You don’t need to join a design association to succeed

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Mark Busse wants YOU to be significant.

The following article by Mark Busse was published in Design Edge Canada Magazine.  


You don’t need to join a design association. What’s the point? Your time is tight as it is—you have Mad Men episodes to catch up on—and money is even tighter, so why give any of it to a club of stodgy old designers who don’t get it anymore anyway? You don’t need to join a design association. I suppose it demonstrates the level to which you are committed to your career and community, but so does that tweet you sent to @JessicaHische last week. I’m sure she hasn’t responded because she’s super busy right now. #pleasenoticeme

You don’t need to join a design association. You are young and have huge dreams. You need to focus on discovering yourself, plus your personal blog needs your attention. Being in a room with people who could mentor and inspire you is a waste of time when you could be working on your kitten-themed tumblr. Cute glitter font.

You don’t need to join a design association. These groups can be snobby cliques and you’re way cooler than they are. What will you talk about? What if you bump into that art director you like so much and spill your Negroni all over his awesome black skinny jeans?

You don’t need to join a design association. After all, you’re a young designer with dope computer skills in the Internet age of hyper-connectivity. You just acquired a killer education, have a very pretty portfolio and über-clean website, and you network like a fothermucker.

You don’t need to join a design association. Sure, the economy sucks and there’s more competition than ever before, but you’re a self starter. You’re entrepreneurial! You have The Google. Screw an internship or a ‘junior’ design position — who has time for that? You have Moleskins filled with wicked sketches, big plans and words like “zeitgeist.” You’re good to go.

You don’t need to join a design association. A bunch of letters after your name based on some accreditation status won’t make you stand out against the crowd — wait, what? Hold on now. Yes it will!

If you’re thinking this is all based on unfair Gen Y stereotypes, you’re right. It is unfair. It should be infuriating. So do something about it. Stop whining anonymously on blogs like this and take action. The industry has changed. Business has changed. The perception of the VALUE of design has never been more muddled. The design industry has never needed an army to stand together more than now.

I get it. I really do. Design associations are part of your parents’ paradigm and I understand completely why a young designer full of piss and vinegar might not see how being a member could result in a professional advantage. It’s easy to access events, information and bargains these days, so those aren’t particularly compelling draws either.

So don’t join a design association for perks or discounts. Don’t expect your local chapter of volunteers to produce consistently awesome events. Don’t show up expecting to show off your portfolio and be offered jobs. In fact, don’t join at all if your motivation is to GET anything. Join your design association to GIVE.

If being employed as a designer is all you seek, then you may never need to join an association. If you wish to achieve significance in your design career, you’ll need to understand we never stop learning. Those who engage fully in their community with the humble attitude of the perpetual student will benefit the most.