Featured business person: Bill Gardner

Gardner, whose firm specializes in corporate identity, has a new title himself: fellow of AIGA Wichita.

Gardner helped form Wichita’s chapter of AIGA, formerly known as the American Institute of Graphic Arts, in 1987. He’ll be recognized as the chapter’s first fellow in a ceremony Thursday night at the Crown Uptown Theatre.

“At the time, there were no organizations for designers in Wichita,” Gardner said of the chapter’s founding. “Wichita was probably the very last place on the (AIGA’s) list. When Wichita called, I think they probably laughed it off a little bit.”

Gardner said he and fellow chapter founders Susan Mikulecky and Sonia Greteman worked hard to get the organization off the ground, but it paid off when they were able to offer scholarships to design students and bring famous designers to town for events.

“It really bolstered the fact that Wichita is a highly credible design community.”

Gardner also served as the chapter’s first president. Today, AIGA has 68 chapters and more than 25,000 members, making it the largest organization of its kind.

Gardner, 57, grew up in Wichita. He worked as a magician to put himself through college, earning degrees in business and graphic design from Wichita State University. By then, he was fascinated by the design of logos for corporations and other organizations.

After starting as a freelance designer, Gardner was a partner in two firms before launching Gardner Design out of a back room in his house in 1994. Now located in the Dockum Building in College Hill, his firm has done work for Kroger (the Kwik Shop logo), WSU (the latest Wheat Shocker logo), Cessna, Learjet, Aspen Boutique and many others.

He also started, an online catalog of more than 200,000 logos from around the world. And he wrote “Logo Creed,” a textbook on the subject.

“It’s become this international vehicle, kind of a gathering point for designers,” Gardner said of LogoLounge.

Gardner and his wife, Andrea, have a daughter, Molly, who’s a student at Kansas State University and active in Irish dance.

Outside of work, Gardner said, “It’s mostly following her to Irish dance competitions and traveling around the world with her.”

Joe Stumpe