I’ve been a member of the GDC since I was at design school back in the 90’s, back when it was called the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (back when there were such things Societies, Leagues, and Guilds). For over a decade I also served on the chapter executive, including four years as President.
Over the years I’ve worked for companies who have seen the value of a GDC membership for their design staff, so I haven’t always had to pay dues out of my pocket. However, those years I did, I did so willingly. That’s because my GDC membership has been an invaluable benefit to me, both personally and professionally.
Founded in Toronto in the late 50’s, the GDC is a member-based organization of professional graphic designers (and design-related fields) with hundreds of members in 9 chapters across Canada1.
The GDC is a promoter and advocate for the field of graphic design and works to provide professional development opportunities to its members through publications, various local and national speaker events, workshops, and awards competitions and so on.
The GDC pushes for higher standards of graphic design and professional conduct. Only the GDC confers its “Certified Graphic Designer (CGD)” designation to designers who have met requisite training, experience, a standard of work, and who adhere to the GDC’s code of ethics and sustainability principles.
CGD certification is a valuable service to companies looking to hire a good designer because a CGD designation means much of the vetting is already done. It’s what distinguishes actual graphic designers from people who, by simply purchasing design software, call themselves a “graphic designer.” Looking for a good graphic designer? Look for the CDG certification!
In addition to the valuable professional development and career promoting advantages, the biggest benefit of a GDC membership is the excellent networking opportunities and connections it offers to a larger design community.
While I was at design school in Edmonton, the paltry student GDC membership fee got me informative and inspirational resources, kept me connected to local design-related events, and put me in touch with the professional graphic design community back in Saskatchewan. Thanks to that connection, I landed my first paying design job in Regina (something for which I will always be enormously grateful and has motivated my commitment to “give back” to the GDC).
While I worked in Regina, my membership gave me access to conferences, luncheons and trade shows, including driving down the Trans-Canada highway with our company design staff to attend a couple of Blue Sky conferences in Winnipeg.
When I moved back to my (adopted) hometown of Saskatoon, my GDC commitment increased significantly when – somewhat by accident– I became chapter President.
Volunteering with the local chapter put me in much closer touch with all sorts of designers in Saskatoon, the recent grads and the old-timers, the optimistic and the jaded, the super-talented and those getting by on hard work, grit and tenacity. I was able to ask questions, share experiences and commiserate over more than one beer.
As chapter president, I was also a member of the GDC’s National Council and got to attend national AGM’s in lovely Canadian cities like Victoria and Ottawa where I developed camaraderie & collaboration with other GDC representatives from across Canada. I keep in touch with many of those fine folks to this day.
When I represented the local GDC chapter on Design Council of Saskatchewan planning Design Week, it put me in touch with designers working related accredited design fields like architecture, engineering, and urban planning. Not only did this lead to a greater appreciation and understanding of those professions and their work, but it also made me realize how much I share with these other designers regarding design thinking, process, values as well as similar concerns for our professions.
My involvement with the GDC has given me exposure and opportunity to develop new, career-enhancing skills I wouldn’t have gained otherwise. For instance, I had to speak in public, chair meetings, do a ton of writing, take on a few side projects, and even teach myself a bit of rudimentary HTML. I had to learn how to budget my time (and energy) as I juggled GDC commitments with a busy professional career.
In conclusion, if you are a graphic designer, either new to the field or an old-timer, or if you’re thinking of becoming one, what are you waiting for? A GDC membership can help you develop professionally no matter where you are at in your career.
Better yet, become a member and get involved by volunteering for your local chapter. Not only can you contribute and give back to the design community, but you also learn a tremendous amount, develop new skills and build great contacts with creative leaders in your local community and beyond.
Graphic design is a demanding profession, and my volunteer time with GDC hasn’t always fit neatly into my routine. I’ve used vacation time to work on GDC stuff; I’ve lost sleep and maybe even sacrificed quality on some of my professional projects during those busy GDC times. But I gained much more. As with many other things in life, the more you put into it, the more you get back.