When I started my job, it came with a perk of membership with the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC). And I promptly sat on it. It was 1999 and I was still a kid, excited about the work and looking to ditch my festering apartment fit for a festering college student. I was plunked in a position working largely in publication design, my first (and still first) love in the graphic design field. I was making money, and happy – and everything else seemed secondary.
That lasted more than a few years, until seemingly one day I glanced up from my work, looked around and realized the next practicing designer outside of the office was some 40-odd kilometres away. It was the fall of 2006 and as if on cue, I received a message from a friend:
"I'm contacting you wearing my GDC hat. Our communications chair is stepping down this year and I am looking for someone to take over for her. I think that you would be a great candidate. You're very organized and extremely articulate."
It was a nice buttering. I hopped aboard on the cusp of the GDC's 50th anniversary and participated in the local chapter's efforts to mark the occasion (documented here). I saw a well-oiled volunteering machine in action.
The work was decidedly low-tech for the first couple of years. I composed regular text-based e-blasts to chapter membership, and meticulously wrote and designed local newsletters (like this one, and this one) before a smooth and time-saving online function was constructed. I'd lost count, but it would be fair to estimate that I shuttled out roughly 200 pieces of communication over the last six and a half years.
The people I met and volunteered with on the board are fantastic, and deserve high praise for their time and effort put into making the chapter and the GDC stand tall and be noticed. While I saw my role early on as an opportunity to help get my name known in the local industry, it did not take long to realize the real benefit of creating relationships and working alongside like-minded folks. I started to see the bigger picture. I made friends and acquaintances. I was brave enough to hit the stage. I even began to stump for the cause.
A few weeks ago, I was the 'featured designer' and my portfolio was profiled as part of the GDC's national e-news sent to GDC members across the country. I summed things up thusly:
"I’m a member of the GDC because – to be absolutely honest – I inherited a membership. It was a perk of the position I acquired a number of years ago, but there has since become so much more to this story. I especially realized its value when I signed on as part of the local chapter board and began to get my feet wet with the larger design community. I value the GDC’s stature in the business, I value its stand for everything that makes this line of work cherished and satisfying, and I value its stance against practices that threaten to erode what we all work and strive for."
Earlier this week, I resigned my post as communications chair at the chapter's yearly Members' Meeting (a term we copped to avoid using AGM, a touch-of-death acronym if there ever was one). Primarily as part of an effort to declutter my life before our impending and/or bouncing baby, but also because these roles require new blood every now and again. The decision was bittersweet, but also a nice, tight cap on one of the best decisions of my professional life. It's a rewarding experience, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.