Life is like a giant Choose Your Own Adventure book. I’d like to welcome you to a chapter of my life. Here are some insights on how I got to where I am now and what I learned along the way. Let’s get this adventure started, Digital Surgeons style.
Getting Vaporized (Ouch!)
Nine AM on a Monday morning, there’s no better place to be than an office full of what you will quickly come to call family, doing what they love, and welcoming you to join in on the fun. Day 1 of the internship I get handed a creative brief for a mock microsite: Vapor. Mention Vapor to any designer at DS and they’ll hiss at you in disgust. We’ve purged our machines of any associated files and deny having designed for it. Why? Because, in retrospect, we realized we’ve improved exponentially since our humble beginnings at DS and that it’s embarrassing to look back. I began my internship at the start of my final semester of undergrad. Within a week at DS, my workflow changed radically. Like most workplace environments, they helped me improve my organizational and management skills I needed to be a better team member. What set DS apart was that every week I was asked “how can we change to make you better, faster?”
When you walk, you lose your balance—then catch it, lose your balance—then catch it: you’re repeatedly and intentionally making the choice to trade stability for progress. Digital Surgeons was a semester of doubt, change, and renewal for me, all in the name of trading stability for progress. And one of the first steps I had to take led me towards understanding myself and what it meant to be a web designer: I am not a designer. I’m a ringleader.
Armed with a metaphorical chair and non-threating phrase, “down Simba, down!” I gladly step into the ring with the web, an ever-changing beast full of flaws, imperfection, and experimentation. And that’s why I love it. My semester of interning ranged from blog headers and print work, and progressed to designing full-blown websites. In that time, I came to realize that web and print are far from synonymous because you’re catering to users as well as target audiences. Overall, web design breaks down to 20 percent visual design and 80 percent information architecture, usability, experience, and all that good UX mumbo jumbo. With search engines and social sharing allowing users to essentially land on any page and start interacting with the information, web design demands a bit of foresight and a deep understanding of user flow. But usability and design means nothing without content. Whether you have to write it yourself or sell your soul to a wordsmith, content is the heart of your design. Once I got that down I started to realize that, unlike our title suggests, we pixel pimps are tasked with creating lasting and meaningful relationships; and building relationships takes time and understanding, no matter what they are.
My post-internship status: Employed. I’ve become one of the cool kids and joined the DS family as a full time designer. We collaborate rather than compete, but we’re always looking for a challenge. DS is pretty much a playground for creativity in which the only joy kills are the limits you set for yourself. The internship was the walk before the run, and nowadays I’m sprinting along-side big brand names. My advice to you? Read up, stay informed, and keep designing. Get an inspiring portfolio together and apply at DS so you can proudly check off step one of getting your dream internship.
Pop a mint in your mouth and you’re ready to start your own kick-ass adventure.
Pixel Pimp Design Intern, Spring 2011