Qualities to Look for in a Design Intern

Consumers spend five hours each day on their smartphones. Much of this time is devoted to browsing brand websites, searching for product information, and just under 2 hours each day is devoted to perusing social media feeds. Essentially, consumers are bombarded with images and videos all day long. They have become expert at assessing the quality of a photograph or design within a split second. Furthermore, because of this incessant barrage of imagery, many consumers think visually. Shoppers, today, don’t want to spend extra time reading through product descriptions and analysis; instead, they want to be able to accurately assess quality through strong imagery. The constant exposure to photography and videos has made  branded visual content more significant than ever.

In an effort to meet the increasing visual demands of industry standards, many organizations are boosting their design departments by adding interns. Contrary to the old-school approach of bringing on interns to make coffee and organize mail, these positions are intended to bring value and fresh perspectives to a team’s visual creative content strategy. Because of these specific intentions and goals, organizations cannot simply blindly select resumes from a pile. Instead, they have to find marketing interns who can not only handle the demands of a fast-moving department, but can also offer their own unique design ideas and persuasions. Here are 3 criteria for assessing design intern candidates.

Interesting Social Media Pages

Design intern candidates are likely still undergraduate students with minimal professional experience. Although these kids may not have built brands and projects for professional clients yet, they (likely) have work examples to show in the form of their own social media accounts. Design intern applicants came of age with social media accounts, which means they are highly comfortable with creating and distributing content that represents themselves. To get a sense of the range of their design skills, as well as their taste, you can ask to see content examples from their personal social media feeds, including stylized event and wedding photos, hand-drawn illustrations, travel photography, or stop-motion videos.

Proficiency of Basic Design Tools

Most likely your design team is already slammed with work on a daily basis and won’t have time to walk interns through basic design programs. When you’re interviewing potential candidates, be sure to ask them specific questions about their experience and comfortability with programs like Photoshop and Illustrator. If candidates can bring in academic portfolios showcasing their work on these programs you’ll gain an even better understanding of the range of their skills and experience levels.

Awareness of Design Trends

Like fashion and food, there are always emerging design trends on the horizon. Even if your company owns a strong visual identity that you are not looking to evolve or veer away from, interns who demonstrate an in-depth awareness of happenings in the design field show a commitment to a field. If a candidate is truly passionate about design, and excited about the prospect of working for a real-design team, they will likely have studied on their own. For interns, enthusiasm and passion often translates to hard-work on the job. Furthermore, if your team is small and there’s a chance the intern will be in a client-facing situation, you want to feel confident that they will possess the awareness and knowledge to speak to clients and customers about design decisions and projects in an educated fashion.

There’s an abundance of resources intended to guide students through the process of landing their first internships. But it’s just as important for companies to prepare and invest time strategizing an intern’s place on a team. With proper planning and vetting, the right interns can offer cutting-edge visual insight and invaluable project support to take your designs to the next level.

Mike John

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