"Given what Phoenix is up against in terms of its public image, and people literally believing that it has no history, I think it's really important that we as Phoenicians reclaim that history and start to shape it into an image that we believe is faithful to where we've come from, and is emotionally tied to the past."
Those are the words of Alison King, associate professor at the Art Institute of Phoenix and co-founder of Modern Phoenix, the website and home tour responsible for bringing renown to Phoenix's large array of Midcentury Modern design and architecture. On Wednesday, June 18, King will take that energy and attitude and channel it into "Branding Arizona," a talk in partnership with Arizona's AIGA chapter on "the past 100 years of the Valley's typographical identity."
Taking place as the first major event at central Phoenix's much-anticipated Newton adaptive-reuse project, "Branding Arizona" will serve as the kickoff for a season of design-related engagement and teaching for the AIGA Arizona, the local chapter of the national professional association for design.
"[The Newton] to us represents collaboration, and bringing people together," says AIGA Arizona's Programs Director Patricia Tompkins.
In that spirit, Tompkins believes the event will serve as a springboard for collaboration not only across the design community, but outward from it, and into the broader Phoenix metro area.
2014 represents two major milestones for the AIGA: the 100th anniversary of the national association and the 25th anniversary for its Arizona chapter.
"We were interested in holding the event because we wanted to take the time to. . . reflect on the historical design-related culture in Phoenix and bring people together," Tompkins says.
After hearing King's presentation "Design Like a MoPho" on midcentury graphic design at last year's Phoenix Design Week, AIGA Arizona approached the professor and organizer to arrange something similar, and "Branding Arizona" was born.
Though generally associated with midcentury design, King was ecstatic to expand her research into Arizona's earlier, less-chronicled design history, largely finding herself examining primary sources in shaping her talk.
In finding the Valley's early design identity, King explains, "I'm just reading [about design] from the point of view of the people who actually experienced it and looking at the actual media that was coming out. . ." and reflecting on how both Phoenix and Arizona projected themselves both internally and externally.
On fonts and typography more specifically, the main focus of Wednesday's talk, King believes "The forms for typography can speak just as much as what's being said in the [text]."
For consumers, what may be an unexplainable connection between brand message and personal identity can, for a designer, be a make-or-break opportunity for promoting a product, or in this case, ideal. With this talk, King and the AIGA hope attendees will in turn see how historical branding in Arizona can build long-term identity and meaning for the area.
Connecting her own work to the impetus for "Branding Arizona," King says, "When I can evoke echoes of the past in my design...what [I'm] doing is making a connection to a feeling that [people] have."
She continues, "I think the whole point of doing this exercise is to help expose people to forms that they might not be familiar with, because they haven't lived here their whole lives, so that they understand [Arizona's] vocabulary, and then can manipulate that going forward for positive results."
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"Branding Arizona" takes place tonight from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Newton in Phoenix. More information is available on the event's Facebook page. Advance tickets are sold out, but a limited number of tickets will be available at the door for $25.