It’s easier than ever to become a successful freelancer without making it rain business cards at every possible opportunity. This new-found freedom from tireless, in-person self-promotion has lead many designers to enjoy the comforts of home with little motivation to maintain an active presence in their local community. Whatever your current situation or ideal trajectory, keep these things in mind before opting out of local design community events.
Find a mentor. Be a mentor.
When we think of mentorship, we often get this picture of some Socratic dialogue in which the student is engaged, challenged, and inspired. A seasoned veteran of the field extends a hand to us saying “Come with me – I know the way.” The harsh reality is that consistent, one-on-one professional mentorships can be hard to come by. That doesn’t mean you can’t take matters into your own hands, though.
Design communities give you a chance to begin assembling your own mosaic of mentorship, pulling morsels of wisdom from various conversations with other working pros. Any perspective you can get on your strengths and weaknesses is a huge win, and it will give you a better feel for what you want and need from a more formal mentorship, should the opportunity present itself.
Keep in mind that mentorship is a two-way street and, if you’re a full-time working professional who’s mindful enough to read a blog post about design communities, you likely have a great deal to offer someone just starting out. Invite a younger designer out for coffee and genuinely try to learn as much as you can about the way they work – genuine curiosity goes a long way.
Local community keeps “design celebrity” in perspective.
Online design communities offer a view into the work of other designers at an immense scale and a breakneck pace. Shoulder-to-shoulder with scores of your peers, you can follow, like, and share the work of others to your heart’s content. There’s nothing wrong with this – except that you’re not actually shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone.
In a world where creatives can amass thousands of followers without a single call to a publicist, playing the comparison game comes naturally. It can be easy to dismiss your own creative contributions when looking at a Dribbble shot that’s breaking records for views and likes. Meeting other designers face-to-face is great way to discover the inspiring creators that online platforms might overlook. It also doesn’t hurt to meet some “design celebrities” in person – it’s the quickest way to realize that they’re just hard-working people like yourself.
In-person networking keeps you limber.
The simple act of introducing yourself and explaining what you do helps keep you flexible, humble, and open to new ideas. It’s a great habit to maintain while developing your personal brand. Design community events give you plenty of chances to try on new brand verbiage in the wild and get a feel for the best way represent your expertise to others. Doing this online is also a must, but chatting up strangers face-to-face helps you gauge reactions (your own and those of others) in a way that’s all too easy to avoid online.
If you can’t tell, we love it when designers stick together. That’s why we’re thrilled to make this announcement:
Effective immediately, AIGA members at the Supporter level and above will get 30% off of all CreativeLive courses.
As the largest professional association of designers in the world, AIGA is committed to advancing the value and impact of design, both locally and globally, and working together to inspire, support and learn from each other, at every stage of our careers.
Join today to access networking through your local chapter and a wide variety of local and national programs and events. Your membership makes possible the activities of a national organization promoting design’s value on your behalf, and gives you access to professional development and exclusive benefits that can only be provided by an organization with the scale and reach of AIGA.