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Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

AIGA Philadelphia :: Fellow Award Dinner
by Juanita Berge, 1 Jul 2008

AIGA's fellow program is a means of recognizing mature designers who have made a significant contribution to raising the standards of excellence in practice and conduct within their local or regional design community as well as in their local AIGA chapter.

To learn more about Frank Baseman and Baseman Design Associates, check them out online at www.basemandesign.com.


It was a gala evening on Thursday, June 26 for the AIGA Philadelphia Fellow Award Dinner. Held at the Cescaphe Ballroom in Northern Liberties, we were met at curbside with complimentary valet parking. We walked just a few paces to the covered patio of the Cescaphe where we checked in, found seats, ordered from the outdoor bar, and sampled some of the freshly grilled hors d'oeuvres, cooked by the staff as we watched.

The Baseman Family

Once inside the Ballroom itself, the glamour escalated. An enormous oak bar occupied the far end of the room. Banquet tables laden with a huge selection of cold hors d'oeuvres lined one entire wall while the wait staff circled with hot hors d'oeuvres. A good-sized crowd had already gathered in the ballroom, which was lit by arrangements of table candles as well as multi-tiered candelabrum. Who was the recipient of all this well-orchestrated interplay, this high degree of sumptuousness? All was in honor of Frank Baseman, the principal of Baseman Design Associates, a graphic design firm in Jenkintown, and an associate professor in the Graphic Design Communication program at Philadelphia University. You may know Baseman Design Associates by last summer's City of Brotherly Love?

"City of Brotherly Love" poster

While Baseman and his family were off in one of the anterooms having their photos professionally taken, several out-of-town family members were in the ballroom meeting a large cadre friends and professional colleagues. There was no scarcity of well-wishers for Baseman. We were told by those in the know that this event was the first time that AIGA Philadelphia has held an event of this caliber, and that the Fellow Awards have never been done so formally before. Frank must have been very moved, for all was luxe and abundance that evening.

Left: Elysa Soffer, Fellow Committee Chair and head organizer of the event and friend; Right: Daniel Gneiding offers his sentiments to Frank Baseman.

AIGA Philadelphia has only awarded the Fellow four times in the past. This alone had to have been moving to Baseman. Says Maribeth Kradel-Weitzel, VP of the Philadelphia Chapter and principal of Kradel Design, "The Fellow Award is the highest honor at the local level that the AIGA can bestow." It's exclusively for those who been in the business of graphic design for fifteen plus years and have made a significant contribution to the profession and AIGA Philadelphia. Baseman certainly qualifies. He has been working in graphic design for more than 20 years. Before starting Baseman Design Associates, he was an art director at Philadelphia magazine. He worked at several prominent design studios in New York City as Senior Designer and Art Director. He has been an Assistant Professor at Tyler School of Art where he was founding director of the Tyler Design Workshop. He is currently Associate Professor at Philadelphia University in the Graphic Design Communication program, where he has taught since 1998. In 2007 he was awarded the Innovation in Teaching Award from the University.

Baseman Design Associates has been recognized by many national and international organizations, exhibitions and publications. They include: the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA); the Art Directors Club of New York and Philadelphia; Best of Show Award, AIGA/Boston Best of New England Design Competition; Communication Arts magazine; Graphis Posters; How magazine; the Lahti and Warsaw Poster Biennales; The Philadelphia Inquirer; Photographis; Print magazine and Print Magazine Regional Design Annuals; The Society of Illustrators; the Society of Publication Designers; the Type Directors Club of New York; and the University and College Designers Association.

Maribeth presents Frank Baseman with the Fellow Award.

Once people were seated at their tables, Steve Williams, former AIGA Philadelphia president, functioned as the emcee for the evening. A champagne toast was given by Jeffrey Senese, VP for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Philadelphia University. Dinner followed. Steve then began with presentations, reading a tribute to Baseman from Joel Katz, a former Fellow himself (2002) and designer of the event invitation and program. This was followed by remembrances (that read more like a roast than a tribute) from the following: Bob Warkulwiz, owner of Warkulwiz Design and adjunct professor at Philadelphia University; Daniel Gneiding, former student of Baseman's at Philadelphia University, now employed at Urban Outfitters; Laurie Churchman, who teaches graphic design at Penn and co-organized the Regional AIGA Educators' Conference: Revolution Philadelphia with Baseman; and Dennis Kuronen, Interim Dean of the School of Design & Media and Director of Graphic Design, Digital Design and Animation, who's known Baseman since the 80's and brought him to Philadelphia University. All was good fun in honor of a man who was obviously well-liked and well-regarded by the Philadelphia design community. Kradel-Weitzel then made the Fellow Award presentation to Baseman, who gave a humble, heartfelt thank-you speech in response. The entire proceeding was more akin to a lifetime achievement award.

Left: Guests pose for a quick photo-op; Right: Man-of-the-hour, Frank Baseman.

Baseman has been a member of AIGA since 1984. The Chapter itself is not much older than that – getting its start in 1981 as the first local chapter of the national group. He's served as the founding chair of the national steering committee for the AIGA Design Education Community of Interest from 2001-2006. He's also served on the national board of directors of the organization from 2003-2006. The Fellow program is a means of recognizing mature designers who have made a significant contribution to raising the standards of excellence in practice and conduct within the local or regional design community as well as the local AIGA chapter. Baseman received unmatched support from co-workers, students and others, which lead the executive board of Philadelphia to select him as their fifth winner of the Fellow. Said Baseman, "It was an amazing event and I'm humbled by it all. The respect I've been given by my peers has been a tremendous thing. I feel blessed to have such friends and family. I've found Philadelphia AIGA to be a very welcoming, wonderful and vibrant design community. I'm very honored by this. It's great to be recognized."

Can't wait to see next year's nominee... or next year's party. What an event it was.

Print Article  Brought to you by: Juanita Berge | Philly Creative Guide Event Reporter

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