Three New AIGA Medalists and a Million Grins


Michael Bierut was predictably charming. Lorraine Wild was positively sparkling. And we’ve never seen Rick Valicenti smile so big.

The men and woman of the hour at last night’s Design Legends Gala were the topic of conversation in every circle, surrounded by decades of students, co-workers, mentors, collaborators, and many of their very best friends.

Some of those friends were forced to pick sides immediately as Armin Vit passed out “Team Bierut” buttons. Valicenti came flanked with a legion of family members (also his collaborators). But when it came to sheer numbers, one couldn’t help but notice the swarms of women in attendance to support Wild. Female design educators from every corner of the country populated several tables in the center of the room (with Tucker Viemeister beaming in the midst of them). Wild also drew the youngest support: her eight-year-old daughter attended the event with her husband John Kaliski.

Three appropriate and considered voices presented the Medalists. For Bierut, it was his Pentagram partner and, as he called her later, “the sister I never had,” Paula Scher, with a fond and funny tribute to Bierut’s “compendium” of a brain. Bierut then told us about two promises he made to himself at 15: marry his high school sweetheart (now his wife, Dorothy) and become a graphic designer. So we’d say both of those turned out pretty well.

William Drenttel, Wild’s Design Observer collaborator and dear friend, celebrated her ability to bring thoughtfulness, sensitivity and beauty to every aspect of her life. Wild, wearing a glorious gold mid-century starburst around her neck, quipped that she was thrilled to be rewarded publicly for her private obsessions. She dedicated her Medal to all students, young or old, who, as she said, continue to blow her mind.

Fellow Chicagoan and industry renegade Dana Arnett’s introduction of Rick Valicenti was similar to so many students throughout the years for whom Valicenti–with his ability to get clients to “go there”–has become a bonafide hero. After Valicenti’s speech, when he reminded the audience to follow their own paths, we realized he was also getting a Medal for simply being fearlessly, unapologetically, himself.

No wonder he was wearing that humongous smile.