IDSA - Worth it?

Currently, the cost to enroll as a professional is $375. While I feel like that’s perfectly acceptable, I wonder if anyone here has an opinion about their membership and what they get out of it. As I get more involved and entrenched in my design career, I feel like it’s a logical next step, but I’m not at the point where I can spend that much without at least asking around for an honest review.

What I am looking for is a way to “give back” to a larger design community, whether that be via mentoring, or adding to a base of knowledge, or just a little networking.

There are annual IDSA events in Seattle, and my experiences at them have been fun, but the atmosphere had me questioning if my money would be better spent going towards attending a specific conference, or maybe on my own personal projects. Do you think a young professional, as someone who isn’t looking for work, but isn’t in the position to give work away, has anything to offer IDSA?

Hey CR,

Great question and I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear that like most things in life, the value you get out of IDSA depends on what you put into it. Each designer participates (or doesn’t) for their own reasons and for many, those reasons change throughout their careers. For example, a younger designer might be looking to establish and grow their network while a more established professional might be looking to connect with prospective hires or business partners.

Sounds like you’re on the earlier part of your career and from my perspective, that’s one of the times IDSA can be most valuable, if leveraged effectively. As “someone who isn’t looking for work”, this is a great time to build your network and get to know others in your field from around the country. It’s so much easier to do that when you aren’t necessarily looking for a new position because your genuinely looking to build new relationships with no “strings” attached. Know what I mean? (As they say, it’s always easier to find a job when you have a job and those relationships can lead to great opportunities in the future–you never know.)

I experienced a recent example of this when I took a call from a designer who had been working for about 10 years in a specialized segment of the market and decided he wanted to “take a break” from work, assuming he could just get another job later when he wanted it. A year later, he started looking for a position and found it very difficult to connect with anyone because he never invested the time to build his professional network. He never joined IDSA, never attended any events and now he felt disconnected. Basically, he was a little concerned and really regretted not making that effort earlier on. Now he’s got to play “catch up” and trying to create these relationships that, frankly, aren’t very organic because he’s in a rush to get that new job. I made some suggestions on what his next steps might be, but since I didn’t know him personally, it was difficult for me to personally recommend him to any of my colleagues.

Conversely, I know of many of my fellow IDSA colleagues (including myself) that have found several new positions through the connections they’ve developed through IDSA. Some of them have never responded to a Coroflot job advert or applied for a position in the conventional way since they already had a positive reputation within the community and those opportunities came to them. Don’t underestimate the power of our community. I’ve got colleagues that I am honored to call my friends, some who I have known for over twenty years and we’re always there to help each other out.

I’m really glad to hear that you’re looking for ways of “giving back” to the community because I believe that’s one of the key benefits of an organization like IDSA in that it presents opportunities to participate in events where you can really give back by helping facilitate networking, mentoring and continuing education at IDSA events. You may want to reach out to you local Chapter to see what’s going on there. As an example, I am located in Raleigh, NC and have been working to reconnect the local ID community through regular “Thirsty Thursdays” where we can get together and just catch up with each other and see who’s working on what.

Just to clarify about the event in Seattle, the one that took place last August was the annual International Conference and is located in a different city each year. In 2016 it will be in Detroit. But as I mentioned and depending on where you are located, there are most likely local IDSA events (either through the Chapter or the District) that you can participate in.

With regards to the money, I understand that sometimes $375 can seem like a lot and the events can be expense (particularly when you add in the travel). But consider this: I typically budget about a couple of grand every year to pay for my IDSA membership as well as attending the International Conference and at least one District Conference. For that investment, I have never been without work and my network has led me to some amazing opportunities. What I get far outweighs what I put in. Now when I go to events it’s like attending a family reunion where I see all my friends from around the country, catch up with each other and see how our careers are going.

But at the beginning it might feel a bit awkward since you’re just starting to get to know everyone. We all went through that at the beginning. But I promise you that if you get involved and attend the events, you will get connected and doing so will make a huge difference in your career.

If you’d like to know more, feel free to contact me directly at I’ll be happy to help any way I can.



Great synopsis, Warren.

Very interested in hearing other opinions as well. I’ve been thinking of joining.

Glad to hear that. Let me know if you have any additional questions.


I find it to be worthwhile, but I’m kind of a corner case in that I am passionate about Industrial Design, but I work in UX. The two have some overlap, so it can still be viable as a business expense… and I will say that I have made some valuable connections at IDSA conferences. …but what I really get out of it is keeping a foot in the water of physical product design.

When I was in school not long ago, I remember thinking that I wasn’t getting much out of the membership fee. A lot of that was their subpar website. It’s better, but it’s still a chore to find things. The value is there though, conference publications, searchable member lists, etc.

Another factor in all of this is the local chapters. My school had a pretty good one, and I think there was a lot of learning to be had as well as general camaraderie. I’m now in San Diego, and the closest chapter is LA… I have a little bit of contact with the folks up there, but it’s not terribly frequent. If you’re in an area with an active group, it’s probably worth a lot more.

For me, I think it would be even more worthwhile if it were more participatory. I’d love to get involved. The special interest groups seem cool, but I’ve yet to find any output from them.


Thank you for your thorough response. You bring up great points that I want to take into consideration and digest, but my initial understanding is that IDSA is something that can “grow with the career.” I feel that’s a great thing, and makes me hopeful that my experiences so far have only been one small facet, seen as an outsider. The point you make about networking organically is also a great one - It’s much easier to do without the “smell of desperation” following one around :slight_smile:

You are correct about me being in the early stages of my career. This is only the 5th year of my life as a professional, however it was only in the past year that I felt more confident about myself and my work. I’m now sure that design is what I want to devote my life to, and I’d like to join a community of like minded people. IDSA seemed like a great place to start.

I’d like to sit down and write a proper email this week with a couple more specific questions, but I wanted to thank you for your advice. Until I saw your post, I had almost written off the organization completely.

Thanks again,


Very interesting, jcharlesoo, I’m in almost the opposite position. My job title is strictly ID, but I keep picking up more and more UX design work, both in and away from my day job. I agree with you about the website, and after reviewing it this year it does seem much more organized than it did a few years ago.

It does sound like location plays a role in the quality / involvement of the regional chapters. For that, I’m grateful to be in Seattle. You mentioned special interest groups - are they region specific or operated from a higher level?

Yeah, it’s a lot cheaper and quicker to take digital products to market, so there are more of them and more work to go along. It’s a good thing, but man, there’s something to being able to make a thing and hold it in your hand.

The special interest groups appear to be national. (…or is that international now?) you can find a list of them with their respective chairs here - Sections | Industrial Designers Society of America - IDSA
The “benefits to membership” lists membership in special interest groups, but I’m stymied on how to join. I emailed them about participating in the Human Interaction section earlier in the year and never heard back.

I’m glad I could help. Email me with your questions.



Hello Everyone. My name is Allan Gordon and I’m IDSA’s Director of Membership. Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant to contribute earlier, because this was very important dialog that should proceed unhindered. I am very excited to see this level of discussion on the value and relevance of IDSA to the fields of design, centered on ID, while branching into UX and IxD. I thought this was an appropriate moment to chime in.

CR, John_M and J. Charles brought up some excellent points of consideration regarding membership; points I’m sure a lot of other members think about, especially when they are paying their dues out of pocket. Warren, thank you for sharing what IDSA has meant for you during your own career trajectory. Reflecting on what you said early in the discussion - the value revolves around what you put into it. You have put a lot into IDSA as a member, and more so as a leader on many fronts over many years. Your “ambassadorship” here is greatly appreciated!

There is no one statement that can answer or affirm all that has transpired in this conversation so far, and truly I’d like to see it continue. I will say that, as Corey wrote, we have undergone a lot of organizational changes and many others, including staff, leadership and infrastructure. And, like any great movement forward, not everything will be 100% from the get go. As such, I apologize that J. Charles did not get a response to his inquiry. J. Charles, I am more than happy to assist with that, if you would like to get in touch with me (contact details are at the end of this post). But, please know that membership in Sections is a benefit of membership and we are looking for leaders for many of these interest-based communities.

As the only professional individual membership association exclusively dedicated to the profession of industrial design and its derivative fields, IDSA is returning to being the first-to-mind, go-to authority on industrial design. We cannot get there without the interest and participation of professionals like all of you. So, on behalf of the organization, thank you for having this candid and earnest conversation on what is important for you to have in your professional association.

I welcome the opportunity to hear more about what would serve you all as ID, UX and IxD professionals and to share how membership in IDSA can–currently and in the future–support those needs. I can also speak to how you can make the most out of it. After all, membership it is not simply a luxury at the price of discretionary spending. It is, in fact, an investment in one’s professional development. Can you live without it? Of course. But why not avail yourself of what has been created for you? I may even be able to offer you special consideration for joining or rejoining because, while the revenue is very important to supporting the work of IDSA, it’s more important to have you connected to the greater community so that we may fulfill the purpose of the Society. I may be reached at 703.707.6000 x112 or by email at Thank you for allowing me to contribute to this discussion and I look forward to hearing from you all!

A very astute description, I totally agree with you Warren!

I also have used my IDSA contacts to help hire designers while at CPQ/HP. And even when I took an early retirement pkg from HP, and ran for and elected to the IDSA Board beginning in 2015, after being out of the business for 2 years, it was my network, and continued involvement with IDSA (2014 Annual International Conference planning committee) that helped make that happen. And, I like other professionals who aren’t pursuing design full time, continue to work with the local ID Program at the Univ of Houston to help improve ID education and support the local IDSA chapter. So there are many ways that IDSA can benefit the full experience range of designers as Warren points out, and many ways to show our gratitude for having such a wonderful career in a wonderful profession!

Best regards,


George Daniels
IDSA Secretary/Treasurer
IDSA Board of Directors


Thank you for jumping in. Your perspective is very much appreciated here.

It makes complete sense about an investment in one’s professional development, and the thing that really draws me to IDSA is the idea of community. I emailed Warren last night asking mostly about networking, but I’d like to hear your take on the ways this happens - is it mostly through the annual conference, or is there an online aspect I’m not aware of? I find the idea of special interest groups really interesting, and I’d like to learn more about how those work… are there moderated forums, such as the one we find ourselves in here?

Thanks again for taking the time to respond. Seeing that IDSA members are in fact “out there” has made me decide to take the plunge, I’m budgeting a bit this month and I’ve decided to join in February. I hope this conversation can continue though, maybe it can help others who are thinking similar thoughts :slight_smile:

So true!! I love seeing my products out in the wild, watching users interacting with it. It reminds me of painters who go to museums not for the art on the wall, but to watch the people and their reactions :smiley:

Though the really nice thing about digital work is that you can work from anywhere at any time - no need for an entire woodshop or studio… Prototyping from the couch with a cup of coffee is great :laughing:

This is what got me thinking about IDSA to begin with - I don’t think I’m at the point where I have anything of real value to impart to a design course, but it’s something I want to aim for in the future. I think about all the random and lucky encounters I had in my design education, and how much more I could have absorbed if I were involved with IDSA as a student. Thank you for giving back, George!


Never underestimate what you have to offer the design community, even at an early stage of your career. I frequently encourage young designers with just a handful of years of experience to go back to their schools (or a local design school) and share what they have learned so far in the professional world. For many students, your perspective is much more relevant and real to them than that of an old fart like me.

So don’t think you have to wait for some future moment in your career to be “at that point”, because you already are at that point now.