Will Intern for....well, nothing.

I’ve seen a few post of what I am suspecting are professionals telling young design students that they can find internships even if they don’t have all the experience as lets say an upperclassman would have. My questions is how do you ask/beg a design firm to let you come in and learn? I talked to many many firms, most in the NYC area and none of them seemed really interested unless they could use you on a project. None of them seemed to “have room” for someone to come in and just see how design works in the real world, and gain knowlage from it. So what’s a good way to go about convincing firms to give you a chance to learn with them, instead of just comming to them with experience?

Get out of NYC, maybe people will be more generous… I don’t know.
I have seen internship postings that clearly states that they don’t pay, so I say there is a possibility.

The key is to convince the firm that you are going to generate value for their clients. Obviously you are going to learn from your experience there, but no one wants to hear the words, “give me an internship so I can use your time, money, and resources as a summer school” or the subtle equivalent. It’s an unspoken truth: you’re going to learn a shitload. Even though you’d be an intern, the person doing the hiring wants to know he can put you on a project without too much trouble.

It seems hard to convince people to hire you to “generate value” when you have little or no experience. All you can do is show the work you’ve done in a genuinely passionate way, be excited about what you’ve done even if its a freshman year modelmaking project. Don’t pretend to have more experience and don’t pretend to be an “expert” in anything. The guys with the keys were once lowly design peons and know what it’s like to look for summer work, so don’t pretend to be something you’re not.

Firms definitely want you to have the basic skills to get moving on projects right away but they also are looking to see whether you learn quickly and are adaptable. But don’t say “hey look at me I’m adaptable.” Show them through stories of past projects where you took on more than you could chew but came out alright or better than you were before.

The hardest part is that the only tools you have to show them you’ve got the right stuff are a one page resume, possibly a portfolio you throw in the mail, and an hour or so of interview time … so make it all count.

Good luck.

I’ll second everything Sam said. and add a couple:

  1. You are brinning another perspective/a fresh one (hopefully) and it’s not like a perspective of an accountant who just dropped by, you have a mindset of an IDer, and you do have some basic skills.
  2. If you can sketch well and render, well you can colour the sketches. They probably won’t let you render the final final important stuff. But those 30-50 concept sketches should always look better with some color on them. So even if you won’t be generating concepts, you’ll help out the sketcher by rendering.
  3. You know how to use the internet and the library, so you may be sent to do some research. And bring back summary.

Easier to get into a company if you meet one of the designers there, share your passion and get them to take you under their wing. Get one of your teachers to put you in touch with an alumni… go from there.

hope it helps

Can you scan sketches? I think that will be a pretty valuable skill.

But seriously, you are only a freshman. I don’t suppose your level of sketching can meet what they need. You can’t offer much technical support ID wise, so what you can contribute is the odd jobs, like scanning, mounting presentation boards and stuffs. Those are the things that are time consuming and will be a waste of money for the company if they get their designers to do it. That’s when you come into the picture. I’ve done it all, even making image boards or to decorate the display area. Even if they ask you to do some paper work or simply filing, you never know what you may be filing. For me, I was filing the different paperwork for their patent applications, so I get to read all their secrets. When you scan sketches, you get to have a closer look at their designs. When you decorate their display areas, you get more exposure to the details of their products. There’s always something to learn. IF I were you, I will make it clear that I can’t do anything technical for them, but can offer free laborious services. They don’t even need to teach you anything. You observe.

Thanks for the imput guys! Actually I’m a Junior at RIT, so I think I have plenty of skills to offer, I was just relaying some frustration that I encountered last year when I was a sophmore trying to get an internship. I know I have a lot more to offer this time around, but I’m not always sure how to approch the cold call, or sell myself the right way.

It all depends on what you can bring to the table. Consultancies are busy by nature, they don’t have time to slow down and teach/manage interns. If you are there, you are expected to produce, even if that means scanning sketches or dropping off artworks.

But even if you end up doing lackey work, I think you will be able to pick up many things about the industry. Being there is 100% better than not being there.


I am an RIT alum ( 93 ). If you are a junior right now, then this summer is a good time to intern.

If you are looking to stay local to ROC, then you should research KEK down the street.

Also consider part time, getting in somewhere 2 days a week is better than not at all. Less risk for the office.