Learnings of a first timer as a design intern in the industry.
I am interning at one of the leading design firms of India in the bustling heart of the country, Mumbai. Just some of the things I have learned in a fortnight that I look back and in hindsight wouldn't have mind stumbling upon before starting this intern.
- Test the waters before jumping in.
After landing this intern, I messaged a few of my seniors who had already worked here and talked about the work culture and people. Why not learn from people who have been there and done that, right? You can avail frank and honest advice on a range of topics like from how to negotiate for stipend to getting in touch with the project manager beforehand.
- Master how to swish the magic wand before the duel.
Be comfortable with the currency the firm uses to trade. I was not that very adept with Adobe Photoshop, I had mostly used Adobe Illustrator, so the first day had me struggling around. There is nothing which a marathon of YouTube videos cannot teach you. Also, get on the network used for exchanging files and updates, be it IP messenger, Slack or Trello.
- Mind those pixels and layers.
You are now working on a real time industry project, not just another one of your course curriculum projects. This implies that you have to deliver pixel perfect screens and clean Photoshop files. It’s always comforting and safe to double (at times triple) check your work before forwarding it to your mentor/client. They are all professionals doing this for years and can easily spot even a 5 pixels shift in the cards (Yes! even 5 pixels)
- Talk to people.
Possibility is that if you re working in design firm, you are surrounded by a lot of designers, all of them with their unique backgrounds, fortes and perspective on design (and mostly super friendly and ready to help!)
Tip : It’s sometimes intimidating to start a conversation with someone you find super cool and want to be in, say, 10 years down the lane. All you need is 3 seconds of courage to approach them and a few topics on your list, just to save a conversation-going-downhill. If it’s a designer, even a bunch of free vintage fonts you found online can be on your list.
- Stick around and be useful. Nobody would mind an extra help with their project, given that you are good at what you re helping at or at least a quick learner. Since you are there for a few days, and you possibly cannot be a part of every team you find interesting. Staying around for a few extra hours or lunch hours and exploring can be your way to make up for it.
- If you touch it, it is yours too!
While working on a project, there is every possibility that the Photoshop files will be shuffled amongst the designers. It’s always good to clean and get familiar with layer names and groups before starting to work on it. It’s not cool sending files with invisible layers and locked groups to clients.
- Ask for help, however stupid you might appear.
My mentors here have taught me how to mask and even select things using the command key. Instead of spending a few minutes struggling with how-to YouTube videos, asking for quick help is quicker.
- Take a break.
Most of the design studios are replete with beanbags, music speakers and unlimited coffee for a reason. A few minutes break every hour to work is the key to work at the same speed throughout the day. Also, reaching early and having a few minutes to devour Medium blogs has done me much good.
9. It’s not all about the project!
While interning, it is not just about the project you are working on. Even though it might seem very important to have a heavy project for your portfolio right now. Interning is more important for the experience of not what-you-work but how-you-work.
Forming rapports with fellow designers, requesting leave in the middle of the week, finding your own style of working and identity in a design firm and going around asking colleagues on how to have fun on weekends.
I have learned not to fret about the project now. Even though it might seem I am just moving a few layers and pixels around, I am moving it with utter perfection and patience. An acquired talent during intern, definitely.
10. However cheesy, an intern diary will be cool. Years later, not now.
It might be good to chronicle your experiences and work logs as you go ahead with the intern. Not only will you be able to marvel at how far you have come when you look at it years later, but it might also end up connecting you to some cool people.
More about my intern : I am doing my Bachelors of Design from Department of Design, IIT India and presently interning at Fractal Ink Design Studio, Mumbai for two months during the summer break after my sophomore year. My responsibilities mainly include working closely with the clients and user experience team and deliver apps for android and ios (and playing good music in the background!)
For more of my experiences (on college, intern and nothing), do check out my blog.