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10 Reasons to Join AIGA

I moved to Chicago recently and have been itching to be active in the design community. I went to Chicago’s Creative Mornings a few weeks back and started meeting some great people. When I meet a new designer, I always ask “are you a part of AIGA” because if they say “yes” I know that I’ve found someone just as eager to stay active as I am. That isn’t ALWAYS the case though; some purchase memberships and never use them and some can’t afford a membership but are still rock star designers. Oddly enough, I met a few that were actually firmly against AIGA and believed that the organization had nothing to offer them and was a waste of money. I kindly smiled and walked away. I’m sorry but that’s a load of HOOEY!

I am a huge advocate for AIGA and believe it is especially useful to those who are freelancers, students, and young designers who have no experience or exposure in their communities. Although I don’t always agree with the politics of the National Board, of which I really only got a glimpse of when I served the board of AIGA – SF, but I DO believe in what the AIGA’S Mission is: to advance designing as a professional craft, strategic tool and vital cultural force.

For all of you doubters, and simply naive, here’s a list of 10 reasons why you should be not only a member, but an active member in the AIGA design community.

Networking Opportunities:

anyone who says they don’t want to meet new designers or has enough design contacts is an idiot. Why would you EVER want to limit your network? You never know who you could meet and how they may “know someone” with an awesome opportunity.

Exposure Exposure Exposure:

AIGA has an online portfolio database that members can take part in.  It’s another great place to have your work visible and the people who look at AIGA portfolios are the places you’ll most likely want to work because they too are invested in the community and are seeking out like-minded designers.

Free Education:

You’ll continue to learn new things and stay current in the fast paced design environment. AIGA hosts a free webinar series called “design breakthroughs” that often speak about different current topics such as : designing for responsive layouts, or Design research.

Meet Your Design Heroes:

Want to see some of the greats speak? AIGA constantly hosts conferences like compost modern, Dtalks, Small talks, Fall Galas, and partners with many other amazing causes where seasoned and hotshot designers come to speak.

For Freelancers:

Being an active member of AIGA, means going to events and meeting new people and potential new clients. At the very least, it gets you out of the house, away from your monitor for a little white. You’ll be less likely to work in a vacuum, if you go meet people that you can get inspired from and bounce ideas off of.

For Students:

AIGA often helps narrow the “knowledge gap” between what you learned in school, and what actually happens in the real world. PLUS Certain chapters actually do portfolio days, in which you can get real world professionals to look at your work and give vital feedback.

For Seasoned Veterans:

Staying connected to the design community is just as important for you. You may not be learning as much new content about design best practices, but there is still new information to be had, like the ever changing User Experience buzz word. Aside from learning new things, and meeting new people, you could also give back to the community by sharing your knowledge or volunteering your time. You could even be awarded a Fellows, a very prestigious award given to those who truly contributed to the betterment of the local or national design community.

For Businesses:

Having an AIGA membership for your employees as part of their benefits is a great way to keep your employees current and inspired as well. AIGA memberships can also count as a business write-off for taxes! You can also make connections and clients through networking and You could meet vendors that could provide services for your business, such as printing.

Discounts:

AIGA has some amazing discounts, including apple, adobe, rock port publishing and many others. They are kind of hard to get to, but if you check the sponsor’s page, you should be able to find information on how to get your discount login info.

The (NEW) lower membership fees:

August 1st 2012, AIGA adopted a new pricing breakdown. What was once a profession based system, is now based off of how active you care to be. The costs and perks break down can be found here. Personally, I liked the old method before, but I can understand the draw to get more members by lowering the prices. This method allows you to choose the level of activity and benefits you wish to pay for. What they DON’T tell you is that lowering the prices, will diminish your chapters funding, which means less money to plan events or make events cheap. Remember AIGA is a non-profit, virtually none of the people who volunteer their time to run it get paid, and unfortunately not ALL the money you pay goes to your chapter. A huge chunk of it goes to AIGA National, which is overarching organization that keeps the chapters all connected. So the less you pay, the less your chapter gets, and the less funding they will have to make more events, put food out at those events, etc.

So there’s my list, and there are of course other benefits, but these are the biggies for me anyway. Just remember this, you get what you put into it. Of course if you buy a membership and don’t take full advantage of the perks, you will feel gyped, but that’s not on the Organization, that’s on you. Same goes with a membership anywhere (ever purchased a gym membership then kicked yourself because you never actually go to the gym? Who’s fault is that?)

In my opinion, you can’t really put a price on the connections you will make and the opportunities to be had through AIGA.