Internship Advice


There’s a lot of debates around graphic design internships at the moment and in some places its a dirty word. However, work experience is still the best place to learn most things and for everyone against internships there’s still a lot more in favour of them. We thought we’d talk to some of the industry’s best and see what they think! Lucky for you, we’ve scoured our TDK Interviews and picked out good comments from good design folk. Here are a few:

“My take on internships is that they are crucial and that they should be paid. We don’t currently take internships simply due to space but as soon as we are able to we will be launching an internship program. “
Christopher Doyle, Christopher Doyle & Co.
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“My take on internships? To visit people that inspire them. Make, experiment, discover themselves and make a lots of mistakes. Observe everyday life and reflect on what surrounds us. Do what you feel and not what you should be doing or what is trendy. We believe that the experience is by doing. It all depends on each person, but you can also gain experience by your own way and not within the framework of a company. They can also do collaborations with people in the industry or other fields. It is the era of flexibility and we believe there is no formula, and everyone has to discover what is the best for themselves.”

Luis Vale, Bardo
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“I think its important to start working in a studio as soon as possible, through internships, anything – even milk teats if you have to! But make sure you see everything as an opportunity. Think about what you’re doing, add value and use your initiative. And please understand, we don’t mean to not reply to all the emails that come through, so just keep trying!”
Michaela Webb, Studio Round

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“What’s your take on internships? Did you do any? and do you take interns now?
Every week we receive emails from eager comms and design students looking for internships, all willing to work for free. And while we think that is awesome, we believe that for an internship to be of value to both parties, then we need to invest our time in them. And time is at a premium here. So, rather than taking on interns year-round, we offer a Social Change summer internship once a year. This is always a paid position as we believe that everyone’s time should be valued. And, because we’re paying them, we put in the time, energy and effort to get as much out of our interns as we can. Having a focused and dedicated time for interns, makes for a much richer learning experience for everyone.”
Jade Tang & Eddy Helm, Curative
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“Internships are great opportunities. I’ve seen some students thrive and take the opportunity with both hands, but I’ve also seen many just go through the motions and be grateful to get away from lectures. Businesses can approach them similarly. Either a chance to develop and shape young talent, or a tick in the box to feel like they’re giving back. The cynic in me says they’re too often treated as cheap labour. But when the 2 positives combine, great things can happen.

We’ve recently tried a different approach. We partnered with UTS to run a 3 month incubator. Teams of students working on (and owning) specific projects with mentoring from us. They have full access to the inner workings of the agency as well as the Founders of the business. It seems to work well, we’ve learnt plenty from it though and are looking forward to the next one being even better. Our journal / podcast was one of these projects.”
Andy Wright, For the People Agency 
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“How I got started in the industry? During high school and university, I would do freelance graphic design work as well as design and code websites for my dad. I took any opportunity I could to build my experience in graphic design, Flash, HTML and CSS – whether that was entering design comps, doing internships or just offering my services up for free. I was eager to learn and practice my craft as much as I could. Due to my digital design background, I was quite fortuitous at the QCA graduate exhibition industry night. I was invited for many interviews with various studios in Brisbane and luckily, Josephmark was one of them. They hired me straight out of uni and I’ve been working here for the last six years.”
Alex Naghavi, Josephmark
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“What was your original plan before you graduated for getting a job and how does that compare to what really happened?
My original plan was to apply for internships at a few studios I had lined up through Billy Blue. Working towards this a little early in my final semester, I started putting my work online and a friend-of-a-friend came across my Loop profile. As the Internet would have it this person forwarded the link to their Creative Director and CEO and next minute I was being offered a job at an amazing design agency called Houston. So I guess it was a combination of being organised, lucky and Nicole thinking I would be a good fit for Houston – thanks Nic!”
Gabby Lord
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“Know your rights. As much as we and other job noticeboards try to curate and cull dodgy internships, the inevitable fact is that they do exist. Check out the Australian Fair Trading Act/Fairwork Ombudsman, know how you can lodge complaints, ask questions about expenses and any costs covered and if the internship can be credited to any study/ potential employment etc. If the employer is mad coy or clueless, then you’d probably want to think twice about applying in the first place. Know when to leave. Employers will probably hate me for saying this but if your internship is making you feel like shit/free labour then don’t put up with it. If you have a contract, double check the earliest time for you to leave and get the hell out of there. Don’t completely dismiss small companies. Sometimes the best place to dabble in different departments (especially if you’re unsure of where your expertise lies) is in start-up, small enterprise environments. Use this time to network, build contacts, acquire skills and bask in the industry. Have a positive attitude about it (despite the unpaid factor) and you’ll definitely get more from your experience as an intern.”
Abi Cruz, Pedestrian Jobs
(Abi works for AUS Pedestrian Jobs, one of our jobs partners)