Embarking on a graphic design career can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to land your first internship. As a budding designer, you want real-world experience, a solid portfolio, and valuable connections in the industry.
In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through all the steps you need to find and land a graphic design internship. This includes everything from finding the perfect opportunity to crafting an eye-catching application. Let's kickstart your creative journey and help you secure that dream internship!
What’s a graphic design internship?
A graphic design internship is an important stepping stone for aspiring designers looking to immerse themselves in the competitive world of visual design. During the internship, participants work closely with seasoned professionals (often as part of a marketing team) on real-world design projects spanning various domains.
Interns may work in various roles, such as that of a production artist, to create print and digital assets for clients. They may also be exposed to elements of digital marketing, like creating social media content, email campaigns, and other online advertising designs.
The core objectives of a graphic design internship include honing practical design skills, fostering creativity, and learning about industry standards, workflows, and best practices. Interns gain hands-on experience working with cutting-edge design software like Adobe Creative Suite (which includes Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop) and collaborating on effective visual storytelling strategies.
These internship programs typically cater to students and recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees in graphic design, visual communication, or related fields. Ideal candidates demonstrate proficiency in design principles, color theory, typography, and layout design. Additionally, they possess the strong communication and teamwork skills vital for working with clients, colleagues, and cross-functional teams.
A graphic design internship lets budding designers sharpen their skills, broaden their professional network, and establish a competitive advantage in the job market. This experience sets the stage for a rewarding and successful career in the ever-evolving field of graphic design.
How to find a graphic design internship
Ready to jumpstart your search for the perfect graphic design internship? In the next section, we'll dive into effective strategies and resources to help you find the ideal opportunity. Get ready to embark on your creative career journey!
School career center
Career centers are staffed by knowledgeable professionals offering personalized guidance and access to exclusive internship opportunities matching your career goals and desired employment type. This avenue is ideal for students currently enrolled in a graphic design or related program, as they can tap into their school's network of industry connections and alumni.
Online job boards
Online job boards are websites where employers post job listings and internships for various industries. For graphic design students, specialized job boards like Behance, Dribbble, and AIGA Design Jobs are valuable resources for discovering graphic design internships.
Employers and job seekers come together at job fairs to network with industry professionals and potential team members. Find a job fair by looking for announcements from your school's career center and getting on local design organizations’ email lists. Prepare by researching the attending companies, updating your resume, and practicing your elevator pitch.
Conferences like Adobe MAX, HOW Design Live, and AIGA Design Conference offer networking opportunities with industry professionals and potential employers. Make the most of these events by researching the speakers and attendees, bringing your portfolio, and conversing with people who share your interests.
Graphic design competitions, such as the Adobe Design Achievement Awards or AIGA's annual competitions, provide opportunities to showcase your work, gain recognition, and land internships. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter and design blogs and websites are great for discovering new contests.
Research internships and jobs
Look for information on company culture, past intern projects, and expected responsibilities. Research different graphic design job roles to better understand potential career paths and the skills required for different options.
When sifting through internship postings and job descriptions, consider the job type (full-time or part-time) to ensure it aligns with your availability and commitments. You might also find seasonal opportunities, such as summer internships.
How to get (and nail) a graphic design internship interview
Now that you know how to find a graphic design internship, let’s review some tips for snagging that interview and getting hired.
Build a portfolio
A strong portfolio is crucial for showcasing your design skills and creativity. Here are some tips for building a great portfolio:
- Select your best projects. Include high-quality work that demonstrates your range of skills as a content creator. Include diverse examples in your portfolio, such as marketing materials, branding projects, and web design work.
- Include any design software you used for each project. This will help showcase your proficiency in various tools.
- Tell a story. Provide context and a brief description for each project, explaining your design process, objectives, and the final outcome.
- Keep it organized. Use a clean layout, clear navigation, and consistent visual branding across your portfolio.
- Update it regularly. Continuously refine and add new work to showcase your growth as a designer.
Prepare a resume
A well-crafted resume makes a lasting impression. Follow these tips to create an effective resume:
- Keep it concise. Limit your resume to one page, focusing on your most relevant work experience and achievements.
- Use action verbs. Begin each job description with a strong action verb, such as "designed," "collaborated," or "implemented."
- Highlight your skills. Clearly list your design software proficiencies, specialties, and relevant certifications.
- Include relevant coursework. Students and recent graduates can include coursework that showcases their graphic design knowledge.
Customize your cover letter
A tailored cover letter can help you stand out from other applicants. Consider these tips for writing a compelling cover letter:
- Address the hiring manager. Whenever possible, address your cover letter to the specific person responsible for hiring.
- Demonstrate your research. Show that you've researched the company by mentioning the values, projects, or clients that resonate with you.
- Showcase your skills. Highlight the skills and experiences that align with the internship's requirements, and explain how you can contribute to the company.
- Be concise and professional. Keep your cover letter to one page, and maintain a professional tone throughout.
Get ready for the interview
A successful interview is crucial in securing an internship and requires thorough preparation. Follow these tips to excel in your graphic design interview:
- Research the company. Deepen your understanding of the company's work, values, clients, and recent projects to show genuine enthusiasm and interest. Learn about their production design approach, the design team you'll potentially work with, and the company culture.
- Practice common questions. Prepare responses for typical interview questions, such as describing your design process, discussing your favorite projects, outlining your strengths and weaknesses, and explaining your long-term career goals. Be prepared to discuss your design process, favorite projects, goals as a designer, and examples of how you've applied creative thinking to solve design challenges.
- Bring your portfolio. Whether digital or printed, prepare to discuss specific projects and detail your role, design decisions, challenges, and outcomes. Ensure your portfolio is up-to-date and easily accessible on a tablet, laptop, or well-organized physical portfolio. Be sure to emphasize your self-motivated nature and ability to work independently on projects when discussing your graphic design experience.
- Dress professionally. Although the creative industry may have a more relaxed dress code, making a good first impression is crucial — even in a virtual interview. Dress professionally to show your respect for the opportunity and the company.
- Ask thoughtful questions. Prepare a list of insightful questions highlighting your interest in the company and internship opportunity. Inquire about the in-house team structure, senior graphic designers you’ll work with, mentorship opportunities, typical projects, and any expectations the company may have of its interns. This will help showcase your communication skills, which are essential for working effectively with clients and multidisciplinary teams.