How to get graphic design internships
This post is all about how to get graphic design internships in London, UK as a recent graduate.
I know it’s that time of year again where there is a lot of deadlines. Or maybe you have already finished uni and are enjoying a few weeks or months of unstressed bliss before you start your next adventure (I know I did). I know the last thing you maybe want to think about are internships or what’s going to happen next. But, it is worth a thought and maybe a bit of organisation so after you come off you’re well deserved break you’re not feeling left behind or out of touch.
So personally for me I did organise most of my internships over the summer I graduated. However, actually didn’t do a lot of them until a few months later.
I allowed myself time to travel and have a bit of a break which I think is perfectly healthy. So don’t let people tell you, you’re going to ‘miss the
boat’ if you don’t do a million and 1 internships over the summer because it’s just not true.
However, it is good to probably book some of them in over the summer just in case your dream studios have the whole year booked out during New Blood (which is in July).
Remember most internships are a month long. So that means only 12 graduates a year per studio unless they’re big enough to house many. Not to mention you may be competing against 2nd year students and older graduates like myself. If you want to read about my thoughts and feelings on being a graphic design intern, I will leave the blog post I did here.
SO HOW DO YOU GET INTERNSHIPS?
I have compiled a list of a few steps which I took in order to gain experience at some of my dream studios. I am obviously missing out the most important 1 which is to have a portfolio! But you already probably know this.
1. HAVE A BRAND.
So at Falmouth University we had 1 whole semester dedicated for us to brand ourselves and figure out our design future. However, I know not all University’s do this or, you may have been so busy you actually haven’t had a chance to do it. But having a brand is very important, it means studios can find you easily amongst thousands of other graduates. It also can showcase your branding skills.
So what do you need for a successful brand as a graphic designer?
- A website showcasing your work
- A branded portfolio
- Business cards
- All social media (LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Behance, Pinterest, Facebook Page etc)
Ultimately you want studios to be able to find you easily on all platforms. So that means having the same @ handles, same profile picture, colours and overall branding to be consistent.
I don’t know about you but, when you haven’t met someone in real life (or even have in some cases) and you try to find them online, you’re met with loads of people with the same name. A profile picture that isn’t the clearest or it changes from platform to platform or you can’t quite tell if its them or not. By creating a brand identity it will solve all of that.
In terms of what your brand looks like, that is completely up to you. But, I found the simpler the better, choose a font and colour and keep them the same across everything, voila. I will leave my Behance self branding project here.
2. Utilise Social Media.
In this day and age everyone uses social media, especially studios. The best way to get a studio to notice you is to follow them on all their social media platforms. This not only keeps you up to date with what is going on in the design world but, also lets you know if they’re looking for interns or have a job opening. I have found not many studios advertise openings on websites like Indeed because they’re looking for people with a genuine interest in their studio. Social Media is also great for the studio because with 1 click they can quickly see your work on a grid layout.
The best social media platform in terms of work I would say is LinkedIn. I didn’t have this until third year but I would highly recommend that if you don’t have it to set one up right now. It may seem a bit pointless while still at uni as you’re only adding your peers (but trust me it’s nice to see what everyone is up to when you go your separate ways). But for when you actually start interning and meet designers at events, or interviews or even internships you will start to set up a design community.
If you want to get in touch with a certain studio and don’t know anyone there, 9 times out of 10 another designer from another studio will know a connection there. What you will begin to learn is that the design community is in fact very small. LinkedIn is also great for keeping in touch with studios you interned at and also to let them know what you’re up to after interning there.
Before even sending out any emails do your research! Make sure you have checked out the studios website, social media etc and make sure that it is somewhere you actually want to go and feel you will be a great fit for.
I actually have a tab folder of studios that yes I definitely want to intern at and another 1 of maybes I could give them a go if my yes ones don’t get back to me. It is a waste of your time and the studios time if you’re sending out emails willy nilly with no thought or passion involved.
Evidence you research
If you want to go into branding and packaging make sure you have evidence of that in your portfolio. If for instance you don’t have any relevant work but, would like to try that area of design then explain that in your email.
I have probably only sent out around 20 emails since graduating and have had responses from around half and internships from 5 because I focus my energy onto that studio.
When I left I was told from previous graduates to send out hundreds of emails as you will only hear back from like 3 studios but, to be honest that’s not true. I don’t know what they were doing but, obviously something very wrong.
All you have to do is do a bit of research and target certain studios. Cater towards them, figure out what they will want to see and be specific to them. That leads me onto…
4. Specific email addresses.
Now out of the 20 emails I have sent the 10 that I didn’t hear back from were studios where I sent my portfolio and CV over to the firstname.lastname@example.org email address which I found on their website. This evidently doesn’t work. My email probably got missed with all of their other emails, went into their spam folder or possibly they didn’t like what they saw and wouldn’t give me the time of day… haha.
So I would suggest hunting down someone who works at the studios email address. You could ask your lecturers as they have probably been in the design industry and may know a few contacts. You can ask fellow alumni who are now in the industry.
Or if all else fails most of the time you only need to find out their name which you can probably see on LinkedIn and send it to email@example.com. 9 times out of 10 that’s the email address they have been given. If that doesn’t work try different variations of that until the email doesn’t bounce back.
Who to target in your emails
In terms of the people to target, I wouldn’t go for the creative directors or even senior designers as most of the time they will be too busy to reply to you. (This happened to me with Turner Duckworth…) B
Try and target junior or middleweight designers as they will have the time. Also if they like you, they will show you to the senior or creative directors to try and get you in for an internship.
5. Sending the emails
Now you have got everything set in place, it is now time to send the emails. Like I have mentioned previously tailor the emails to each individual studio, this takes more time but it is more effective.
Format of the email
I like to include a paragraph about myself and my design style. Talk about 1 piece of work that I really like that the studio has done. Then a closing paragraph about why I would like to intern there, when I’m free and I hope to talk though my portfolio with them in person.
Be a bit of a kiss ass but not too cringey, haha. Keep it to about 100-300 words. Make sure you attach your CV and portfolio and double check for spelling mistakes!
Also sending your emails mid week seems to be better than over the weekend or Monday morning when the studio will have a lot to go through in their inbox already.
Tailoring the email
Being specific and tailoring each email also stops that awful horrible, stomach churning scenario where you send out emails to wrong studios. Do not bcc loads of studios in 1 email, I repeat do not do that! 1 guy did that in my year and it went wrong, it’s is like committing design suicide. As previously mentioned everyone knows everyone in the industry and it just makes you out to be careless and lazy and your name will get around.
So instead I suggest sitting down and maybe writing one really good email a day or when you have the time. I personally didn’t want to overload my inbox or calendar as I knew I wanted to go travelling. So I took 1 studio at a time and had it organised and booked in before I moved onto another studio. For me this helped the process from feeling way too chaotic and stressful and stopped double bookings. Sending emails, replying to them and going for interviews can feel like a full time job if, you send too many or are too over ambitious.
6. The Interview
Next up is the interview which to be honest is its own separate blog post which I will link here. But if you do get an interview with them congratulate yourself, you have got your foot through the door!
That is is for my 5 simple steps on how to get graphic design internships or at least getting to the interview stage. I hoped this helped any new graduates out there who are feeling daunted by the whole situation.
Like I said, this process worked extremely well for me as I have interned at most of studios I have had my eye on. But, this formula may not work for everyone. Test the waters and maybe you will find your own successful formula.
I wish everyone the best of luck and if you get knocked down, like we all do, get back up again and keep trying. Ask the studio why they didn’t like you so you can improve. (You bet I have done this before and they were more than happy to help.) But ultimately it’s not the end of the world and maybe it was for the best. You can always try again when you’re ready.
Lots of love, Melissa x