from my article and AGDA will be better because of it. You’re ‘pumped’ because of my actions- not because someone at AGDA raised these issues. One day people might thank me for it? :-)

    My article does nothing to destroy AGDA- it simply highlights the opinions of many and calls on AGDA to evolve to ensure its own survival.

    I’m meeting with AGDA NSW next week because they want to get AGDA working harder for members. They are a great bunch of people who are passionate about the FUTURE of AGDA.

    I’m happy that my words can make a difference and start a conversation to bring about change.

    • That’s great news Andrew! Glad to hear you’re working closely with the team. I take it that also means you’ll be renewing your membership and sharing in this future?

    • Hi Andrew, thanks for the reply. As I said in my above comment, I don’t disagree with your point of view, in fact I very much agree with it. My only issue is that, unless there is something above that I have missed, I can’t see you offering any ideas or solutions on how AGDA can improve it’s service.

      I had coffee this morning with a mate and we both agreed with your comment above that indeed you have started a conversation that I also believe needed to occur, which is a great thing. I’m stoked that you are meeting with ADGA NSW next week. That was the whole point of my comments. Too often people criticise and walk away without taking any action, that was my concern when heard about your article.

      It’s great that you are taking that step forward and chatting to AGDA NSW. Hopefully some new and valuable ideas come from it. I would be very interested to hear how it goes.

      I think I said this above, but this is a MASSIVE opportunity for the GD community and AGDA to work together to improve their overall service. You obviously see that otherwise you wouldn’t be going to chat. It does need to be ongoing though. If anyone else reads this and thinks that there needs to be a change in AGDA, go ahead and make a call or send an email and get cracking. 2012 could mean big things for ADGA if you do.

      All in all, I really think this will be a good thing for the GD community and AGDA.

      PS. Ironically I received my first AGDA welcome pack last Friday. Haha – the timing.

  50. Lets wait and see what happens- I am sure something positive will come out of this for AGDA and all members.

  51. Liana Lucca-Pope

    I’d like to make another point. Over the last few days I’ve noticed that here and elsewhere, it’s been implied that the people speaking up on behalf of AGDA are “defensive” and thereby proving that they are “out of touch”. As mentioned by myself and various other councillors – we appreciate constructive feedback or input. That’s not in question. And I’m sure that many of us agree with many of the issues raised and suggestions. But that doesn’t mean that when attacked, we should simply “take it on the chin” without defending or explaining our position. We were challenged early in the dialogue to specify the value of AGDA. This was done by a number of people. That’s what a discussion is about – it shouldn’t just be one sided. To criticise the members who have spoken up in support of the association they believe in as being defensive is ridiculous. Of course we objected to the attacks – we believe in what we are doing. Constructive feedback or true dialogue (when each party truly listens to each other and is willing to take on another opinion or perspective) is a beautiful thing though. I for one am excited about the next stage. To see what we can do with all this new information and momentum. The beginning of the discussion felt like a bashing but by the end, enough real and constructive dialogue had occurred to have something to build from. I can’t promise that you’re going to get everything you want but we are listening.

  52. I have been following the debate intently and to make AGDA more relevant to someone like me I would really love to hear more regarding your mentorship program.

    I would hazard a guess that there are many designers out there that started out with great aspirations and might not be sure of how to achieve their goals, not just students fresh out of university.

    I for one am one and believe that an association like yours has an amazing opportunity to do just that, for designers in all stages of their development.


  53. Clinton Duncan

    Where is NSW AGDA? As far as I can tell there’s Tas, Vic, WA AGDA people contributing to this discussion, but not one word from AGDA NSW?

    Mr Alex Ritchie, speak up good sir!

  54. Chris

    Why not just rebrand it as AFSOGDA, the Australian Freelance and Sole Operator Graphic Design Association. They seem to be the people who get the most use out of it. As the head of a mid-sized creative agency, I can tell you AGDA has never felt like anything more than a networking forum for postgrads.

  55. Since money/value seems to be an ongoing issues with ADGA, I was wondering what does going to a two day event like Semi-Permanent compare to that of being a 365 day member of ADGA.

    What one would get out of each one or any other event/organisation, what do you think, trying to compare chalk to cheese?

    I imagine people attended/join for professional/educational reasons to either of those two?

  56. An interesting debate. I am an AGDA member and happy to be one. I do however want to add that I don’t agree accreditation or certification is ‘too expensive’ or ‘too difficult’. I am a member another design body that provides an accreditation scheme. Yes the annual membership is more expensive than AGDA’s. .. and I think it’s worth every cent.

  57. Matt

    I don’t think Moffitt’s article has done harm. Without it would we all be having this conversation?

    Things like this have been discussed for years and years and finally it’s centralised in one place and has the attention of all involved.

    I also think lots of Clinton Duncan’s ideas have a lot of relevance.

    • Liana Lucca-Pope

      True… but if Simon hadn’t responded and if the various people who contributed to this forum with a spirit of openness and a true desire for dialogue hadn’t participated – we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

  58. Flyn

    I think it’s great to see so much passion surrounding this topic.

    Associations like AGDA are as strong as their members and community. If you can make change and believe in what you think, then say and do something about it. Contribute. Communicate. Get involved. If you think it can be better, then great! Time to speak up, we will all be all much better off.

    I think Simon touched on it well in his post with “AGDA is not ‘them‘ – it’s ‘us’. Which is why I felt compelled to say something.

    We need to keep in mind Andrew wrote this in Desktop Magazine, not a toilet wall somewhere. He wrote it knowing full well that it would start a nice debate in our community and what’s better he is meeting with NSW AGDA (according to his previous post). I think that’s great and positive for all of us.

  59. Sean

    The trouble here is that we have a ‘me me me’ attitude not an ‘us’ attitude driven by a consumer mentality. AGDA are a behind the scene advocate of our industry who need to be funded for their efforts – we need to think more about supporting them rather than wanting something tangible in return for our membership dollar. The fee is a small figure to pay for the work they do on our behalf.

    Perhaps AGDAs failing is their lack of communication on their successes and challenges, and not demonstrating how we can all collaborate in helping our industry.

    In between all this ‘what do I get’ talk is actual good, healthy dialogue about what AGDA is and what it should be – perhaps more of this should be encouraged – the passion shown here is what AGDA needs.

  60. I’m a member and have been following this at a distance, and I’m also very keen to find out more about AGDA’s (once upon a time) mentorship program. Does it still exist?

  61. eden

    r Mundy you need a reality check.
    That’s what happens when your too plugged into your own title as oppose to the needs of the graphics design community.

    I don’t need to give $247 to AGDA, for my voice to be heard. Sh!t mate! I can give my voice for free. The question is would it be heard due to my non-member status.

    Your higher than thou comments illustrate the reason I have no desire to be an AGDA member, when really A.Moffitt, myself and many other graphic designers would be the best people to help assist AGDA on many perspectives AGDA hasn’t considered with regards to their failure to serve their constituents.

    Whilst I don’t %100 agree with A.Moffitt’s comments, I do believe he highlights what many are feeling. Your failure to respond with any sensitivity to the issue further emphasizes the point. Which leads to what myself and many believe your response to A.Moffit’s article reflects…

    An Epic Fail.

    I wouldn’t normally respond to such comments but your use of the word repugnant resides in your institutionalised views and slightly irritated me.

    I realise now that any AGDA owner will read this and cross me off any list for future employment, but I couldn’t let your views
    pass without a rational response.

    Regards and thankyou for letting me put the word repugnant in a sentence.

  62. kandace

    totally agree here, AGDA needs to reflect on it’s ability to serve the people…

  63. Liana Lucca-Pope

    I’m sure you can imagine that events and things like the mentor program need to be administered at a state level so it’s best if you have specific queries about these to contact your local AGDA Chapter. Contact details are on the website

    But I’d love to give a shout out here for prospective mentors to put their hand up! It’s always hard finding anywhere near enough industry professionals to match to mentees. You don’t have to be an AGDA member to be a mentor. Please think about it – it’s a great way to get involved and contribute to the industry without it being too onerous a responsibility. The relationship or needs vary according to the different mentees and you can work it out between you (at least that’s how we do it in Victoria!). I’ve mentored a few people and they usually just want a meeting or two and the odd phone call. It’s actually lovely and it makes you feel good to be able help people out with your knowledge…

  64. Dazz

    my 2cents

    I originally joined AGDA when I was a student because the cost was minimal and I thought that was what I needed to do as a fresh faced designer.

    The second time I joined, the company I was working for payed for it, my self and three other designers questioned “what do we get out of it” – cause we like stuff!

    Having been in the industry 10+ years I still question “AGDA’S relevance” for me as a designer – but with the understanding that it must be relevant or it would not exist – right?

    As I like to have my finger in all pies, the thought had crossed my mind recently to join so I can look at the jobs on the AGDA website – then I thought the money for memembership did not justify it for that reason and other sites like “The Loop” ,”Australia in Front”, “Seek” and “Behance” do such a swell job of either letting me have a profile/other presence on the web, access to a great pool of resources, inspiration, competitions and job searching.

    FYI – I do spend my money to go to Semi P for inspiration (this year was the best in a long time), and if not crazy busy drag my arse to the free indesign forums which I find great for brushing up and learning new skills.

    So… these are my thoughts – i’m really interested to see if AGDA sheds some of it’s old skin and injects some fresh ideas and approaches to inspire and engage ALL designers. I feel the cost is irrelevant – but maybe it’s what you get for the cost that matters, when you contrast to what you can get for free.

    Patiently waiting…

  65. Tanja Hall

    What great discussion…

    I work with AGDA Queensland in the role of President and also work with AGDA National.

    Much has been covered in these posts and I can support Simon and Nathanael in saying we are listening, we do also want change and we will act on these comments. Some of the below may help further with understanding the role and actions of AGDA for the benefit of members but also importantly, the industry as a whole. Forgive the Q&A format but aiming to keep simple and not too lengthy…

    Does AGDA endeavour to meet the needs of a broad membership (ie all ages and experience)? Yes.
    Is AGDA representing and providing a voice for the graphic design industry as an active participant of the Australian Design Alliance? Yes.
    Is AGDA representing and providing a voice for the Australian graphic design industry as an active member of Icograda (International Council of Graphic Design Associations)? Yes.
    Does AGDA partner/converse with other national and international design associations and bodies to benefit members and industry? Yes.
    Is AGDA actively working with government to promote the value of design? Yes.
    Is AGDA actively working with government to meet the expectations of design-led businesses? Yes.
    Does AGDA create initiatives to educate business and community about the value of graphic design? Yes.
    Does AGDA advise and contribute to tertiary design curriculum? Yes.
    Has AGDA researched accreditation/certification and are they continuing to research the most appropriate model to implement? Yes.
    Does AGDA provide exposure and awareness of best practices? Yes.
    Does AGDA provide events for professional development? Yes.
    Does AGDA provide events for creative inspiration? Yes.
    Does AGDA provide events and exhibitions to facilitate industry networking? Yes.
    Does AGDA support students and provide advice and opportunity for transition to professional? Yes.
    Does AGDA facilitate mentorship? Yes.
    Does AGDA obtain industry information and statistics to share with members and allow them to benchmark their businesses? Yes.
    Does AGDA have an Awards system to allow industry to benchmark their work? Yes.
    Does AGDA promote and showcase Australian graphic design internationally? Yes.
    Does AGDA seek sponsorship to enable providing more to members? Yes.
    Does AGDA support other design events and initiatives eg agIdeas, Semi-Permanent, Positive Posters amongst others large and small? Yes.
    Does AGDA negotiate discounts with partners for members? Yes.
    Does AGDA currently provide an annual report? No, however AGDA has identified the need for this and actioned to produce this every year hereon.

    Could AGDA be communicating all initiatives more effectively? Yes, absolutely.
    Does AGDA want to create change and provide more for members? Yes, of course.
    Does AGDA need the support of the industry to make change and improvement? Yes.

    These are only some of the initiatives and actions… mindful of space here.

    And the cost per day…
    68c for professional renewal ($247pa), 98c inclusive joining fee ($359)
    45c for associate renewal ($162.50pa), 69c inclusive joining fee ($252.50)
    28c for graduate renewal ($101pa), 46c inclusive joining fee ($168)
    14c for student renewal ($50.50pa), 23c inclusive joining fee ($84)

    Less than $1 per day… is that really too expensive in the quest for the greater good of our industry? A daily coffee is more expensive. Public transport is more expensive.

    Naturally value is defined differently for each individual… the value to a student is different to that of a professional designer who has worked for many years.

    Membership is important to the ongoing operation of AGDA, without it there would not be an AGDA. Who then would do the work that AGDA is doing for the benefit of designers and clients, in particular the advocacy?

    As I mentioned, we are listening and we will act on all the comments contributed. They are very valuable to us and thanks goes to all those who have contributed. It is unfortunate AGDA did not hear from Andrew directly.

    I can’t help but wonder how a similar situation directly related to Moffitt.Moffitt may have been received…

    In the event a Moffitt.Moffitt valued client/partner no longer saw the value in Moffitt.Moffitt’s work, would Moffitt.Moffitt appreciate the client/partner simply walking away? Or would Moffitt.Moffitt appreciate and respect the client/partner approaching them personally to voice their concern and endeavour to better the relationship?

    Regardless, there has been great discussion, and it would be great to see more. It will create change and that is most definitely positive.

    • Does writing a list repeating everything we’ve already heard achieve anything? No
      Does reducing membership down to a daily spend have any relevance? No
      Does complaining about people voicing their opinion in a public forum sound ridiculous? Yes

      Moffitt.Moffitt. Answers to it’s clients needs or we don’t get paid. It’s a pretty simple model and one that AGDA could learn from.

  66. Should Tanja thank me for bringing these issues and comments to the attention of AGDA? Yes

  67. The one thing that shines through from all this posturing, self belief, group belief and love of everything graphic is ‘Passion’. Whether you like it or not what AGDA represents is good – a body that stands for our industry and above all our passion. Does it always get it right, no, but who does? Will it always please all of the people all of the time, no. Is its heart in the right place and it should it be supported? I believe so, but that’s just me.

    If we all stop ‘prancing’ around and harnessed the passion, energy, opinions and belief that have been evident throughout this debate, then we might start to get somewhere.

    AGDA_’quick’ wins_
    1. AGDA be financially transparent and become more accountable to members.
    2. Be clearer about the objectives of the organisation nationally and state wide and communicate these more effectively.
    3. Further delineate aspects of the organisation:
    a) Inspiration – Talks, Shows & Speakers
    b) Recognition – Awards, Student, Poster.
    c) Support – Industry, Student, etc.
    4. Consider tiered memberships based on member interests.
    5. Get the bloody awards annual (ipad app, pdf, or whatever it is) out within 2 months of the ceremony.

    Doubters_Quick wins
    1) Get involved or don’t.
    2) Input critically and fairly or don’t
    3) Be constructive or don’t bother.
    4) Take the conversation off line and have a real conversation with the people who volunteer and make the tough decisions on members behalf.


  68. On behalf of AGDA I’d like to thank everyone for their contribution to the discussion on the Value of AGDA. Without opinion pieces such as Andrew Moffitt’s and Simon Mundy’s being published we tend to keep our collective thoughts and concerns to ourselves, or within a small network.

    We are a member organisation run by a small team and 85 member volunteers, and it’s your feedback that will help this team to advance our profession and continue to evolve to meet members needs and wants.

    I invite members and non-members to contact us with your feedback, concerns, wish-lists… what you like, dislike, do, or don’t care about.

    Please write to


    Brenton Murray
    President, AGDA
    Director, BMD graphic design

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