be professional. join a professional design council.

08 June 2016
Rebecca Blake of Graphic Artists Guild (US) offers practical advice on how to bridge the gap between being a student of Design and becoming a professional designer

(Photo credit: Caroline Kessler)

Bridging the gap from being a Student of Design to being a Professional Designer can be a difficult path. Rebecca Blake of ico-D Member Graphic Artists Guild talks about the benefits of joining a professional design association and how they can help you avoid many of the pitfalls that many young designers fall into. "Be professional. Join a Professional Design Association." is the next in a series of stories about ico-D's partnership with Adobe to advance student careers. 

Learning your craft is only the first step to becoming a creative professional. To truly thrive in your career, there are less glamorous skills to master: knowing how to run your career as a business, understanding copyright and intellectual property rights, licensing your work, and adhering to industry best practices.

Ignorance of copyrights and best practices degrades the design industry as a whole. Currently, designers and graphic artists are increasingly asked to work for free, by participating in speculative contests and crowdsourcing websites. Businesses profit from the ill preparation of digital artists who fail to register their copyrights, by using their artwork to produce goods without compensation or credit. And aspiring designers may not realize that when they carelessly take works off the Internet, they may be plagiarizing from other fellow designers.

This is where professional associations come in: participation in a design association can help bridge the gap from talented student to productive professional. Internationally ico-D, and in the USA the Graphic Artists Guild offer both resources and a supportive community for aspiring young designers.

Graphic Artists Guild (USA)



On the ico-D website you’ll find a wealth of resources to help you take your first steps into the world of being a professional designer:


(Photo credit: Caroline Kessler)

Rebecca Blake has been Design Director at Optimum Design & Consulting in New York City. She’s on the board of the Graphic Artists Guild, and heads the National Design Policy workgroup at ico-D.



About Adobe ico-D Mentorship programme


Since 2013 ico-D has partnered with Adobe, creating the Adobe Design Achievement Awards as well as a mentorship programme that offer students career advice, industry exposure, networking, creative residencies and the possible pairing/sharing between aspiring design students and established designers. The goal is to hotwire the transition from school to professional practice, including programmes like the ADAA 2016 Creative Residencies and Career Boot Camps. By revamping the programmes to ‘advance student careers,’ the ADAA Awards and its extended programmes are making the leap from design education into design as a career—smooth, successful and profound.

Adobe ico-D Mentorship Programme
Adobe Design Achievement Awards
2016 ADAA Official website.
2016 ADAA Live Submissions Gallery: see every entry as they come in!
2016 ADAA Benefits and Prizes

other stories from this series:
Making the Leap from Design Education into Design as Career: ico-D interview with 2015 ADAA student winner Jason Ronzani/

Launching Student Careers: ico-D interview with mentor Jay Taylor

Read these stories on Adobe’s new blog.