Bridging the gap from being a Student of Design to being a Professional Designer can be a difficult path. Rebecca Blake talks about the benefits of joining a professional design association and how they can help you avoid many of the pitfalls that many young designers fall into.
© Caroline Kessler
Learning your craft is only the first step to becoming a creative professional. To truly thrive in your career, there are less glamorous skills to master: knowing how to run your career as a business, understanding copyright and intellectual property rights, licensing your work, and adhering to industry best practices.
Ignorance of copyrights and best practices degrades the design industry as a whole. Currently, designers and graphic artists are increasingly asked to work for free, by participating in speculative contests and crowdsourcing websites. Businesses profit from the ill preparation of digital artists who fail to register their copyrights, by using their artwork to produce goods without compensation or credit. And aspiring designers may not realize that when they carelessly take works off the Internet, they may be plagiarizing from other fellow designers.
This is where professional associations come in: participation in a design association can help bridge the gap from talented student to productive professional. Internationally ico-D (where you’ll find lists of your national associations) and in the USA the Graphic Artists Guild offer both resources and a supportive community for aspiring young designers.
Graphic Artists Guild (USA)
- Tools & Resources: a directory of filterable background articles on topics such as business, contracts, and copyright basics.
- News: industry trends and reports on the Guild’s advocacy work, such as amicus briefs filed on behalf of visual artists, or reports on copyright initiatives.
- Webinars: online seminars on topics relevant to professionals, such as pricing and estimating, starting a design business, or pitching new clients.
- The Handbook of Pricing & Ethical Guidelines: “the bible” of business practices, contracts & copyrights, and pricing.
- Membership: Through free access to webinars, receipt of the Handbook, and participation in meet-ups, the Guild members are well prepared to help you advance your career.
On the ico-D website you’ll find a wealth of resources to help you take your first steps into the world of being a professional designer (please note: ico-D is an international association of national associations and does not accept individual memberships. See their website for a list of national associations you can join) :
- Model Code of Professional Conduct: a guide to the rights and responsibilities that exist between designers and clients.
- International Conditions of Contract and Engagement for Designers: an overview of basic contract terms.
- Protect Your Creative: intellectual property basics (Australian IP law)
- Mentorship Program: Students are paired with international experts to collaborate, work on their portfolios and receive career guidance.
- Professional associations: ico-D’s member directory lists professional associations by region and country, all of which are eager to welcome new members.
Rebecca Blake has been Design Director at Optimum Design & Consulting in New York City. She’s on the board of the Graphic Artists Guild, and heads the National Design Policy workgroup at ico-D.