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15 Things to Know Before Applying for a Graphic Design Internship

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In a graphic design internship, you will learn how to use different software to create designs for clients. You will also learn about graphic design, from conceptualization to final production.

Such internships are available at advertising agencies, graphic design firms, newspapers, magazines, and other companies that produce printed or digital publications. They vary in length, but most last between three and six months.

Many internships are unpaid, so be prepared to work for free (or a very small stipend) if you want to intern in this field. However, the experience and skills you will gain will be invaluable.

If you receive a monthly payment, the average graphic design intern earns $15 an hour or $2,400 a month. Even though this varies depending on the company you intern for, your experience, and the internship’s location. For example, graphic design interns in North America earn an average of $2,500 a month, while those in Europe earn an average of €1,200 per month, and in Asia, graphic design interns make about $1,000 per month.

Check out the top 15 things you need to know before applying for any graphic design internship program:

1. Do Your Research

Graphic design internships, like many others, are highly competitive. You’ll need to stand out from the crowd by researching various internship programs and identifying which ones are a good fit for you. Consider factors such as location, duration, and the type of company you want to intern with.

Some top locations to intern abroad in this field are:

  • New York City
  • Los Angeles
  • Paris
  • Rome
  • London
  • Berlin

The top international companies in the graphic design industry include:

a) Know Your Objective

Before applying to any internship program, you need to know your objectives. What do you hope to gain from experience? Are you looking to build your portfolio, learn new software skills, or network with professionals in the industry? Once you know your objective, you can start to look for programs that will help you achieve it.

b) Consider Your Schedule

When applying for graphic design internships, you’ll need to consider your current schedule and whether or not you’re available to commit to a full-time or part-time internship. Many internships are full-time, so if you’re currently enrolled in school, you may need to consider taking a semester off.

2. Create a Portfolio

Most graphic design internship applications will require you to submit a portfolio of your work. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your creativity and technical skills. Include a mix of digital and print designs, and make sure all your work is of the highest quality. Also, select a diverse array of projects that demonstrate your creativity, technical abilities, and problem-solving skills.

3. Understand the Requirements

Each graphic design internship will have different requirements, so ensure you understand what is expected of you before applying. Most internships will require you to have completed at least one year of college and have a strong understanding of graphic design principles.

Regarding application documents, you will likely be asked to submit a resumecover letter, and portfolio.

4. Know Your Software

Adobe Creative Suite is the industry standard for graphic design; therefore, you must be familiar with its various programs. In particular, focus on Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. If you don’t have any experience with this software, now is the time to learn. There are plenty of online tutorials and resources that can help you get started. For instance, lynda.com and Udemy offer comprehensive courses on graphic design software.

5. Understand the Basic Principles of Design

Graphic design is more than just making things look pretty. It’s a complex process that involves:

  • Creativity
  • Conceptualization
  • Research
  • Planning
  • Execution
  • Evaluation

Before applying for an internship, make sure you understand the different steps involved in the process. Likewise, familiarize yourself with the industry’s jargon and technical terms. For example, “layout,” “typing,” and “grid systems.” If you need help, there are plenty of resources available online, such as the graphic design glossary from AIGA.

a) Have a Good Eye for Design

As a graphic designer, you need to have a good eye for aesthetics and be able to create visually appealing designs. Interns are often tasked with proofreading designs before they go to print or publish, so it’s important that you have a keen eye for spotting errors. To develop this skill, start by studying the work of other designers you admire. Then, practice designing various projects, such as logos, flyers, and posters.

b) Have a Strong Understanding of Color Theory

In graphic design, color creates visual interest, conveys meaning, and adds emotion to a design. As such, it’s essential that you have a strong understanding of color theory. If you’re not familiar with the basics, now is the time to learn. Color wheel pro is a great resource that can help you understand how colors work together.

c) Be Able to Use Different Typography

Typography is an essential component of graphic design, yet it’s often overlooked by aspiring designers. To create effective designs, you need to have a strong understanding of both typefaces and fonts. Additionally, you should know how to use different types of typography to create a visual hierarchy—for instance, using sans-serif for headlines and serif for body copy. If you need help, plenty of resources are available online, such as Smashing Magazine’s comprehensive guide to typography.

d) Know How to Balance whitespace

Whitespace, also known as negative space, is the empty area around the objects in a design. It’s an important element of graphic design because it can affect how a design is perceived. Too much whitespace can make a design feel cluttered and chaotic, whereas too little can make it cramped and busy. The key is to find a balance that works for the specific project you’re working on.

6. Understand Different Printing Processes

This knowledge will come in handy when you’re working on projects that need to be printed. For instance, if you’re designing a business card, you’ll need to know whether it will be printed using offset or digital. Likewise, if you’re working on a poster, you’ll need to know about CMYK vs. RGB color profiles.

7. Stay Up-to-Date with the Latest Trends

The graphic design industry is constantly evolving, which is why it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends. This way, you’ll be able to create designs that are relevant and appealing to your target audience.

To stay on top of the latest trends, follow some leading design publications, such as Magazine and Communication Arts. Additionally, attend graphic design conferences and workshops whenever possible.

8. Be Prepared to Work Long Hours

Graphic design internships are often very demanding, so it’s important that you’re prepared to work hard. Expect to put in long hours and be flexible with your schedule. A typical work week can range anywhere from 40 to 60 hours.

Additionally, you’ll need to be able to handle constructive criticism from your superiors. If not, take the initiative to ask for feedback and take direction well. Your internship coordinator will be impressed by your willingness to learn and grow as a designer.

If you think you can handle the demands of a graphic design internship, then go for it! It’ll be a great way to gain experience and learn more about the industry.

9. Be Passionate About Your Work

Graphic design is a creative field, meaning passion and enthusiasm are essential for success. If you’re not passionate about your work, it will show in your designs. Also, you’ll be less likely to succeed in a highly competitive field like graphic design.

10. Have a Professional Online Presence

In today’s day and age, having a professional online presence is essential for graphic designers. After all, much of the graphic design industry is now digital. As such, potential employers will likely research you online before considering you for a position.

To ensure that your online presence is up to par, ensure your portfolio website is well-designed and easy to navigate. Additionally, be active on social media and create connections with other professionals in the graphic design industry.

11. Be Willing to Start at the Bottom

If you’re starting in the graphic design industry, chances are you won’t land your dream internship right away. Be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up. This means interning at small businesses or agencies before moving to larger companies.

12. Don’t Be Afraid to Network

In the graphic design industry, networking is essential for finding jobs and internships. Attend graphic design events, such as conferences and workshops. Also, follow graphic design professionals on social media and reach out to them if you have questions or need advice.

13. Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

In the graphic design industry, creativity and innovation are highly valued. As such, don’t be afraid to take risks with your designs. Sometimes, the best designs come from thinking outside the box.

14. Be Proactive

It’s important that you’re proactive in your job search. This means reaching out to companies and agencies that you want to work for instead of waiting for them to come to you.

15. Have Realistic Expectations

When applying for graphic design internships, it’s important to have realistic expectations. Keep in mind that internships are often unpaid, and you’ll likely be working long hours. Furthermore, you likely won’t be working on high-profile projects right away.

Top Job Search Platforms to Find a Graphic Design Internship

Now that you know what to expect from a graphic design internship, it’s time to start your search. Here are some of the best job search platforms to help you find the perfect internship:

Pro Tips

  • Be prepared to interview potential employers.
  • Be prepared to meet deadlines and work on tight schedules.
  • Have a positive attitude and be willing to learn.
  • Be proactive and take the initiative on projects.
  • Be able to work well under pressure.
  • Be a team player.

If you keep these things in mind, you’ll surely have a successful graphic design internship experience!

Key Takeaways

  • There is no one-size-fits-all graphic design internship. 
  • Most internships are unpaid.
  • You will likely be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement.
  • Internships are available year-round, but the majority take place during the summer.
  • Many internships are located in large cities.
  • You will likely be working on real projects for clients, so be professional at all times.
  • Feedback will be given on your work.
  • It would help if you took advantage of networking opportunities.
  • There may be opportunities to travel.
  • Some internships lead to full-time job offers.
  • Graphic design internships are available in various fields, including advertising, branding, and web design.
  • You can search for graphic design internships on job boards, company websites, and professional organizations.

Check our Guide for Applying to Internships Abroad!

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