The Value of Getting Involved

Image Courtesy of AIGA West Michigan.

I learned about AIGA (the professional organization for design) in undergrad, and become a student member. When I moved to GR two years ago, one of the first things I did to get involved around town was reach out to AIGA. It’s been over two years, and I’ve been volunteering with the organization ever since.

I started as a Programming Committee Member, and eventually stepped into the role of Programming Director. After a year+ of directing chapter programming (lectures, workshops, social events, parties, etc) my role is changing. I’m moving on from the Programming Director Position with AIGA to organize and host CreativeMornings Grand Rapids.

With that level of engagement, I often find people asking me why get involved in a professional organization. Why attend events? Why be on the board? Why put so much energy there?

Whether it’s AIGA, or really any other another professional organization, I think the answer is the same.

You get out of it what you put in.

In the past two years of being involved, I’ve had the chance to meet, and get to know, some of the best and most talented folks working in the field of design in West Michigan. Sure, GR is small — I guess I would have eventually met these individuals. But that could have taken years.

Beyond meeting great local creatives who I now consider part of my community, I’ve been able to see some amazing people speak. Armin Vit, Martin Venezksky, Alina Wheeler, Richard Saul Wurman, Susan Szenasy, Lotta Nieminen and Debbie Millman, to name a few.

Maybe you don’t recognize the names of these people, maybe you do. Attending a lecture and learning about someone else’s work, especially by a professional at that level, is rarely something I regret. Hearing about the work and approach of other creatives can be incredibly refreshing. Even if the event isn’t great, I will have at least learned something about what I like and dislike. Its kind of like exercising. Rarely do I say to myself “that was a waste.” You always recognize the good in it.

I don’t mean to say that we should all do all the things all the time. Almost every single person I talk to is busy with work, personal life, projects, and side pursuits. It’s a general rule of thumb in today’s world that being successful and finding happiness in our work is a healthy combination of finding focus, balance and hard work.

But if you don’t put anything into the community, you likely won’t get anything back.