6 Compelling Reasons Why Graphic Design Internships are Important
By Will Erstad on 08/10/2016
“Why should I bother with an internship? Don’t they just send you to get coffee and give you a bunch of busy-work?”
More often than not, this just isn’t the case. Sure, you might not be assigned the most glamorous or high-profile projects, but there are several reasons why graphic design internships are important for creative rookies.
We connected with a handful of seasoned professionals who launched their careers with graphic design internships. Keep reading to hear their best insight about why internships are important for budding designers.
6 things you’ll gain from a graphic design internship
1. A better understanding of where you fit in the big picture
Internships can provide cross-department work experience that even fully-fledged designers might not have. This exposure to various facets of a company will help you have a more holistic understanding of how your work contributes to the overall goals of the organization.
“I had the chance to sit in on client meetings, take direction from an art director, work with copywriters, traffic managers, developers as well as production staff and see the design process all the way from conception to final execution,” says Christopher Jones, principal designer at SeeJones Creative.
It’s hard to simulate a true production environment while in the safe confines of a classroom. In the real world, requirements & deadlines aren’t laid out on a syllabus and can change without notice. More often than not, your projects will require collaboration with other professionals. A graphic design internship will give you a much better idea of how a design project comes to life, and how to deal with the hiccups along the way.
2. Confidence working in a professional environment
“I became used to dressing the part every day, interacting with people on all levels of the business … attending interdepartmental networking events and office etiquette, everything that I needed to know as a working professional,” Jones says.
"I became used to dressing the part every day..."
If you’ve never worked in an office, it can take a little bit of time to learn the norms and adjust to a professional environment. You’re much better off committing an email faux pas as an intern than as a junior designer.
This is your opportunity to get your footing in a corporate setting while you still have some wiggle room. So figure it out now and avoid the look of disapproval from a future co-worker or boss down the road.
3. A network of industry contacts
One of the hardest things about starting a new career is finding an “in” somewhere. Internship experience helps you break through this barrier by giving you the chance to make a positive impression on your coworkers. This can be immensely helpful later on. Even if the place for which you interned isn’t hiring, someone you worked alongside might have connections to other potential employers.
Having a working relationship with professionals in your field is never a bad thing. You never know where you’ll find yourself in ten years, so work hard to make a good impression and don’t burn any bridges!
4. Exposure to new skills
In an ever-evolving industry like graphic design, new techniques and technologies are emerging every year. This means there’s a good chance you’ll have to acquire some skills that weren’t covered in your college curriculum. This could help you discover the specialization you were destined for (or the one you never want to encounter again!) Either way, you wouldn’t have known had you not tried it.
Jones says another important aspect of an internship experience is the opportunity to be “coached up” by design professionals. For example, he explains that his supervisor became a mentor by providing guidance on things like how to design within brand guidelines and when to push the boundaries—areas that are difficult to navigate without prior experience.
5. Validation in your career choice
As much as you may love the creative aspects of graphic design, there’s no better teacher than experience to tell you if this career choice is something you’ll love. One of the most valuable (yet overlooked) reasons to take on a design internship is that it gives you exposure to the things nobody tells you about being a professional graphic designer.
This validating experience is something Nancy Cleary of Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing looks back on fondly. After having seen the inner-workings of the design firm she interned with, she knew she had made the right career choice.
“It was all way more thrilling than classes and I wanted in,” Cleary says. “I saw exactly the life I wanted to live.”
6. Increased employability
“The internship looked fantastic on my resume,” Cleary says. “Real world experience cannot be beat.”
"Real world experience cannot be beat."
It’s safe to say you enrolled in college in hopes of landing a job after graduating. Completing an internship is a tried-and-true way to boost your resume to catch the eye of employers. They want proof that you know your stuff and can function in their environment. Internship experience is one of the best ways to give employers that proof.
It’s not just an advantage for finding a job, either. More experience can translate into higher earning potential. Jones, who completed multiple internships, says having a full year of experience plus a professionally-vetted portfolio of published work at graduation gave him an upper hand when negotiating compensation for his first professional design position. Now that’s something every designer should strive for!
First thing’s first...
There are a handful of benefits to pursue graphic design internships. After reading this, it might seem like a no-brainer for colleges to have students undergo this invaluable experience before entering the field.
The truth is that not all degree programs incorporate graphic design internships. The Rasmussen College School of Design acknowledges the importance of practical experience by including them within the curriculum, offering students course credits for interning in the field.
Learn more about how our program stands out from the rest in our article: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen College School of Design.