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AIGA Profile: AIGA Founders
Pat Hansen & Anne Traver

The spirit that started AIGA Seattle

Pat Hansen and Anne Traver are both cornerstones of Seattle design. Not only because of their respective design careers (spanning about 25 years each), but because they helped spark this community's love of great design by founding AIGA Seattle.

Back up to the early 80's. Seattle is a much smaller, simpler design arena. There is no Microsoft. There are no big clients other than Boeing. And there is, literally, a small handful of design firms in Seattle.

Enter Pat Hansen and Anne Traver: young, ambitious grads from UW's design program. After working briefly in Seattle, Pat was recruited to work in San Francisco, immersing herself in a culture devoted to high-level design. But after a couple of years, she returned to Seattle. Anne stayed in Seattle, starting her own design firm. Each of them began winning bigger and better projects from local companies.

But for both of them, something was missing: a sense of community. Pat and Anne both become active voices in Women In Design, a group of young designers eager to share ideas and promote good design in Seattle (which later became Seattle Design Association). Yet Pat and Anne saw an even greater opportunity to shake things up-and AIGA Seattle was born.

AIGA Seattle was founded in 1986 and became on of the nation's leading chapters almost overnight. A deep hunger for national-level connection and inspiration from leaders galvanized the city's designers. People participated. Friendships and camaraderie grew. Collaboration ensued. The upstart chapter even launched an unheard-of fundraiser: raising over $20,000 from vendors to establish a campaign to raise design awareness within the business community.

Pat, AIGA Seattle's first president, looks back on the group's founding with pride and a great sense of accomplishment. "I had a personal, somewhat selfish career reason for wanting to put Seattle on the map. I also really believed in the value of design. In the beginning, we actually had to approach all of the main designers in town, and basically make them join to get the 20 members required to start a chapter here."

Pat's commitment and enthusiasm paid off. "I ended up making connections with an amazing network of people across the country." She also became friends with people who she'd considered "the country's design Gods". "One of my biggest thrills was attending an AIGA committee meeting in New York and sitting between Massimo Vignelli and Milton Glaser. For a young person, that's a dream come true."

Anne, as member of AIGA Seattle's first board of and second president, notes that starting AIGA Seattle took a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and commitment: "You take a handful of really high energy people who are, essentially, fearless and think anything's possible. And they connect. They get people excited. That's the spirit that started AIGA Seattle."

But Anne's the first to point out what she gained from investing so much of her time in AIGA Seattle: "As a young person, it's a great training ground for leadership. You can do anything. You have the ability to take an idea and make it real. You call on your own resources. You figure it out. There's nobody telling you that you can't do something."

Pat and Anne are still members of the AIGA Seattle Advisory Board and both honor the sense of connection they've maintained with one other and Seattle designers over the years. According to Anne, "This design community is very warm and generous. You'd think the competitive streak would outweigh the desire for companionship and mutual support, but it doesn't."

Written by Mary LaCoste, a Seattle-based freelance copywriter.

The poster that launched AIGA Seattle in 1986.