AIA WA Design Awards

A design to showcase quality design


The Washington Council of the American Institute of Architects (which we’ll call AIA-WA for short) is a resource for the architecture community. The organization facilitates relationships and provides tools that help members make a difference through design.

A key part of the AIA mission is promoting the benefits of great architectural design, which creates livable, efficient, attractive spaces. To that end, the state council wanted to present Washington legislators with a high-quality book showcasing projects that utilized public funds. The goal was to show officials that the results were innovative, sustainable, and well-designed—that is, a worthwhile use of taxpayer money.

Although designing for other professional designers can add pressure to a project, we enjoy the challenge. We took on the job after AIA-WA found Chalkbox through our website.

(Understandably) high standards

Many of our clients do not have brand standards when they first come to us; then again, most of our clients are not designers themselves. It was no surprise to find that the national AIA organization does have brand guidelines—and that our design for the 2018 Civic Design Awards book would need to adhere to them.

There were several considerations beyond the brand standards, however:

  • The design had to be on par with the projects in the book. This piece was to be filled with beautiful visuals of the work—a “standard” design wasn’t going to hold up.
  • The book had to remain accessible. Our audience included legislators and other officials, so creating a design appropriate for non-architects was crucial.
  • The look and feel had to reflect a high level of sophistication and quality. The AIA is one of the largest professional associations for architects, dedicated to advocating for high standards in design, responsibility, and equality. We wanted to ensure our design was fitting for an organization of this caliber. And given that the ultimate home for these books would be on legislators’ shelves and coffee tables in the Capitol, the look needed to be refined and timeless as well.


Finding inspiration

We cast a very wide net in our research, looking at monthly architecture magazines and coffee-table books dedicated to specific architects, along with other picture-heavy publications. Our goal was to evaluate the various layout methods with a couple of questions in mind: Did the design accentuate the projects? Was the look and feel elegant and clean?

Ultimately, we wanted our design to be purposeful, but not distracting, almost like a baseball umpire: As the old adage goes, if the umpire becomes the focus of the game, they’ve probably done something wrong. For our purposes, that means if we did our job well, the design would put the focus squarely on the projects.

‘Building the design

We started with sketches, mocking up potential interior layouts and cover options. We always encourage our clients to stay involved in the process, so they will feel ownership in the results; in this instance, working with professional creators, no such encouragement was needed. The process was highly iterative, thanks to the design experience and ideas of our AIA contacts. We designers almost can’t help ourselves when it comes to giving input! (That’s not a bad thing.)

We built upon AIA’s existing brand throughout the book, beginning with a lush red cover and graphic of AIA’s eagle logo, while strategically utilizing splashes of red throughout. In the end, the book is polished yet user-friendly—much like the well-designed and highly functional buildings featured within.

The plan is to develop an edition of the Civic Design Awards book annually, updated with each year’s collection of completed public projects. We can’t wait to see the wonderful new work of AIA-WA architects, and we’re excited to help them share it with the world in the years ahead.


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