Five things I learned about the design process during my first internship

Going into this summer, I thought I had plenty of experience working with a team as a designer, but there was so much more I had to learn.

Since this is my last week at Iowa Catholic Radio (ICR) as a social media intern, I thought I would reflect on some of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the last few months. Some of this might seem like common sense to designers with more experience, but these were the skills that I learned during one of my first jobs in the field.

I knew that I would help ICR with their design, but I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take a look at the brand as a whole and start from scratch. One of the main reasons I was excited to help ICR redesign is that I wanted to help them get a sense of brand identity.

I’ve learned so many valuable skills this summer, the first being the importance of putting your ego aside and understanding someone else’s point of view.

For me, understanding that an audience thinks and interacts with content much differently was one of the most challenging aspects of redesigning the ICR brand.

So with that being said, I’ll cover a few skills I learned this summer!

1. There is so much more to design than working by yourself on a project.

A crucial part of the design process is communicating.

Up until this point, I had mostly worked on small group projects in some of my college courses.

Although being personally satisfied with the end result of a project is important, at the end of the day, it’s about how your audience views the content that matters most.

Understanding someone’s frustrations, their problems, their way of reacting to content is the first step to creating good design. This includes both the audience consuming your content and the people helping you create it.

2. Learn to collaborate with people who approach a problem differently than you.

Working with other people who have different skill sets that you, will only give you an insight on how your user thinks and how the greater population of your user base behaves. This is because not everyone thinks or interacts with content like a designer does.

It was a both a challenging and a refreshing experience to work alongside peers who specialize in a different field than I do, which is why I look forward to the opportunity in the future.

3. Set a deadline for every stage of the design process.

My first impression to setting a deadline, was that it would be a waste of time. Why spend time talking about a project when you can just present all the details once it’s finished? In the past, I preferred to work independently and then present my work. However, after this experience I’ve seen the value in setting goals along the way and getting feedback from others.

Communication with your peers is important to success — even if it’s something as simple as presenting an update on a project. Talking through ideas early on not only benefits you as a designer, but it will make you a better team player. It will ensure that everyone is on the same page.

4. Learn to think from an analytical perspective.

Design is about an emotional perspective of what your user’s needs are, but it’s also about presenting information to them in a way that is easily consumable.

I think that designers (myself included) sometimes get caught up in how something looks rather than its value or function.

Presenting from both an analytical and visually appealing perspective will develop a sense of trust with your audience. You give them the information they want, but you also care about how that information is presented to them.

Sometimes the most positive reaction to a design is when it takes the user off-guard, because effective design should be invisible.

5. Learn to take feedback as an area for improvement.

One of the hardest skills I learned this summer was to approach a design with an unbiased perspective and to not become too emotionally attached to an idea. It’s important to remember that a differing opinion is about your design is not an attack on you personally or on your abilities, but it’s constructive criticism to make the end result stronger.

At the end of the day, it’s not what I think is best and what my vision is, but what fits into ICR’s vision.

Final Thoughts

Interning at ICR was not only a great learning experience, but it was incredibly rewarding. Social Media was one passion I wanted to explore in digital design/communication, and I’m glad I took the time to do that.

You can view some of the projects I was a part of here. Enjoy reading this article? Give it a clap and share it with someone who might enjoy it! I’ll be posting more reflections like this, so be sure to give me a follow here.