A few weeks ago, I got a wild hair you-know-where to join AIGA, “the professional association for design.” I figured I’d join for a year, go to all the NYC events, participate as much as I could stand, and then reup only if it seemed valuable.
$295 a year? Oh, never mind. I guess I’m not serious about design, after all.
But I still subscribe to the RSS feed, so the other day I saw the hed Why Double the Number of AIGA Members? by the executive director, Richard Grefé.
Today, AIGA counts 10,000 professional members. Yet, we believe the number of designers who are practicing in the United States alone totals approximately 180,000—two thirds of whom work in corporate settings and one third in design studios.
. . .
The U.S. Census has just reported that among Americans aged 19 or younger, 42 percent are other than white Caucasian.1 Yet only 10 percent of the design profession is other than white Caucasian. If the profession is to serve a diverse public, then it must, for business reasons as well as moral reasons, grow to include (and encourage) many more designers from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The global economy is changing into one that will be multi-centered, unlike the U.S.-led world economy of the past. This means that AIGA must also work with international peers in order to represent U.S. designers and the high standards for design that they have set.
The present opportunities are as clear as the challenges we must meet in order to sustain the relevance of design well into the future. We believe that consistent messaging about design is important for the profession, as its influence grows in commerce and society. These consistent messages will be heard when they represent a larger number of designers and when those designers show a commitment to articulating them. The more members we have, the stronger the impact we will have in advancing designing here and abroad.
Okay, that’s all fine and nice, but, er, $295 a year? You’re not going to get a lot of diversity with a fee like that. In particular, you’re not going to get many designers from the book publishing industry, where the pay is notoriously lousy. You’re not going to get a lot of designers who work for nonprofit organizations. You’re not going to get designers who live outside NYC, in places where $295 is a lot of money. Nor are you going to get a lot of designers who live in NYC, because they have to pay their rent.
So whom will you get? Big-name, “award-winning” (and aren’t they all?) designers whom you’re already representing. People who work at companies large enough to pay the dues for them without blinking.
Is it just me? Am I just being cheap? Is my reluctance to pony up just (more) proof that I’m a dilettante? Of course I can pay the AIGA dues, certainly for one year, but I’d much rather send that money to the Red Cross or Heifer International. Or I’d rather spend it on several months’ worth of rounds of beer for the members of my own professional group—an investment with proven returns.
Is anybody who reads this blog a member of AIGA? Do you feel that it’s worth the cost of admission? Are you a member of any other professional organizations? What do you consider a non-prohibitive membership fee? What would you expect to get in return for it?