This post was written by Tom McCallum

What Are The Benefits of Joining Professional Organisations?

As an individual design practitioner it can be hard to stand up for yourself, but as a member of a professional body you will be part of a respected group that will use their collective power to stand up for your rights and prevent you from being exploited. Most designers will come across problems in their career involving disagreements with clients or employers, disputes over copyright issues and other complicated legal or financial matters that leave them feeling all at sea. An organisation offers somewhere to turn when things go wrong and provide expert advice and guidance when the going gets tough.

All organisations are unique in what they offer their members but most offer the following services:

Networking

Sometimes all you need is somebody to talk to. Professional organisations are great places to meet like-minded people and discuss the latest trends in your chosen field with fellow professionals. Most organisations have online forums where you can access and chat with fellow members 24/7 and some also host regular events where you can meet up in person.

Development

Training days, seminars, lectures or other informational or educational events are regular features. Sometimes these are member only events to which you will be invited and you will often be receive a discount on others. Many bodies also offer additional qualifications to help you to refine your skills in certain areas.

Respect

Clients will be just as keen as you not to be exploited. Membership to a professional organisation can give them the assurance that you are legitimate. You will be able to use the organisation logo on your marketing material which will prove to clients and potential employers that you are a trained professional and not a rogue trader. Many bodies are adamant that their members meet certain professional expectations so membership often acts a worthwhile seal of approval.

Advice

Despite the fact you are primarily artist, you will often have to assume the role of lawyer, accountant, marketing professional and administrator in the course of your business. Courses in design are increasingly teaching students skills in these areas and professional organisations also recognise this by having experts in these fields on hand for advice and support about the aspects of your job you are less familiar with.

Advancing the Profession

Most organisations use their standing with government and other authorities to lobby for the advancement of their profession. This can include ensuring legislation does not adversely affect their members and that the industry remains a credible part of the overall workforce. Your membership fee can go towards helping the continued credibility of your profession.

There are many professional organisations of varying sizes and functions and you should conduct your own thorough research to find out which suit your needs best.  Here are a few organisations from around the design industry that are worth considering:

Chartered Society of Designers

What is it?

The Chartered Society of Designers (CSD) is the world’s largest chartered body of designers with members in 33 countries. They represent designers from all disciplines and are governed by a Royal Charter which ensures their members work to a professional standard. Members automatically become part of a new venture called Design Pool which addresses the fragmented nature of the design industry and allows information and resources to be shared between their own members and members from the Institution of Engineering Designers and the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.

Why join?

CSD offer a student membership which gets you discounts on a number of CSD-run training modules, workshops and events. They also provide an opportunity for your portfolio to be reviewed by a professional in ‘Portfolio Gym’ sessions. There are a number of opportunities to network with others in person at regular focus groups held across the UK or on their social media networks. Any students, from anywhere in the world, can join as long as they are studying full time in a design related subject.

Cost?

Student membership is £20 per year or £40 for three years.

Design and Art Direction (D&DA)D&AD

What is it?

D&AD are a global body which represents the interests of anyone from the creative industries. They have a mission to inform, educate and inspire their members. D&AD strive for creative excellence and run prestigious competitions to encourage innovation. They run a number of events and lectures both in the UK and internationally. A popular programme for young designers, called ‘New Blood’, aims to showcase the work of emerging artists and encourage young creatives to improve their skills.

Why join?

Members receive discounts to D&AD events and unlimited access to their extensive archive of members’ work. Your own work will also be showcased in the archive. They are partnered with a number of museums, exhibition spaces, software programmes, magazines etc. and members receive discounts on all of these. ‘New Blood’ members receive a free guide to making it in the creative industries.

Cost?

‘New Blood’ membership (which includes students, recent graduates and designers under the age of 24) costs £75p/a.

Anti Copying in Design (ACID)

What is it?

ACID seek to protect the intellectual property of its members and provide a safe environment for them to work in. They support designers, makers and manufacturers worldwide and collectively campaign for the protection and reformation of design law.

Why join?

Membership allows you to use the ‘Member of Acid’ logo which can have the power to make people think twice before copying your work. You also gain access to expert information and advice about your intellectual property rights and can use the IP Tracker to check the integrity of your new designs. ACID’s global standing enables them to offer advice on trading in foreign countries.

Cost?

Membership fees are based on your annual turnover. Assuming standard student turnover is under £50K annual membership will cost £180p/a.

The Association of Photographers (AOP)

What is it?

The AOP is a lobbying, promoting, educating and networking organisation for professional photographers. With over 40 years’ experience they defend the interests of their members as creative authors and make sure photography maintains its reputation as a professional industry.

Why join?

Recognising the need for students to be supported in an industry that is often unforgiving, the AOP launched a student membership in 2004. By becoming a student member of the AOP you are joining a prestigious organisation and gaining access to a wealth of formal and informal help to give you confidence in your ability. The AOP is recognised by clients and governments as a credible, authoritative voice and constantly lobbies for the advancement and protection of photography. Members gain exclusive access to forums, competitions, advice from professionals, the AOP Image magazine, ‘how to’ articles and a glossary of industry jargon.

Cost?

The cost for joining as a student member is £20p/a.

British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP)

What is it?

The BIPP is an internationally recognised photography organisation that aims to train, qualify bippand support professional photographers.

They work closely with the Defence School of Photography and the College of Policing to ensure the integrity

of photography within these industries as well as in general.

Why join?

The BIPP have a student membership which offers discounts on training, goods and services; access to Photographer magazine; entrance to regional and national meetings and events; legal advice and support; networking among members; the opportunity to take part in BIPP competitions and feature in their online gallery. They can help you build a professional standard portfolio and offer regional workshops to improve your skills.

Cost?

Student membership is £50p/a while you are studying an NVQ level 3 or above.

British Institute of Interior Design (BIID)british institute of interior design

What is it?

The BIID represent interior designers internationally.  They have strict entry requirements regarding training and experience of its members which are moderated by the elected members that govern its operations. They offer their members the chance to continue professional development throughout their career to represent the interests of the interior design industry.

Why join?

The strict screening process ensures that all members are high-quality, professional designers. This offers a prime forum for networking. They offer free advice on legal matters and promotion through their website. A student membership offers an introduction to the activities of the organisation and a chance to take part in seminars, lectures and events at discounted rates. The BIID also hold student mentoring weeks during which they offer assistance to their student members to guide them through their career. After the student membership, a provisional membership is offered and the work of the individual designers is checked to make sure it meets with the standard expected of full members. Accreditation from the BIID is a good way to prove your professional credentials.

Cost?

Student membership is free of charge

Society of British Interior Designers (SBID)Soceity of id

What is it?

The SBID represents the interests of interior designers, manufacturers and educators in the interior design industry. They realise that a lot of interior design practitioners are hobbyists rather than professionals and seek to create a clear separation. They do this by monitoring the profession’s trading standards and ensuring their members adhere to certain rules and regulations.

Why join?

Members have their professional profile enhanced by being guided towards a better standard of work. The SBID symbol on your marketing materials will be proof of your professionalism and online forums enable networking across a range of industry sectors.

Cost?

Student membership is £30p/a

The Association of Illustrators (AOI)aoi

What is it?

The AOI is a membership body that represents illustrators in the UK and campaigns for their rights. They seek to increase the reputation of illustration as a profession. They have a long standing in the industry and boast notable illustrators among their members including Ralph Steadman, Sir Quentin Blake, Shirley Hughes and Raymond Briggs.

Why join?

AOI members benefit from access to an advice line that helps illustrators with contractual queries and guidance on how to price their services. They conduct regular surveys on pricing and can help members to know how much to charge for their services. You also receive a free hour with a registered chartered accountant to discuss keeping accounts, tax and invoicing. The AOI also publish a quarterly magazine and offer access to VaroomLab: a forum encouraging debate on illustration involving a number of leading Universities.

Cost?

Student membership is a one-off payment of £72 or 12 monthly instalments of £6.

You can search for more organisations on the British Design Innovation website…

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