7 organisations design students need to know

If you're planning a career working from home as a freelance designer, being well prepared and organised is essential. While you're studying, as well as building up a cracking creative resume, it's important to start integrating yourself into the design industry. 

There are a number of respected organisations that bring together the leading designers in various fields, as well as offering resources, competitions and networking opportunities to fledgling creatives. Here, we run down seven of the best. 

01. AIGA

Student freelance help: AIGA student membership

Discounts, resources and plenty of opportunities arise at AIGA

As the world's largest professional design association, AIGA has membership options aimed at everyone from students to design leaders. There are AIGA student groups on over 200 college campuses in the USA, each affiliated to a local AIGA chapter, and members get access to loads of resources, opportunities and discounts.

02. D&AD 

Student freelance help: D&AD

With a free basic membership, D&AD is a good starting point

Basic membership of D&AD is free. There's also an education option with pricing aimed at universities. Education benefits include lectures, industry briefings and discounted entry to the New Blood Awards for people aged 18 to 23 – which are open to non-members too.

03. Art Directors Club 

Student freelance help: Art Director's Club

Students are held up alongside professionals in the ADC awards

The organisation behind the annual Young Guns competition has a student membership option for $95, and professionals in the first three years of their career can join for $150. ADC offers loads of networking opportunities both on and offline, and runs annual student awards in the same categories as its professional awards.

04. Association of Illustrators 

Student freelance help: Association of Illustrators

With advice about all aspects of freelancing, the AOI is essential

AOI student membership costs £76/year – unless you're studying at an AOI member college, in which case you can get affiliated student membership for £55/year. The AOI provides phone and email advice about all aspects of freelancing, portfolio advice, free accountancy consultations and loads of discounts too.

05. The Type Directors Club

Student members of the TDC can get discounted entry to its annual competition

Student members of the TDC can get discounted entry to its annual competition

The Type Directors Club is dedicated to supporting excellence in typography, both in print and on screen. It runs an annual TDC competition and exhibition, as well as frequent workshops – to which members get discounted entry. The TDC also supports self-managed student groups

There are a number of different membership options (at different prices), but students can pick from a ‘lowercase’ membership for $45/year or an ‘uppercase’ membership for $75/year. 

06. Typographic Circle 

Student freelance help: Typographic circle

Typographic Circle is great for your networking needs

You can become a member of the Typographic Circle if you're studying full-time or graduated in the last year, for an annual fee of just £15. Benefits of joining include networking opportunities, free or reduced-price tickets to members-only events, and discounts from selected sponsors.

07. ISTD

You'll need to apply if you want to become a member of the prestigious ISTD

You'll need to apply if you want to become a member of the prestigious ISTD

The International Society of Typographic Designers (ISTD) is a not-for-profit professional body run by and for typographers, graphic designers and educators. Graduating students and practicing designers can apply for to become a member by submitting their CV, plus some examples of their typographic work – but those who are accepted will be joining the likes of Wim Crouwel and Erik Spiekermann, so it’s worth the effort.

The ISTD also runs an acclaimed assessment scheme in conjunction with universities around the world, with the aim of raising the profile of typography in design education.  

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Anne Wollenberg is an award-winning freelance journalist who specialises in writing about the creative industry.