Student Gains Experience as a Junior Graphic Designer

Kailey Nguyen-Dong, a senior Graphic Design major, completed an internship as a Junior Graphic Designer with Ideas Marketing LLC, a graphic and printing business in southwest Detroit. In the following Q&A, originally published by the Excel Network, Nguyen-Dong shares her internship experiences.

Woman standing next to a sign that says "Ideas Marketing."
Kailey Nguyen-Dong at her internship at Ideas Marketing LLC.

What were your internship responsibilities?

As a Junior Graphic Designer, I assisted my employer, Maria Hayes, by designing marketing items for clients such as posters, banners, T-shirts, business cards, menus, etc. I also was in charge of iron-press printing and vinyl peeling for apparel orders.

What did your daily routine include?

I would arrive at the office at 11 in the morning to have Maria assign me a client and what they wanted designed. The work fluctuated every day. Some days I would spend the whole time on one client, while other days I would produce two to three designs by the time I clocked out. If there was a shortage of design work, I would help peel vinyls and print apparel for clothing orders.

How did you obtain your internship?

I reached out to Maria through a friend I met on campus. This opportunity highlighted the importance of having connections and being well-versed in communication skills. I emailed my resume and online portfolio to help solidify my employer’s inspection of my work.

What skills did you learn and/or build upon during your internship?

I really improved my proficiency in the Adobe cloud, especially in Illustrator and Photoshop. I often doubt my abilities to operate these programs, so this internship definitely made me more confident in my skills as a designer. On top of that, I learned how to create designs in a fast, efficient manner to help meet immediate deadlines that were placed at the end of my workday. I have become more receptive to feedback and constructive criticism so that my work can be the best it can be.

What did you learn about graphic design careers from this internship?

Something that became prevalent to me is that communication and responding in a timely manner is crucial. Having communication skills is key to working as closely with the customers as we did, meaning that the customer is just as much a part of the design process as the designer is. Creative visions are bound to conflict at one point or another, so it is our job as designers to reach a consensus.

What was your favorite experience from the internship?

My favorite experience was working closely with Maria Hayes and the community that she has built around her business. Working out of southwest Detroit, which has a predominately Latinx population, it was really interesting seeing how friendly and approachable everyone was while also getting down to business and working on professional endeavors. I definitely felt like I was part of the team, even if it was only for a short while.

What are your future plans?

I am unsure of where the future will take me. I will continue my job search for design jobs and firms when I graduate college, but I could potentially pursue other creative endeavors such as photography or illustration. I hope that graphic design will provide me with a sturdy foundation to find work that I am passionate to create.

What advice do you have for others seeking internship opportunities?

Some advice is to have confidence in your work (something that young artists often struggle with). If you can’t convince yourself that your work is worth looking at, then that will make it 10 times harder to make an employer consider you. And, as I mentioned earlier, meeting people and making connections is vital. You never know when the perfect opportunity can arise. I also implore students to keep trying and keep their heads high.