03.06.13

ADVICE / 54

today’s question: “how do you keep your interns and designers inspired and happy?”

KATIE’S ANSWER:
i’m gonna take over this week because bri is sick in bed with the flu, but she’ll be back next week! i interned at kate spade the summer before my senior year of college. i loved being included in the creative brainstorms, getting to watch an ad campaign come together with sharpie sketches and actually going to the shoot to watch it comes to life. as a student i was clueless how the real world worked. i was learning about jobs that i never knew existed and getting to watch it with my own eyes. on the job training and observing is the best way to learn something (besides actually doing it). i was invited on set for the holiday 2008 ad campaign, but i was an intern so i was there to watch. i did get to assist the prop stylist with some simple projects and was asked to be a hand model last minute. i modeled a glove! when i happily pointed out my hand holding the snowball to all my friends. that internship was creatively fulfilling but it also included the not-so-exciting types of jobs like scanning from books, resizing images and making templates for store windows. i didn’t get discouraged or mad because i was there to learn! i absorbed anything and everything. if i didn’t have anything to do i didn’t sit around waiting and twiddling my thumbs. i went to every designer’s desk and asked if i could help them with something. the jobs that i helped them with were usually ones i wouldn’t have been able to work on if i hadn’t asked! i was so happy to help because i felt like i was doing something that mattered. i felt like i was really contributing to the greatness of that brand.

and now i’m on the other side of things having interns of my own. i keep my internship experiences in mind when i’m working them. i give them projects that i need help on and try to leave some creativity up to them. sometimes it is helping with little things like scanning images and filing them appropriately or helping pull inspiration for a story i’m working on. they want to feel like they’re contributing and being able to own projects to help build their portfolios. they are there to learn and help, but they also want to take something back with them. i also ask them what their goals are and where they want to take their career. if it’s illustrating, i’ll try to have them help me with that as much as possible. or if they’re more interested in photoshoots, i’ll invite them into the meetings and have them listen on the phone calls so they understand the ins and outs. in the past i’ve also had an intern project. it was something that they owned and usually lasted their entire internship. the most recent one was having them design the email and blog series based off the big marketing campaign. the concept and elements were already in play, but they had to translate and design it for another platform.

they just want to feel included, respected and creative! don’t make them get your coffee. have them help out with something you’re doing so you can take the 10 minutes to go get it. you’ll enjoy the fresh air.

(illustration by . read more freelance advice posts are over here!)

41 COMMENTS

Add your own

    alicia says:

    I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve already said! I myself did an internship right out of school at a magazine and it was fascinating. I learned about how the company worked and what needed to be done to put an issue together.
    Since it was a smaller office I got my first insight into marketing as well. While I was obviously working on design projects I learned so much about marketing and ads and sales in those months, stuff we obviously never talk about in art school.
    During my internship I had a chance to work on a bunch of little projects, but they were my projects. There were guidelines but they gave me so much creative freedom for the little things I created, all I really had to do was make sure I stayed on brand. I super appreciate that they allowed me to own all these little projects. I have a ton of portfolio pieces from that short little internship and I am so thankful for it. They encouraged my creative thinking and were open to many of my ideas.
    Obviously some of the work was close cropping products which wasn’t too exciting but I had a perfect balance of tasks and loved every minute of it.
    I would defilement say that if you have an intern teach them as much as possible. I love learning so that’s the most valuable experience for me. And besides that make them feel part of whatever it is you are doing, show them the whole process and also give them little projects of their own. While they will be excited to say they worked with you/your company they also want to be able to show it off in their portfolio.

    alicia says:

    And btw I love this illustration!!!(so cuuuute)
    Hope Bri feels better soon 🙂

    This illustration is to die for. I loooove it!!

    Sammy says:

    i don’t know what i love more: your messages or that adorable illustration!

    Ces says:

    My entire college life I’ve interned for political campaigns and state representatives because of my major. Now that I’ve had a chance to really figure out what I love and what I want to do in life (coffee), I realize that I have to start all over again. It is such an eye-opening experience to find out about jobs you never knew existed and how much you can grow in it. In a way it’s a fresh start and I’m only hoping that whatever internship I land in the coffee industry will be a fun and memorable one like what you share with your interns. *cheers*

    Anne says:

    Nice post but don’t forget the spell check please and the capital letters at the beginning of the sentence.

    Hi Katie, this illustration is killer! Keep it up 🙂

    Colette says:

    Love this post and all of yalls advice. So helpful and generous of you.

    Kait says:

    Such great advice! My college internship also consisted of scanning and filing documents… unfortunately that was ALL it consisted of. It killed me slowly because I was dying to gain at least a little insight into their business procedures. I know I’ll never forget that experience if I ever one day have to hire interns in the future 🙂 everyone’s time has value!

    So fun that you were a hand model, Katie! Loved reading about your internship experiences. And Bri, feel better soon!!

    leann says:

    i wish i read this when i was an intern a few years ago! such insightful advice and i couldn’t agree more with the last paragraph – DO NOT have your assistants/interns do irrelevant tasks ie: getting coffee, picking up your dry-cleaning, etc.! you’re so right – the supervisor could probably use the fresh air 🙂 thanks for sharing, katie!!

    Sarah says:

    I think it just needs to be a good balance of sharing your expertise and knowledge with your interns, while they help you out with the things you just don’t have the time or desire to do. As an intern, I think your job is to be super enthusiastic and soak up every bit you can from a real work environment. I understand that interns have the desire to feel included, respected, and creative, but they also don’t have the experience they may need to be fully involved in each and every project. Having an intern and being an intern should be a mutually beneficial relationship for the intern and the internship provider.

    Anonymous says:

    i love the coffee advice! when i think of internships (in any field, not just design) it’s the first thing that comes to mind – it’s basically a given that you will spend the first part of your internship getting everyone’s coffee, and in some cases that it’ll be the only thing you’ll really get to do. you can’t learn anything from that.

    great tips! i couldn’t agree more! p.s. i hope bri gets feeling better soon! xo

    -ashley
    ashleyrachelle.com

    Tiffany says:

    Great advice! I agree, creative contribution to a design project is certaintly a way to keep interns happy. The internships I’ve enjoyed the most is where I aided in brainstorming and executing a concept!

    Stephanie says:

    love it! and wow – your experience sounds like a dream.

    i think it’s time for me to start bringing on an intern, so the timing of this was so perfect. and the closing statement is so true and actually hit the nail on the head – esp b/c it’s hard for me to let go and pass the work on so that it will free up my time (i feel that when i truly get to know a project when i am doing the mundane tasks – i know i need to get over that)

    Bri: { Get Well Soon }

    *btw – can i tell you guys how much i love and appreciate the advice column.

    i love love love this column bri and katie. i’m searching all the portfolio tags as i work on my site this morning. bri – hope you feel better soon by the way. i am dying to get out of california and see europe and you are once again inspiring me to JUST GO.

    anyway- my question is for advice about freelancing. i am just wrapping up my first year of post-fidm freelancing and i must say i am so lucky that i’ve had so much success. but i always feel like there’s room for improvement, so MY QUESTION IS what are some questions you must ask your client in the first meeting? most of mine are over the phone and i make due with a few awkward pauses, but it would be nice to really know what’s important to include in my list when speaking with a new client.

    sorry this is all over the place 🙂 but hopefully you wonderful gals can help me out.

    happy traveling! -gloria

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