CEO Update Q3 2015: Improvements get more structural.

Keeping the community updated on SEGD’s progress brings me great satisfaction. It provides an opportunity to stop and think about what SEGD’s done lately and ask how it is serving your needs.

Last May I reported that SEGD was headed in the right direction financially and in membership and event registrations growth, and we had a record-breaking year in these categories. Now the SEGD board is hard at work defining next steps for SEGD.

In March 2015 the board agreed on two very clear strategic choices: a strategic plan setting our direction for the next five years and a reallocation of resources from eg magazine to the website.

One of the most important tasks for the board is ensuring that we’re allocating the association’s scarce resources to create the most value for the community. In 2016, we’ll reduce the magazine frequency from quarterly to an annual edition, allowing us to leverage our content development capacity and 75% of our print costs towards improving our digital presence. So far, our external costs to develop the website are only a fraction of the cost of a single magazine issue. Accelerating our investment in SEGD’s digital platform will allow us to more cost-effectively improve our value to members. One example of the web’s power in delivering member value is our addition of the SEGDTalks videosthis year, which make the valuable content from all SEGD events available to all members.

The magazine has been a labor of love and is well regarded by the members. However, its reach is minimal and the cost of producing the quarterly print edition is very high. With circulation of just a few thousand, the magazine can’t compare to, which now reaches well over 200,000 individuals a year and delivers over 3 million page reads. We will continue to produce an annual edition to highlight the year in EGD/XGD, but we believe is our best tool for spreading education and awareness of Experiential Graphic Design—and for promoting the value that individual members like you offer your clients. It is also time to shift from being a content provider to becoming a platform for the community to contribute to and share on.

Member engagement with SEGD is strong. The 2015 SEGD Conference: Experience Chicago was the best-attended conference ever, and attendance at the more focused workshop series has been good. Participation on the list serve and in webinars has been positive and strong.

Last year SEGD’s membership hit a record high and we are on track to exceed that in 2015. Growing membership is always a good sign and a first indicator that the association is healthy and delivering value to its members. Historically, membership goes up and down with the economy. That indicates that to some members, we are a “nice-to-have” rather than a vital part of their success. This is a key insight and the core of our new strategic direction.

SEGD will focus on creating tools, relevant content, and information that is vital for designers and their firms’ success. The SEGD Strategic Plan includes a new way to plan and budget for SEGD’s financial growth and stability, a major accomplishment for a small association. The board and staff have committed to a set of budgeting guidelines that will help us weather the boom-and-bust economic cycles we’ve experienced in the past decade. To achieve that, we know that we need to become more vital and more relevant for our members so that non-membership carries a cost! SEGD has a clear direction for the future.

We started on this journey toward greater relevance with the development of the website in 2013 and made four major investments in 2015:

1. Funding the recording and professional videotaping of all our physical events for the SEGDTalks gallery

2. Encouraging more students into the profession by offering free access to all events

3. Adding the Xplorer Digital 101 Bootcamp series to the education program - more practical professional training in digital experiential design skills

4. Developing a system for and then integrating our membership, accounting, and CRM data into the website

The SEGDTalksgallery where the videos are located already contains 80+ videos and is clocking up the views. They are available to members free when you log into the website—and represent major new benefit of access to all the content created for members!

Our strategy of encouraging students to experience and get involved with SEGD is working! We went from 2 students at conference in 2014 to over 60 at this years conference and we continue to grow our student membership aggressively.

We just completed the two Xplorer Digital 101 Bootcamps with positive feedback from participants. The intent was to provide more practical learning sessions than the workshop series, and we achieved this in large part. See the newly posted SEGDTalks.

When the new website launched in 2014, it was a very visible indicator of our improvement. This year we’ve been working on integrating our data systems, which will have a profound value-creation effect over time, enabling us to use our data in new ways to create value for the community, but the work is not visible to the membership yet. It represents the most fundamental shift we could make toward becoming a modern association.

SEGD is finally beginning to look, at least internally for now, a lot more like a web start-up than an old-school association—and not a decade too soon! Few organizations can survive without taking advantage of the efficiency and  possibilities that the web can deliver, and SEGD is no exception. However, that does not mean we’re giving up our title of the Warmest, Friendliest Community in Design! That will remain the compelling foundation upon which we are building a stronger, more relevant, digitally-powered SEGD.

You’ll also start to notice more website improvements, including improved search and geographically curated content to enrich Member Bios and Firm Listings. The database integration will also bring some much-needed support to the chapters. Imagine being able to look at a city and get an overview from an Experiential Graphic Design perspective! Think of seeing the XGD designers, firms, schools, and projects that are part of that city. It should feel like finally giving credit to the creators of the environmental experience.

Next up, the mighty Xlab!Xlab grew over 30% last year and we expect to sell out the space early this year before moving to a larger space for 2016, so book early!

We’ll see you in New York!

Clive Roux, CEO.

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