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The Dell Mac Interns

The closest I came to an internship was working at my school’s library sorting past issues of HOW and ID, the only subscriptions we had of design publications. In Mexico, there is no such thing as an internship, it is not required to graduate but they do make you complete “community service” which they think accounts for a more rewarding experience than an internship.

With that out of the way, how was your internship experience, if any? Would you say it’s a must do for any young designer? Did you get any valuable experience out of it? Stirring coffee or mounting other designers’ presentations doesn’t count.

And now that you are all grown up (if you are of course) have you dealt with interns? Do you make them stir your coffee and mount your presentations? Or do you see them as a valuable asset to your firm?

I’m sure interns are smarter than those dorky kids working at Dell.

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ARCHIVE ID 1395 FILED UNDER Design Academics
PUBLISHED ON Mar.17.2003 BY Armin
Darrel’s comment is:

I think a paid internship is a valuable learning experience. I did mine at 3M. Pretty dry, but certainly was an aspect of the profession that I wasn't about to get exposure with at school.

The free internships tend to be closer to slave labor, but if it's a padded resume you want, then they aren't so bad.

I can't fault firms for hiring free interns either--free labor is free labor.

On Mar.17.2003 at 08:53 AM
Sam’s comment is:

From the Baffler, here's a great article--well, an excerpt--about internships that an old college friend of mine wrote a while back.

I had a good experience interning at Sapient in early 1999, the good old days for them. They let me do real work and participate in meetings and even contribute to a client proposal.

In general, however, it really seems like a scam. ESPECIALLY unpaid internships. A big part of the problem is interns are often part-time, and just can't work fast enough (due to lack of experience) to keep up. No fault of their own, really, but still. In a small office, an intern really has to be able to pull a significant amount of weight or else be doomed to sorting books and cleaning up and waiting for the usually busy designers to show them what they're doing. In a larger firm, it might be different.

I think I would find it impossible to hire an intern named Monica. At least not with a straight face.

On Mar.17.2003 at 09:18 AM
Jon’s comment is:

I interned during college with the art dept. at a magazine in Atlanta. At that point, it just seemed like a more interesting thing to do during the summer than wait tables; I really didn't have much of an idea of graphic design yet. It turned out to be the turning point of my career.

The first few weeks of it definitely consisted more of fetching diet cokes and ordering in lunch than solving crucial design problems. In fact, what finally put me on the right track was when I asked if I could design a few spreads for the next issue. While the initial response was quite amusing — "well, um, you could watch me do it" — eventually they let me get my hands on some of the sections.

Overall, the experience was incredibly rewarding. It opened my eyes to more areas of design, and the asst. art director was a teacher at Portfolio Center, and he encouraged me to go there.

I think internships are invaluable when you are young and can afford to not make any money. You need to be proactive and ask for assignments, though. I agree that a lot of people view their interns as production help (not that they can't help out with that...) so it's a smart move for an intern to take an active role in avoiding that.

Here's an example in defining your own internship role: we had an intern in the production dept. who kept itching to do some design. He kept asking and bugging people until they finally started putting him on some teams. End of story: he's now a staff designer.

As to how I treated interns that I worked with, I'll cop to doing both: treating them as slave labor and including them as part of a design team.

On Mar.17.2003 at 09:26 AM
Andrew Baasch’s comment is:

My intern experience back in the day was a good one. It was a small agency that gave me a lot of freedom to be creative. It only lasted a summer, but it helped me gain experience and it was actually paid, which is somewhat rare.

On Mar.17.2003 at 09:28 AM
brook’s comment is:

i'm certainly not all grown up, since it hasn't been a year since i completed my last internship. but it was a very good one, a paid one, and i learned a lot. http://www.sussner.com

it was valuable because i did several of my own projects, although i did help with production and other aspects of the office, which was small, only 5 designers.

was it a good experience? of course. ANY experience is a good experience. there's a life lesson for ya.

it isn't a must, as few things ever are, but it certainly can't hurt. and if you can get some real projects out of it, then you can take that many student projects out of your portfolio. if you get to work with good designers, you will learn a ton.. i have doubts there.

On Mar.17.2003 at 10:39 AM
corey’s comment is:

My internship was between my third and fourth year at school. I was lucky enough to work for a fairly well known "name" studio, and to be paid for it.

It was my very first design job and I knew absolutely nothing, but since I was doing well at school, I thought I knew everything. I was probably unbearable. I started by sorting the swatch books in the library, then moved up to manually setting type galleys with a hot waxer on blue line production pages that I had to manually draw the grid on. After about a month of this, they allowed me to resize photos - using the proportion wheel and a xerox machine.

Then I got my big break - I was to send a mock-up to the printers for initial typesetting and layout. Since it was an art book, I was afraid to crop into an image as I was uncertain what the focus on some of the art pieces was meant to be (I have never been particularly knowledgeable in regards to art history). I requested the partner that I worked for to go over my changes before the mock up was sent out (I left the art with 2 separate measurements, one if cropped horizontally, another if it was meant to be cropped vertically).

When the initial type setting mock up came back, it had type running over the image as the printer got both sets of crops and decided to not crop the image at all since he couldn't understand my notations. The partner took one look at the book and fired me.

I was devastated. I sat at home for three days in shock. One of the other partners called me up on the fourth day and let me know that he felt really bad about what happened and would like to hire me on as his assistant - I wouldn't be allowed to work on group jobs, I could only work on his personal accounts.

It was the best thing that ever happened to me - it took my ego down about 17 notches and allowed me to enter my fourth year in a more receptive state to learning. I can't recommend internships enough, although everyone's experience is different, mine was EXACTLY what I needed.

On Mar.17.2003 at 01:34 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

And corey brings up an excellent point.

Internships allow you to screw up major projects early in your career. ;o)

To be fair, I think both the printer and your 'boss' erred in not providing better feedback when you asked for it prior to having the proof made.

On Mar.17.2003 at 04:01 PM
jasmine’s comment is:

Then theres me, whos just start looking for an internship!

On Mar.17.2003 at 09:42 PM
graham’s comment is:

just a question-is an 'internship' a compulsory part of completing a u.s. college course?

On Mar.18.2003 at 09:53 AM
plain*clothes’s comment is:

in answer to Graham's question, it depends on the college. at my college you receive a couple of credits per 10 weeks of intership, but you can't receive _any_ compensation -- very few people take them up on this generous offer.

I began looking for an internship during my junior year, meeting with a few art directors in the area. my portfolio was well accepted, but, despite the slow economy, nobody wanted to take free help!

my portfolio was so well received, I decided to spend another session in school refining it and just look for a regular job. within a few months I had a forty hour/week job as a junior designer doing as much design as production! a salary, benefits, and more design work than I could handle was far more than I ever expected from an internship.

On Mar.18.2003 at 11:04 AM
Corey’s comment is:

Graham, I attended CalArts (California Institute for the Arts) and an internship was not compulsory - although it was frowned upon if you did not have one between your third year and your fourth. In my class, the consensus was that if you didn't have a summer internship, you probably weren't cut out for design. But that's a bunch of students talking over beer, and we were ignorant.

On Mar.18.2003 at 12:05 PM
Eric’s comment is:

Internships were not required for graduation at my school, but they were an excellent preparation for portfolio review (getting us "portfolio conscious" a full year and a half ahead of graduation). And there was an attitude that if you couldn't get an internship, you weren't going to cut it as a designer.

I interned in a huge ad agency office. I was relegated to the production area, and had little or no access to the creatives. I was not entrusted with production work, let alone given any real projects to contribute to. I periodically helped build mock-ups, mounted artwork, and kept the library tidy.

That said, I was determined to get *something* out of the internship. I asked the production manager for things to work on every day I was there. When I'd see an art director in the hallway, I'd ask what they were working on. I'd talk to the freelancers about how they found work. I asked the production artists for copies of their files so I could try to do the same jobs they were doing (re-sizing ads, billboards, etc.).

And at the end of the semester, I knew for certain that I didn't want to be a production artist in a big ad agency.

On Mar.18.2003 at 05:38 PM
graham’s comment is:

credits? compensation? 'portfolio review'? not sure what this all means-sounds very diff. to college in the u.k.-at least when i went.

'internships', or work placements, were very very optional things; you'd organise it yourself and try and do it with a company you thought was tip-top notch, although you'd be very unlikely to do it for nothing.

i think the best option is to work for a bit before going to college, then there isn't such a distraction from the real work of finding a voice when one gets to college.

On Mar.19.2003 at 01:06 AM
armin’s comment is:

>credits? compensation? 'portfolio review'?

-Credits: you must complete a certain number of credits to graduate, for example an introductory design class is worth 24 credits, another class that is tougher or has more hours is worth 36 credits. So, an internship can count as credits.

-Compensation: Getting paid.

-Portfolio review: when somebody looks at your body of work. Portofolio serves as a metaphor for your work, which doesn't have to be kept in a portfolio necessarily.

On Mar.19.2003 at 03:30 PM
graham’s comment is:

o.k.-marks, cash, looking at work. ducking and divibg, bobbing and weaving. what about what the student believes in? does that have a code word in u.s. design education?

On Mar.19.2003 at 05:37 PM
armin’s comment is:

>what about what the student believes in? does that have a code word in u.s. design education?

Somebody please come up with something clever. I just can't. Too tired and too [Macromedia] Flashed out.

On Mar.19.2003 at 05:42 PM
Damien’s comment is:

When I worked at frog design I worked with two interns, one who was studying industrial design but able to present actual interactive design concepts to a client, which was one of the final ones chosen for development.

He was from London, staying in San Francisco for the year.

And another intern came from Germany to work in my Strategy group and turned out to be an essential asset in working with us on research and strategy projects. I tried to ensure that work the intern carried out was inline with what she wanted to be exposed to and her course - as well as allowing her to be accountable for her own project work.

The English kid loved it in SF and swore to return the following year - but I think if he were treated any differently and wasn't allowed so much responsibility he might have had a different take on it all.

Both interns took on as much as was given to them and seized every opportunity given. Anything less would have been a wasted experience with the firm.

I think if you take on interns- you also take on part of the responsibility to teach them and inform them of how your business does things. Afterall it is an exercise in the practical application of their learning so far - and as Graham says, an opportunity to find a real voice in what you chose to do for a living.

On Mar.19.2003 at 06:32 PM
plain*clothes’s comment is:

Armin said...

... an introductory design class is worth 24 credits, another class that is tougher or has more hours is worth 36 credits.

what!? you're lucky to get 4 units here in California!

Graham said...

what about what the student believes in? does that have a code word in u.s. design education?

the code the administration uses is "shit". fortunately, the professors give it much higher regard.

On Mar.19.2003 at 10:57 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>what!? you're lucky to get 4 units here in California!

Yeah... I have no clue how many credits are assigned to anything... It was just to explain what credits are. I knew I was going to be off, but not that off.

On Mar.19.2003 at 11:16 PM
JESSE’s comment is:

I just wanted to know if anyone else finds the latest Dell interns ad disturbing ... the one that begins with the kid saying, "I know some interns who went the *extra mile* tonight," and then appears to grab his own ass.

On Mar.20.2003 at 11:24 AM
jasmine’s comment is:

What does would a company look for in an intern?

On Mar.25.2003 at 10:42 PM