Natasha Rutledge

Becoming an RGD

It feels strange to be talking about how I became a Registered Graphic Designer (RGD) member, considering I’ve been a part of the organization since my first year of college almost 10 years ago, but over the summer that’s exactly what I did.
Two textbooks from the RGD

For those of you who don’t know, RGD is the largest professional association for graphic designers, with five different levels of membership depending on the stage of your career and how involved with the association you’d like to be.

Back in 2014, my school enrolled me and the rest of my program into the RGD as Student Members. None of us really knew what that meant other than we were taking a break from our classes for two days and going to the annual DesignThinkers conference. We were all blown away with how exciting and inspiring the speakers were, leaving with fresh ideas for not only our projects, but how far we could take our careers and the impacts we could make. After that first trip, I was hooked and I was fortunate enough to attend three DesignThinkers conferences as a student.

After I finished school and as I was looking for my first full time position in the field, I stumbled upon RGD’s job board. Here were the companies supporting and being supported by this organization that I had been a part of for the past four years. This is how I discovered an amazing, creative, and what I thought was only a little goofy — and later learned very silly at times — design studio, Fusion. We’ve mentioned our affinity for basements before, but as a young not yet professional designer that was an intimidating (anxiety inducing) idea to overcome. I was discussing my upcoming interview with a friend who mentioned he had seen Brent present at DesignThinkers. That was all the confidence and reassurance I needed to know that this was a company I could trust before I went in for my interview, and five years later I’m so thankful I did.

Natasha’s first day marked on the calendar.
Brent’s first emails to Natasha after she accepted the role at Fusion in 2018.

Since joining Fusion I moved on from my student membership to a Provisional RGD Membership and we continued to participate in the DesignThinkers conference, it continues to be an inspiring and impactful experience, but the real value to me has been the shift into networking opportunities. I now look forward to catching up with old classmates, current network contacts and continuing to make new connections each year. Which is why when the RGD reached out to let me know I had accumulated enough experience to qualify for the full Certified RGD membership, I knew this was an organization that I wanted to continue to be a part of.

To become a Certified RGD you must complete a portfolio review of six pieces of your work, showing your skills as a designer and presenter, as well as an online test to assess your knowledge of business, accessibility, ethics, design principles and research. As a member of our team, I have participated in many client meetings discussing our work and the rationale behind our design decisions. But it had been years since I had presented anything on my own, focusing on the specific role I had in a project and even longer since I had last studied for and taken a test — I was intimidated. Brent didn’t say that my whole job hinged on me passing this test, but he didn’t promise to not fire me if I failed either. As I gathered the textbooks and began teaching myself how to be a student again, I also started going through our own portfolio and discussing with the team which would be good projects for me to present. It might have felt like I was on my own in this, but like everything with the RGD, I had my community ready to help me prepare.

My goal was to both write the test and present my portfolio during the same week — a goal that the RGD encourages from its potential members if their schedules allow and luckily mine did. After compiling my projects and answering the required questions I followed the same process we do with our client work. I had the team review and give me their feedback. This helped give me the confidence I needed to tackle the interview on my own, knowing that other people, designers I trusted and respected believed in the work I was sharing.

I’m happy to say that I hit my goal of completing the interview and test in the same week earlier this summer, and even happier to say that I passed both and am now a Certified RGD member. I’m beyond excited to attend what I know will be another fantastic DesignThinkers conference in November and cannot wait to connect with my fellow RGD members. It can be hard to make true connections in such a digital age and RGD is making sure that we as designers are able to find our people, get support and make an impact together.

Like everything with the RGD, my community was ready to help me prepare. ”

Natasha's RGD Design thinkers Badges from over the years