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8 Ways That a Graphic Design Internship Can Help Your Career

by | Sep 10, 2020 | Internships, Recruiting, Student Life

So you’re ready to step into an exciting graphic design internship? There’s a world of opportunity out there, with plenty of great companies looking to support their teams with fresh new talent and inspire the next generation of designers. 

While there’s some understandable questioning around how much design work you’ll actually get to do, we still think that graphic design internships are an amazing introduction to the industry. Here are several big reasons why landing that internship is valuable, and how you can find the right match.

What Does a Graphic Design Internship Involve?

Graphic Design Internship: Intern's hand and other designer tools on a table

Like most internships, graphic design interns tend to support the teams they work with and learn new skills along the way. Interns are usually paired up with a graphic designer as a kind of in-house mentor, to help show you the ropes. You could be asked to help with creating new files, editing existing files, research, report writing, printing, and distribution. 

The details of the work you get involved with will vary depending on the company you intern with. Some design firms will have you working on brand identity projects, while in others you might be supporting the creation of marketing materials for businesses. If you have a preference, look for companies that specialize in your area of interest. 
You might also like our podcast, The Internship Show, where we speak to the heads of internship programs at leading companies.

8 Benefits of Landing a Graphic Design Internship

The right internship can really help you jump start your career and take you from graphic design student to designer. Here are some of the benefits that taking part in a graphic design internship can bring you.

1. Find Your Place in the Industry

The beauty of graphic design is that you’re very rarely pigeonholed into a box. There’s a lot of room to explore, grow, and develop your skills across new mediums and niches. As an artist, your unique style and artistic sense can translate across different departments and specialties. 

Here are just a few of the possible career areas you could explore within the industry:

  • Brand design
  • Brochure design
  • Illustration
  • Digital design
  • User experience (UX) design
  • Web design

Getting the chance to work with multiple teams across various projects gives you a good understanding of your role as a designer. It also exposes you to other areas of the company, so you’ll get a crash course in how the organization works and how everyone’s roles contribute to a bigger goal. 

As an intern, you might get the chance to sit in on client meetings, collaborate with copywriters, take direction from an art director or creative director, and really see the design process from start to finish. And with a graphic design internship, you’ll get access to cross-department work experience that many new hires don’t have. 

You might also work with interns in other departments, like marketing interns. These are lessons you just can’t learn in the classroom, with deadlines and requirements neatly laid out in a syllabus. A graphic design internship gives you a much better idea of how a design project comes to life, how to deal with the hiccups along the way, and which parts of the process really light you up. 

2. Build a Better Portfolio 

For graphic designers, like other creative professionals, a portfolio of past work is incredibly powerful. In fact, your portfolio might be the biggest factor in you securing those dream jobs in the future than anything else. 

Talented graphic designers often get work because a client or employer looked at their portfolio and found something they loved. It might be your artistic style, or the way you made an impact on a previous project. 

Start building your portfolio early by adding in samples of work from your graphic design internship. Not only will you be able to impress future recruiters with your high quality work, but you’ll be able to show that you have experience in working across teams to take something from idea to reality. 

3. Meet the Right People 

Graphic Design Internships: Designers planning

In today’s busy world, sometimes the key to getting discovered is all about who you know. Landing a graphic design internship position gives you the opportunity to get to know new and influential people. 

Make the most of this chance by really immersing yourself in the company. Spend time with your co-workers, support them, and be curious. 

Making the right impression on your co-workers helps you far beyond your internship. Even if the company can’t keep you on after your internship, someone you worked alongside might be able to connect you to another opportunity. 

It’s always a good idea to build a positive relationship with your co-workers, as you never know where it might take you. Avoid tension and burning bridges at all costs — one day that co-worker might be on the hiring committee for a dream job. 

4. Learn New Skills 

Graphic design is one of those industries that just keeps evolving, with new techniques and technologies emerging every year. Even the most up-to-date college curriculum won’t give you the same exposure to skills, technology, and software that an in-depth internship can. 

Graphic design internships are one of the best ways to familiarize yourself with software and tools that industry pros use. While you can learn how they work in college or through self study, that real world experience of working on a live project can help you unlock a better understanding. Depending on your internship, you might be working with a range of programs. A popular choice is Adobe Creative Cloud, formerly known as Adobe Creative Suite, which features programs like:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • InDesign
  • Adobe XD
  • Dreamweaver
  • After Effects

You’ll usually find some programs easier to use than others. This can help you shape your career path, as you’ll either be encouraged to learn it or realize that another specialty is your calling. 

Beyond learning new tools, you might pick up new special skills as part of your internship. You could find yourself discovering more about typography, or getting involved in motion graphics projects. You might even find that your interests lie in digital design, and consider making a move over to web design instead. 

Alongside all these special design skills, your internship will also give you the ideal chance to perfect your soft skills. The environment gives you plenty of room to work soft skills, including:

  • Communication skills
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership abilities
  • Time management
  • Networking
  • Creative thinking

These experiences are not only useful in your professional life, but they help you grow as a person too. 

5. Make Yourself More Employable

With several years of study behind you, we know how eager you are to land that first design job. While you’re busy helping out in the design or digital marketing department and learning new skills, you’re making yourself more employable every day. Your graphic design internship could help transform you into the ideal candidate for an impressive job.

Internships look great on a resume, as they show that you have real life experience working on graphic design projects. Your internship shows that you can function well in a work environment and handle the daily routines of industry life. You have valuable experience in design work, collaboration, and contributing to the success of a company. That’s something you can’t learn in design school. 

Having a full year of part-time or full-time industry experience can also translate into a better starting salary. You’re no longer starting at the bottom, so you can use your experience and portfolio to negotiate improved compensation for future opportunities. 

6. Explore New Cities

Beautiful City

If you’re moving into the world of work from college, you might be considering a move to a new city. Landing a prized internship in a big city like New York or Los Angeles can give you the chance to explore somewhere new. 

Moving for a paid internship is a great way to get to know the world around you. You’ll also be able to get a feel for the city, understand which companies are based there, and figure out whether it’s somewhere you’d like to make a more permanent move to after your internship is over.

Even if you don’t move to a new location for your internship, you’ll still be exploring new areas of your town or city. You’ll get to know your favorite local coffee shops and discover the best places to unwind on your lunch break. Stepping into the workplace means that you get to know your location in a more well-rounded way. 

7. Gain a Valuable Mentor

Internships are a great way to meet new people who work in the same field as you. They’re also one of the best ways to find a valuable mentor who you can stay in touch with beyond your time on that design team. Good mentors are worth their weight in gold and can often help you secure interviews, make valuable connections, and answer your questions about graphic design. 

This kind of lasting career support and guidance is incredibly helpful as you navigate the first few years in your career. You might even find ways you can give back in the future, for example, by suggesting future interns to your mentor or recommending the company to potential clients. 

8. Validate Your Career Choices 

With a career in the arts ahead of you, chances are you’ve encountered some criticism in your path. Maybe your family doesn’t understand your choices, or your friends think being a graphic artist is a risky career move. This can lead to doubts that you didn’t have before. Landing an internship and spending time in the industry is the best way to validate your career choice — whether that’s to stay in design or try something new. 

There’s no better teacher than experience. Your graphic design internship will give you the chance to road test the career. You’ll get to see the fun side of working on creative projects, balanced alongside the tough deadlines and competing client demands. It’s a fast-paced industry, which some people love and others struggle with. 

While you can read about the industry online, some things you only learn through your own experience. Your internship might reaffirm your decision that graphic design is where you belong. It could also expose you to another profession that you hadn’t considered before — like social media marketing or project management. You’ll also learn a lot about the company you work for, and whether it’s a culture that fits with your own outlook on life. All of this can help you decide whether graphic design is the right choice for you. 

Where to Find the Perfect Graphic Design Intern Jobs

Designer hands and color palettes

Now that you’re excited about the benefits that an internship can bring you, you might be wondering where you can find internship opportunities. The good news is that at Scholars we’ve made it easy for you to find and apply for graphic design internships. You can also create an account so that internship program managers can get in touch with you if they have a suitable opportunity.

While it’s not always about who you know, it doesn’t hurt to explore your network too. Ask friends and family if they know of anyone looking for a graphic design intern. If they do, try to secure an introduction or a recommendation from them on your behalf. 

Navigate the World of Graphic Design Internships With Confidence

Leaving the world of study and stepping into industry life is a big step. You’re about to make the jump into working alongside others and experiencing real client projects. It might sound challenging, but it’s a lot of fun too. You’ll be learning new skills, growing your network, and discovering your own unique style and preferences. 

With the right graphic design internship under your belt, the transition to your first design job will be that much smoother.

About Scholars

Scholars helps companies build engaging candidate experiences at scale. Create personalized journeys for all of your candidates from application through onboarding.

About Scholars

Internships and early-career jobs are unlike any others. They are often accepted months, if not years, in advance of the start date leaving plenty of time for candidates to change their minds and decide to work elsewhere, costing your team time and money.

There are two ways that have been proven to decrease renege rates for any company: keeping candidates engaged by sharing personalized information and helping them make connections with their future teammates. Companies use Scholars to accomplish both of these at scale.