The Year of the Intern
A journal from my year of design internships.
Sitting in my senior level industrial design class at the University of Washington, I received an email with an offer for a spring internship at Smart Design in New York City. This opportunity fell directly in the middle of my senior thesis, and meant taking this leap would force me to forgo my degree some four short months before graduation. To leave felt unconventional, daunting and lonely. To go felt monumental, career shifting, empowering.
I faced this pivotal question; should I take a year off from my degree with just twelve weeks left to graduate? Would an offer like this present itself in the future? And if I go, will I ever come back?
Some short weeks later, I dragged my bags up a four story walk up in Harlem. This was the beginning of hacking my otherwise traditional design education, towards creating something I could truly call my own. I turned a controversial opportunity into something I’ll cherish forever - the year of the intern.
Following my three-month stint in New York at Smart Design, I crafted a design tour of internships across vastly different disciplines and locations. I spent a lakeside summer in the Midwest understanding furniture at Herman Miller as the first design intern in its 96-year history, followed by a rainy fall in Seattle designing airplane interiors at global design consultancy TEAGUE. Take a look at some of my take-away's and projects overviews!
Spring in NYC
Smart Design is a strategic design company that helps people live better and work smarter. Powered by passion and purpose, launching category-defining products and experiences is their specialty. Smart is known for pioneering human-centered design philosophy, which is implemented in the OXO product line, however their range of products is far and wide.
TYPES + ROLE
Visual Brand Language
User Interview Notation
While working full time at Smart, I pursued an intern project before and after hours. Upon meeting NYC IDSA President, Peter Schon, I was recruited to be the designer for a
Waste Management Receptacle for a 2019 New York City proposal. It is currently being evaluated for its implementation onto the streets - check it out!
AT SMART DESIGN
1. Learn to sprint.
In the consultancy world, project turn around time can be speedy. Learn to ideate and capture your thoughts in a sprint. Best to be brief and articulate.
2. Word smith it.
I was shocked by the level of fine tuning that went into specific word choices! When weeks of research is synthesized into design criteria, every word counts.
3. Capture your thoughts.
Taking on multiple projects, with many moving parts, can be tough to keep track of. Jot down all thoughts, questions, etc! A work journal is your tool for success.
Summer in Michigan
Herman Miller is a 100-plus-year-old company, founded in Zeeland, Michigan. By the middle of the 20th century, the name Herman Miller had become synonymous with “modern” furniture. Working with legendary designers George Nelson and Charles and Ray Eames, the company produced pieces that would become classics of industrial design. In 2018, the company decided to form its first internal design team (shifting from solely contract work). In 2019, I became their first design intern, the third designer and only female on this team.
TYPES + ROLE
CAD + Rendering
Desk + Storage Series
During the last month of my time at Herman Miller, my teammates Joe Van Faasen and Jesse Hill mentored me through a personal project. I spent a great deal of time researching a gap in the HM portfolio to frame my project direction. From research, ideation, to building a (robust) full scale mock-up. On my last day, I presented my concept to several CFO's and Design Directors. Interested in learning more about this project? Check it out here.
AT HERMAN MILLER
1. Understand your history.
There is such rich design history within the walls of Herman Miller. Design does not operate in a vacuum, often we refer back to previous trends and innovative work. I deeply understood this importance during my time here.
2. Talk with passion.
A good idea isn't actionable until you can share it. I learned the importance of speaking clearly, confidently and passionately when sharing my ideas and comments.
3. Seek critique.
Seeking critique is the best way to improve your offering. I found myself unsure how to progress with an idea, and summoning to courage to ask for feedback - and I was always thankful I had.
TYPES + ROLE
TEAGUE is a design company that creates new products, services, and experiences from emerging technologies and human aspirations for a better world.
CAD + Rendering
Full Scale Mock-Up
Hyperloop Client Proposal
Brainstorming + Synthesis
Client Facing Sketches
CAD for VR Walk Through
I pursued a personal project in addition to my studio work. Focusing on the intersection of accessibility and communication within the travel experience, I tackled the pain points of accessibility design. Individuals with a hidden disability are often at a disadvantage when navigating their travel experience as they lack access to extra assistance. SunBeacon is the next evolution of the Sunflower Lanyard Program. By providing clear yet discrete identification, personalized communication and reduced stigma in this unobtrusive wearable, passengers may seek the level of care they need.
1. Human Factors.
Whether designing for the intricacies of an assist handle or entire cabin architecture, human interaction is intimately tied to human factors.
After collecting valuable research assets, the synthesis and connection of points is critical to set the path towards the meat of the design solution. Grab your caffeinated co-workers, stickie notes and prepare to sleep in your project room!
3. Learn the language.
Learn your stakeholders! The best way to build empathy for the equal stakeholders is understanding their stance. Break down their language and speak in these terms.
Journal style inspired by Audrey Levy.