Intern Diaries: John Adie

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Written by Digital Surgeons,
• 4 min read

My internship at Digital Surgeons was a two-month boot camp for the digital side of my design thinking. In those eight short weeks, I worked on home pages, splash pages, mobile apps, email blasts, and more. But one step deeper than just working on these types of projects, I learned the best strategies for tackling them. As a designer who spent four years at the Hartford Art School focusing on print and packaging design, I had limited knowledge of digital practices. Anything I had learned came out of my own research, rather than tried and true theories and strategies. So for eight weeks here at DS, I packed up my X-Acto, uncoated paper samples, and bookbinding needles in favor of a bluetooth mouse, app design software, and 960-GS.

One of the most thrilling aspects of interning at Digital Surgeons is the fact that they have some high-profile clients that are looking for exciting and creative work. DS has a small and powerful team, but that means there are opportunities for interns to work on some incredible stuff. I was lucky enough to be able to work on package design for a major consumer packaged goods brand, as well as design an internal iOS app from the ground up. I was also given the chance to help establish a new visual vocabulary for the New Haven Arts Council email newsletter. This was just a taste, for sure. One of the younger designers on the team recently designed and developed packaging that will be in Apple Stores across the country. So, small agency, big work, bigger opportunities.

Being a print designer at heart, I struggled, at first, to wrap my mind around all of the minute details that are part of digital design. If I learned one thing, (and I learned a heck of a lot more than that) it’s that even the tiniest detail — such as a nearly invisible intro line at the top of an email blast — can make or break the effectiveness of the project as a whole. I built upon that newly-acquired knowledge and was encouraged to expand it into a more marketing-minded sphere. Coming up with catchy phrases that don’t sound trite isn’t really my strong suit, but I improved a little through the projects I worked on. Shorter is almost always better, and stay away from the word “innovative” and any of its forms.

As an intern, I never thought I would end up presenting work to a client, but I worked on a packaging concept and was afforded an exciting (and somewhat nerve-wracking) opportunity. At DS, if you show your passion and do great work, the sky’s the limit. I learned so much just from preparing and delivering this one client presentation. Taking my brain from presenting to like-minded designers and moving it into the sphere of “business first, aesthetics second” was a challenge.

Aside from the cool projects and incredible learning opportunities, Digital Surgeons has one of the most stimulating environments for creative thinkers. Every member of the team knows at least 50 things you probably don’t, and is more than willing to tell you about it. The thing that really struck me, though, was that nearly everyone considers themselves a critical problem solver first, and then a designer (developer, strategist, etc.) second — whether they realize it or not. DS is really just a brilliant group of people who have different perspectives, vastly diverse skills, and a shared passion for good looking and effective creative solutions.

I was an intern at another digital agency before DS, and that firm didn’t teach me as much as they just used my skillset to complete projects. There, I was using the knowledge I already had to create what they wanted. At Digital Surgeons, thinking and strategy comes first. Because of this, my brain was rewired and conditioned to truly think about effective digital design and user journey.

Being an intern at digital surgeons is a truly unique experience. Just be a sponge and absorb as much as you possibly can. You’ll learn a ton, make some (really cool) friends, and probably change your outlook on digital design for the better.

John Adie
Design Intern, Summer 2014