How my internship in New York impacted my creative career

Vivian Lai

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Hey there, my name is Viv and I am an illustrator and graphic designer. I’m currently working on my BA of Design in Visual Communication and BCII at UTS. Although Australia is not planning to re-open international travel for a while, we should still keep planning our future and I would highly recommend any students or recent grads to consider doing an international internship in 2021 or 2022. 

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“My New York internship has given me a step in the creative industry far earlier than I would have ever imagined.”

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Vivian and the Spring Studios crew

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My New York internship has given me a step in the creative industry far earlier than I would have ever imagined. The ArtBound Initiative program catered to my goals of wanting to figure out who I was as a designer. They helped make the integration — visa, portfolio and resume workshops, and interview training — as seamless as possible. As a result, I was placed with a creative agency called Spring Studios.

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“I was responsible for concept designing campaigns and identity rebrands for large clients such as Estée Lauder and Hilton.”

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Estee Lauder campaign by Spring Studios

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Located in the heart of Soho, Spring Studios New York is a global creative agency that not only works with renowned names, but challenges the way design can communicate a brand. As a Graphic Design Intern, I felt extremely intimidated, yet excited, to be working at such a renowned and fast-paced agency like Spring Studios. Though, having this unimaginable opportunity encouraged me to speak up with my ideas and ask questions, which led to the team basically treating me as a Junior Designer. Initially, I spent the first two weeks looking over past projects and their brand guideline to gauge the type of work and style Spring brought to the table. An important part of this process was the ability to be adaptable, which was crucial for me to accelerate. As I updated Spring’s brand guideline and curated client case studies for team presentations, I was able to impress not only the team but myself, realising what I was capable of doing if I just put my mind to it. As a result, they onboarded me to design concepts for large clients such as Estée Lauder and Hilton, which required multiple rounds of heavy research, concept boards, artwork mockups, and presentations to the clients themselves. This responsibility definitely overwhelmed me, particularly with the fear of failure and embarrassment. Though, I had the privilege of being mentored by highly experienced and talented people in the team (Design Leads, Senior Designers, Project Managers, and Strategists) to reassure my quality of work and process was beyond acceptable. It was this mentorship, opportunity to sit in on team and client meetings and trust every day that really built my confidence and capabilities as a designer, as well as deeper interests in branding and collaborative design.

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Spring Studios Office in New York

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Particularly in New York, the hustle really is worth working towards because not only can you prove your value to your team, but also to yourself.

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“ArtBound Initiative helped connect me with an internship opportunity that I would’ve never been able to gain this early on in my career.”

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ArtBound Initiative gave me the opportunity to form a network that helped to push my professional aspirations and create meaningful friendships. They helped connect me with an internship opportunity that I would have never been able to gain this early on in my career. Through this internship, I’ve been able to answer questions about what I want to achieve and learn, which is an invaluable experience for anyone to go through.  

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ArtBound Initiative crew at the Yayoi Kusuma exhibition

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Since coming back to Sydney, I’ve had the opportunity to start freelancing for a brand agency that challenges my type and layout skills. Having my confidence grow throughout my time in New York both by practising my networking skills and communicating concept pitches, I stopped feeling doubtful of my capabilities and started to truly believe the work that I did was acceptable, which helped me land this gig so smoothly. On top of that, currently in my last year of BCII, there is a subject that offers student placements with industry partners based on your interests. From this, I was placed with PwC as a Design and Innovation intern. Although not everyone studies BCII, there are still internships that students can apply for at CareerHub or speaking to your subject coordinator, who can help advise you take that next step if you take the time to establish what you want to gain, why you want to work with the company, building your portfolio, and know what you can bring to the table. Again, I honestly did not have this confidence prior to my 4-month creative internship; without the coaching from ArtBound Initiative, I would still be sitting in a deep pool of self-doubt as a creative junior.

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Now in my final semester of university, my journey this year has been focusing on what I like and don’t like to do as a designer. I’ve strived to form networks by taking opportunities even from the most unexpected people to take on different challenges in the pursuit of developing my passion further. 

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“Doing internships will allow you to refine your career goals and will help you tremendously to kickstart your creative career.”

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If you’re not able to intern abroad, the ArtBound Initiative internship program recently launched in Sydney and Melbourne and are currently accepting applications! Whether you join an internship program like ArtBound Initiative or not, doing internships will help you tremendously to kickstart your creative career and develop an understanding of your own style, goals, and path towards your passion.