Member-Based Organizations for Graphic Designers

Joining a professional organization helps you network—and gain clients

Joining a graphic design organization can open up a new outlet for networking to increase your client-base, contact list, and lists of potential collaborators. Being a member of a design organization can also give you access to events, research options, and competitions. This list covers some professional organizations in the design industry.

American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA)

What We Like
  • Very large membership.

  • Network with experienced designers.

  • Online tutorials and workshops.

What We Don't Like
  • Cost may be difficult for students.

  • Large membership means less attention.

  • Getting benefits takes initiative.

The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), representing 22,000 members, is the largest membership-based graphic design organization. Since 1914, the AIGA has been a place for creative professionals to network and work towards improving graphic design as a profession.

Graphic Artists Guild

What We Like
  • Get member discounts.

  • Access to professional services.

  • Free downloadable contracts.

What We Don't Like
  • Smaller membership than other organizations.

  • Must be proactive to get benefits.

  • Faced past lawsuits (dismissed).

The Graphic Artists Guild is a professional graphic design organization dedicated to educating and protecting its members, with a focus on the economic and legal sides of being a creative professional. The Graphics Artists Guild members include illustrators, graphic designers, web designers and other creative professionals. The Guild works to protect the rights of these creatives, through both education and with a legal defense fund. The Guild supports creators at all skill levels.

The Freelancers Union

What We Like
  • Publishes a helpful blog.

  • Network with other freelancers.

  • Large member base.

  • Free to join.

What We Don't Like
  • Must be proactive for benefits.

  • Difficult to navigate offerings.

  • Still in development.

The Freelancers Union offers health insurance, job postings, events, and networking opportunities to graphic designers and other creative professionals. The group works to protect the rights of freelancers regarding taxes, unpaid wages, and other areas related to the business of design.

International Council of Design

What We Like
  • Well established organization.

  • Massive user base.

  • Well recognized internationally.

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to navigate benefits.

  • Not well established online.

  • Not much individual membership attention.

The International Council of Design—formerly the International of Association of Graphic Design Associations—is a non-profit, member-based design organization founded in 1963. Ico-D establishes best practices for the design community including regulations for design award competitions and its judges, soliciting work and professional code of conduct. The group sponsors an awards competition and offers ways to promote your business and network at design retreats and regional meetings.

World Design Organization (WDO)

What We Like
  • Provides plenty of events for members.

  • Good networking opportunities.

  • Powerful international organization.

What We Don't Like
  • Focused only on industrial design.

  • Not a lot of member benefits.

  • Mostly international in nature.

The World Design Organization (WDO) is a non-profit design organization founded in 1957 that "protects and promotes the interests of the profession of industrial design." WDO provides members with benefits including business exposure, networking events, access to a full list of members and an organizational congress and general assembly. WDO offers five membership types: associate, corporate, educational, professional and promotional.

The Society of Illustrators

What We Like
  • Local chapters to join.

  • Advanced notice for upcoming programs.

  • Member portfolio website.

What We Don't Like
  • Annual dues.

  • No cohesive central organization.

  • Difficult to locate or obtain benefit.

The Society of Illustrators was founded in 1901 with this credo: "The object of the Society shall be to promote generally the art of illustration and to hold exhibitions from time to time." Early members included Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parish, and Frederic Remington.

This design organization offers eight membership options including illustrator, educator, corporate, student and "friend of the museum." Member benefits include options such as dining room privileges, discounted event fees, library access and opportunities to exhibit work in the Members Gallery.

Society for News Design (SND)

What We Like
  • Access to interesting programs.

  • Some networking opportunities.

  • Interesting publications.

What We Don't Like
  • Not well established yet.

  • Very small membership.

  • Few member benefits.

The Society for News Design members' include art directors, designers, and developers who create print, web, and mobile work for the news industry. Founded in 1979, the SND is a nonprofit design organization. Membership benefits include a discount on the annual workshop and exhibition, class discounts, an invitation to enter an award competition, access to a members-only digital publication, and a subscription to SND's magazine.

The Society of Publication Designers (SPD)

What We Like
  • Useful job board.

  • Exciting competitions and events.

  • Great professional development resources.

What We Don't Like
  • Difficult to navigate benefits.

  • Small society.

  • Limited to small creative niche.

The Society of Publication Designers was founded in 1964 to promote editorial design. Members include art directors, designers, and other graphic design professionals. SPD holds an annual design competition, an awards gala, an annual publication, a speakers series and networking events. SPD sponsors a job board and several blogs.

Type Directors Club (TDC)

What We Like
  • Competitions that encourage creativity.

  • Student scholarships.

  • Member classes and workshops.

What We Don't Like
  • Limited to typography artists.

  • Focused on publication designers.

  • Not a large community yet.

Type Directors Club was founded in 1946 to support the best of type design. Some of the earliest members included Aaron Burns, Will Burtin, and Gene Federico. Membership benefits include a copy of TDC's annual publication, a listing of your name in a printed publication and on the website, access to the archive and library, free admission to select events, and discounted classes. The TDC bestows annual awards and scholarships and holds several annual events and competitions.

The One Club for Creativity

What We Like
  • Many events for members.

  • Educational programs.

  • Professional development assistance.

What We Don't Like
  • Mostly regional clubs.

  • Not many member benefits.

  • Expensive membership rates.

Originally founded as Art Directors Club in 1920, The One Club helps to clarify the relationship between advertising art and fine art. The ADC offers yearly programs on advertising, design and interactive media for both professionals and students. The ADC sponsors annual competitions, scholarship awards, and events. Members gain access to a digital archive that consists of 90 years of award-winning design.

Look Local

In addition to large national organizations, look for either state- or local-focused design groups—or even peer networking groups. Larger cities support chambers of commerce that may include a section for creative agencies. If networking and client acquisition are your chief goal, staring local often yields the best long-run payoff.