Today I got offered an entry level graphic design internship, designing user interfaces, which has a good salary. However I have been offered a footwear design internship at a small minimalist running shoe company (unpaid position). My passion is with footwear, I know I will have fun there, however I fear this will ‘‘pigeon-hole’’ me as a designer. On the flip side, taking the graphic design position will expose me to something new and will broaden my skill-set. This position is also at big corporation and will look good on my resume.
Taking the graphic design position will pigeon hole you into something you are not passionate about but the footwear position will pigeon hole you in something you are passionate about.
Also, pigeon holing is entirely dependent on you and how you convey yourself. I was a footwear designer for 8 years. Now I run a multi disciplinary team at a CE company responsible for research, product strategy, opportunity assessment, product design, UX strategy, app design, packaging, and marketing creative.
You are your only limiter.
Now, all that said, money is something else. If you can afford to take the unpaid position temporarily, and you really are passionate about footwear and good at it, this is a non conversation.
If you can’t afford to take the unpaid position, but the other two hold try, put your negotiating hat on.
if you really aren’t that passionate about footwear and not that good at it, looks like you are going to take the visual design job.
Things are actually simple. Emotion confuses things, naturally, we are human. But boil all that off and the decisions make themselves.
Also consider your risk level now vs risk level later. I’m assuming you are younger, its easier to now to slum it a bit, living below your means in easier when you don’t have others to support (kids/wife/elderly parents/mortgage). (again assuming)
Also consider the cost of entry. Becoming a footwear designer vs Becoming a Visual designer in the long term? Which one has a harder barrier to entry? Both will require some form of experience to really seal the deal at the top level jobs. It is harder to get footwear/lifestyle experience or harder to get relevant visual design/graphic experience?
My advice: Do what you want to do. Money can always come later.
While expanding your skillset is great, if you already know that footwear is your passion and what you want long term, there’s no doubt in my mind what you should pick. Expanding skills is generally when you’re not too sure what to do so the more horizon you have, the better.
Based on your OP (I could be wrong), seems the whole salary thing isn’t that big of an issue, so try negotiating with the footwear place to see if they can accommodate you or see what means you have for taking it.
Thanks for all your thoughts, they definitely made me think about this decision in a new way. I have finally decided to go for the footwear internship, because its where my true interest lies. Who knows, I may have a talent for graphic design but at the end of the day i’m a product designer first.
Heres a bit of advice, whilst you learn as much as you can from getting your foot in the door (no pun intended) from your footwear gig why not utilise those graphic design skills in your evening?
If this is still an unpaid internship you could earn a bit of cash by freelancing as a graphic designer. Theres plenty of websites around where you can earn a quick buck doing layouts and logos - at least this way you can still be creative and not wait tables…