My summer internship at Stinkdigital

For the past 3 months, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work as a Motion Designer with the creative team in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

It was a summer of firsts. My first time in New York, first Motion-related job, first legal drink, Uber, La Croix, etc. And while some of that may be strange to admit, this is a story about learning and finding my place in a company that already offers so much.

Inside the studio space of Stinkdigital NY. Image Courtesy: Stinkdigital

Working as an intern

Early on, I learned that Stinkdigital doesn’t give “intern work.” Instead, I was offered the chance to play a larger role within the team. And while this philosophy seems increasingly popular (yet in past experiences, often resulting in the design equivalent of data entry), I was assigned to one of the studio’s highest-profile projects, “Google Presents: The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.” The website serves as an interactive documentary, allowing users to experience five of the nation’s most-beautiful parks.

I would quickly discover that opportunity is a staple at Stinkdigital. The team prides itself in its multi-disciplinary roots, with creative interests varying from person to person. Creative developers with a background in photography work alongside art directors with experience in fashion.

The result is a studio that is always learning, as well as an open invitation to ask questions.

Coming off a school year of personal projects and homework, everything suddenly felt much larger. The clients were bigger and the team was larger, as were the stakes and my sense of pride. I found myself operating with excitement, adrenaline and, naturally, a healthy dose of fear.

There was so much to gain in the creative process. I constantly found opportunities to learn new tricks, often just before having to use them. 3D models needed to be sculpted and rigged before being brought into a WebGL workflow. Having the ability to teach myself wasn’t just valuable; it quickly became essential.

But there weren’t just technical lessons to be had. As the deadlines grew tighter, my time-management skills dramatically improved, as did my ability to collaborate with others. I regularly attended progress reviews and meetings, where I’d work directly with the client. With so many different hands involved, I learned to navigate the complexities of client relations and hierarchy. In the end, I learned just as much about the roles of others as I did my own.

To navigate through the site we created contextual hotspots that made it easy for the users to see where to go next.

What I’ve learned

Creativity is about exploration. We fantasize about “eureka” moments and getting that sign-off first round. But creation isn’t that clean. It’s messy, iterative and an ongoing process. It’s about having the support to take risks.

Stinkdigital taught me that trust is motivating. As an intern, I was given an incredible amount of responsibility. For every achievement and highlight, there were equal moments of frustration and self-doubt. But it was ultimately the team’s trust that drove me — the trust that Stinkdigital had placed in my own abilities and the trust that I had found in my fellow teammates.

Closing thoughts

Even though my stay was short, it was easy to learn just how much Stinkdigital cares about its staff. It’s true, the year-long 3PM Fridays are in fact a thing. But this affection is rooted deeper than just time off and a well-stocked beer fridge. Stinkdigital is deeply invested in its employees and has worked hard to cultivate an office culture that invites curiosity and promotes personal growth.

For the staff, it means having the support to take risks and try new things. To push boundaries and challenge client expectations. Personally, it meant getting to work closely with both creative and development teams, all while focusing on motion design for the first time. It meant discovering my value to a company that already has so much to offer.

Stink FC’s first game of the season.

To everyone at Stinkdigital, I’d like to give a huge thanks for such an incredibly rewarding and memorable summer. And special thanks to the National Parks team, who guided and trusted me through it all!

*Update: As of June 2017 (exactly a year from my internship start date), I’ve joined the team — now Stink Studios — as a full time Motion Designer. 
I couldn’t be happier.