As an enormous fan of communities that emphasize any shared passion or interest, I can tell you firsthand that picking out the “must join” websites can be difficult – mainly, because you want to create a solid group of the best that you will actually keep up with. Otherwise you end up with a flood of communities, and the greatest of the lot get lost in the crowd. Who needs that?

Design communities are especially difficult, because there are literally hundreds of them around the web. With the introduction of social networking sites, they are even more common to see these days.

Picking out one out of the many amazing design communities would be impossible. Instead, here are five that you should really join and participate in, especially if you are looking for creative inspiration and device to improve your skills.

1. HOW Design

5 Designer Communities You Should Be a Member of

I am going to take a leap and assume that everyone reading this knows about HOW Design for its articles, guides, tip and conferences. It’s one of the most popular design websites on the Internet, and you would be hard pressed to find someone in the industry who doesn’t read it from time to time. But not everyone who enjoys the website has bothered to visit the forum.

The entire forum is broken down into different categories, which are split into smaller topics. These categories are HOW Hangout, Creativity, Business, Tools, Student Forum and HOW Mailbox. While not extremely active, it is a good place to go to have decent conversations with people both old and new in the field. There is even a critiques area where you can get people to look over your stuff and comment or give feedback on other designers’ projects.

2. Just™ Creative Designs

5 Designer Communities You Should Be a Member of

If you like Jacob Cass’s design blog, which focuses on various elements of the business such as graphics, logos and website creation, you can “like” him on Facebook, as well. With more than 10,000 subscribers, there is a fair amount of discussion, which can get lively at times. But usually he shares useful links, including new posts to his own blog. If you like learning about the latest in web design, with frequent updates, this is definitely a fan page on which to keep an eye.

3. Creattica

5 Designer Communities You Should Be a Member of

One of the best share sites for graphics and designs on the web, Creattica acts as a large, social gallery. Users submit their work for consideration, and if chosen it is uploaded in one of the many categories. From there, others can vote on the quality of your work. It is a useful way to both share your work and get valuable feedback on your skills and performance. It is also a great place to find free tools to use, such as fonts, templates, CMS and CSS templates and more. If you want to follow more closely, Creattica has RSS, Facebook and Twitter pages.

4. Yanko Design

5 Designer Communities You Should Be a Member of

One of the largest Facebook communities for design with more than 70,000 subscribers, Yanko is constantly updated, gives great links and information and has regular contests. For example, it just had its Electrolux Global Design Lab Logo Contest. A new one should be coming soon, so if you like to compete in such things you should make sure to “like” its page and wait for details. Until then, there is a ton in the Timeline to check out.

5. Design Juices

5 Designer Communities You Should Be a Member of

This is a small community run by designer Jared Thompson that doesn’t have many followers (a bit over 2,000), but gives great info, links and conversation. In a way, the smaller subscriber list is better because people are able to actually communicate with one another without being overwhelmed by comments.

Conclusion

One of the best ways to foster creativity in your designs is to communicate and be inspired by others in the same industry. Communities are a great way to do that, all while on the web. You can find plenty online or just on Facebook. But these are five that I consider “must join” groups.