How does AIGA serve emerging designers?
AIGA is a community of designers who have joined together to develop a network that strengthens both their own practice and benefits the profession as a whole. AIGA members share an ethos and observe best practices; they learn together, aspire to the highest potential use of creativity and are committed to informing the world about the value of design. To this end, emerging designers—those of you who may be graduating soon or have recently entered the profession—have both a place and a role within the AIGA community. Most of all, you have an opportunity to advance your own career.
The most important initial opportunity for a graduating student or a young designer just starting out is to establish a network and become linked to practicing designers—for mentorship, connections, information about what is happening in design, and perhaps even employment. Just as important, however, is the value of a community in connecting with other designers like you, who share the same needs and uncertainties. At a time like this, when design job opportunities are more difficult to find, no designer should feel alone or disconnected.
AIGA offers specific resources for emerging designers that can help you transition into what will hopefully become a long and rewarding design career.
With 22,000 members and 64 chapters across the country, AIGA's network opens the door to building useful contacts and having your work be seen by people of influence. The most meaningful connections are sparked at the local chapter level, although national AIGA events can also lead to strong relationships among designers, relationships that are built on shared professional interests and compatible goals. If you want to make a lasting impression, real-life social interaction is much stronger than using online social networking alone.
Just as joining a gym doesn't automatically make you healthier, you can only benefit from these connections by being involved, outgoing and engaged. (If this is a challenge for you, then membership in AIGA could help you to build those skills.)
AIGA Design Jobs offers members a chance to post a portfolio and connect with clients and companies seeking a pre-qualified candidate—one who has made commitment to the future of the profession and upholds its standards for professional practice.
AIGA provides both data and insight into the design marketplace. In May, AIGA will release the 2009 AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries, including 10 essays by leading designers from across the country, offering tips on finding and keeping a job in good time and bad. We also provide an online interactive salary calculator for information on the prevailing wages for designers in various positions throughout the United States.
Last month AIGA launched additional job-seeking advice through the online features “After School Special,” by Lynda Decker, and “Get a Design Job,” by RitaSue Siegel, which also share perspectives on how to improve your competitiveness in the field. Expect more career development resources to become available in the months ahead.
Extended value at a lower cost
AIGA offers graduating student members a chance to become associate members for half price, to ease the transition to associate membership. This should be every graduating design student's gift at graduation, either that you give to yourself or receive from a loved one.
Realizing that it could take longer to get settled financially in troubled economic times, AIGA extended the associate-level membership from two to four years (effective June 2008). That means those graduating this spring will not have to begin paying the professional-level membership rate until the spring of 2013.
Tools for success
AIGA is urging all designers to take advantage of the current recession to prepare for the economy's upswing by training and learning as much as possible. To help you prepare, AIGA offers discounted access to the full range of lynda.com courses, software training sessions at many chapters, and webinars on practice management. Deep discounts on Adobe software (up to 20 percent off your order before May 31, 2009) will help you get equipped with the latest tools.
If starting a studio or working freelance is in your plan, the Center for Practice Management offers resources, tips and contacts who can help you to build your business as well as your practice.
Invest in yourself and the profession
Remember, even if the work you desire is hard to find, designers will always obtain or create work because the economy depends on you. As Michael Bierut states in his essay for the upcoming AIGA|Aquent Survey of Design Salaries, designers are “people that actually create things of lasting value” and “are the ones who make the rest of the economic system possible.”
So, go out there and be confident. Be active. Know that design is a powerful driver for the future, and have faith that you will be part of it. When the market picks up, as it will, make sure you stand out. AIGA membership, particularly if you accept the professional standards, will define you as a designer who respects the expectations of clients, other designers, and society, signaling that you take your role seriously and fulfill it with integrity. And we at AIGA will work on building a stronger design economy for your future.
About the Author: Richard Grefé is the director emeritus of AIGA, the professional association for design, the oldest and largest professional association of designers in the United States representing the interests of 27,000 designers working in a variety of communication media and dimensions, ranging from type and book designers to new media and experience designers. AIGA, o ver twenty years under Ric’s aegis, has become a leading advocate for the value of designing, as a way of thinking and as a means of creating strategic value for business, the civic realm and social change. Currently he is teaching “Human-centered designn for social change” at Wesleyan University. Ric earned a BA from Dartmouth College in economics, worked in intelligence in Asia, reported from the Bronx County Courthouse for AP, wrote for Time magazine on business and the economy and then earned an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Following an early career in urban design and public policy consulting, Ric managed the association responsible for strategic planning and legislative advocacy for public television and led a think tank on the future of public television and radio in Washington.