Why I joined the AIGA St. Louis

A long while ago, when hardly anyone knew what the internet was, there was a bookstore in Clayton called the Library Limited.

The Library Limited was huge (it’s where the Centene Center is now). St. Louis didn’t have the giant chain Barnes & Nobles (or the now sadly defunct Borders) of today. And a person could sit inside a bookstore like the Library Limited and read entire books and magazines if they wanted to.

The Library Limited was my church. I would sit for seemingly hours and read every graphic design and web design book on the shelves. They also had design-focused magazines you couldn’t find anywhere else at the time, like Wallpaper*. It was amazing.

The internet was new! New! And with access to so many books on design and programming, I had a chance to see what was happening with this new medium.

It gave me new perspective on design, and I saw what was possible. I was infinitely inspired. And for the first time I thought of design as a viable profession.

And years later, when I considered myself a practicing design professional, I discovered the AIGA. The AIGA is the organization for professional design, with chapters across the country, but the chapter in St. Louis is the most important one to me.

When I first became aware of AIGA, I would catch wind of a design show, or a guest speaker, and find myself admiring the beautiful, smart work the creative firms in our city produced. Or I’d find myself inspired by a speaker I had never heard of, but would later become almost obsessed with.

Some events made me feel like an outsider. The design, content, and people were inspiring, but it wasn’t my reality. I didn’t produce “that kind” of work. Until I did.

But they made me think, and made me question, and made me wonder. Having a different view of design inspired me to push my work in directions I wouldn’t have considered before. To learn new things, to read new books, and to watch a ton of documentary-style videos on Vimeo.

The AIGA St. Louis showed me where the profession of design can lead, and again, I was infinitely inspired.

Recently I made the decision to join the AIGA. Not for any tangible benefit, or to advance my career, but just to participate. Through the years, I’ve met many of the people who have been involved with the AIGA St. Louis, as well as the people that currently run the organization. They are smart, caring professionals who push us all to create meaningful work by influencing and inspiring designers in our city.

So while I’ve sometimes felt like an outsider, I’ve realized that there are no insiders, only different perspectives. I’ve also realized that when people with different views on design come together, everyone’s view becomes broader. Broadening that perspective is sometimes the most valuable thing designers can do.

And again, I find myself infinitely inspired.



More than 11 years after founding Atomicdust, Mike Spakowski is actively involved in day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

As Creative Director, he strives for design excellence and sets the tone for the work created by Atomicdust. The studio’s work has been recognized by Fast Company, Communication Arts, One Show, and Print Magazine as well as local and regional ADDY awards.


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By AIGA Saint Louis
Published July 22, 2013
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