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It’s Hard Sometimes, But That’s Good

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I haven’t been interning at ST8MNT for too long. In fact, it’s only been a couple of months and my time here is already coming to a close. I know, it makes me sad too. Still, that doesn’t mean that I’m feeling disappointed with my time here. In fact, just the opposite. I’m really happy because I had the chance to work alongside a team of brilliant people to create worthwhile design for an entire summer. If that sounds too good to be true, that’s because you’re forgetting a key part of that statement- work. It’s important to emphasize that this isn’t your stereotypical internship. There aren’t any long, joyless days of tedious filing jobs and mundane coffee errands. On the contrary, ST8MNT is a place that will take you in and actively immerse you into their world at every opportunity. This includes all of the intensive sketching, all of the confusing client revisions, and all of the detailed designer critiques. Talk about jumping in head first, but that’s really what you want, right?

This commitment to being better was something that became evident to me right away. I still remember the distinct feeling of awe I experienced just arriving at the office for the first time. The very first thing that greets you after walking in the front door is a hallway-sized display showcasing some of ST8MNT’s extensive portfolio of work for all kinds of high profile clients. If that somehow doesn’t impress you, just turn into the studio itself and you’ll see a huge room covered with intricate thumbnails and artwork, fully immersing you in a true collaborative and artistic space. Seeing all of that, it became even more clear to me that I wasn’t in the classroom anymore. I mean, it was super intimidating just getting this internship, let alone trying to start your professional career in an environment brimming with so many talented and creative people. However, it’s actually because of these feelings of doubt that ST8MNT was the perfect place to get out of my comfort zone and learn some critical lessons on my way to joining the design world. I can’t possible pass on every single thing I learned this summer, but some key traps I learned to avoid are complacency, conformity, and discouragement.

You can’t grow complacent.

Complacency is a deadly sin at ST8MNT, and it was never tolerated in any of my projects. Just as soon as I thought a comp was ready to go, one of my coworkers would point out an area to improve or a sloppily-executed detail that I must have just glazed over. Those instances were illuminating in showing the level of care put into every detail of a client comp, as well as informative of my own weaknesses and tendencies. If my syncs with Art Directors and Designers have taught me anything, it’s that I can always afford to take the extra time to look over any file one more time than I feel is necessary before actually sending it off to the client. As a student, you don’t often get the opportunity to have this many well-trained eyes going over your work, picking up on any inconsistencies and giving you refined direction to remedy the problem. It’s this crazed attention-to-detail that really showed me just how serious ST8MNT is about delivering superior products to each and every client. Laziness and negligence are two things that they can detect from a million miles away, and they avoid those two words by any means necessary.

You can’t conform.

ST8MNT calls all of its employees “rebels” because of their commitment to delivering work that is unique and exciting. Obviously, it’s a belief taken very seriously around here. With this mantra ever-present in the back of my mind, each new project I worked on became a challenge to push the envelope further than I had before. If something was too mundane, I’d be called out on it and pushed to change my initial perspective in order to create something more aligned with this value. This idea of always pushing yourself to do more often feels impossible, but after really going for it I’ve learned that there are lots of instances where I’ve made something more compelling by continuing to question myself. This was an idea that I had dabbled with in school, but never to this degree. Obviously, assignments often have rules and prompts that can feel restrictive, so it felt a lot like taking the training wheels off when I was encouraged to break the established rules. It can be daunting trying to pursue originality, but it’s also super freeing and it pushed me to create things I didn’t know that I could do. In other words, if you’re looking for a place to churn out derivative work from 9-5 just to get a paycheck, ST8MNT is not the place for you.

You can’t become discouraged.

Facing these new challenges, it can be easy to get down on yourself. I’d like to think that I immediately came into ST8MNT as a confident designer that could hold his own in their fast-paced world, but that’s definitely not the reality. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, ranging from small typos to composition errors. Every time, it was all too easy to get hung up on these and become irritated with myself- Why couldn’t I just get it right the first time? I was eager to prove myself as more than an intern, somebody worthy of collaborating with the team on their biggest projects, but I felt like I couldn’t do that while still dealing with these continued setbacks. As my time progressed, I came to realize that this was a pretty counterintuitive outlook on my summer. In my rush to impress everybody, I managed to forget that I am still a student, not a master. I still have a lot to learn, and that any internal frustration with myself wasn’t going to improve my work in any way. When you allow yourself to become discouraged, you lose faith in your own voice. If you lose faith in your own voice, you end up creating soulless work that isn’t even your own. For a branding agency that prides itself on authenticity, that is something just that can’t be accepted.

It’s pretty much never as easy as having your first idea approved, but that’s sort of the point isn’t it? Without the opportunities to make mistakes, I wouldn’t have learned anything. My time would have been completely wasted and I’d be all the worse for it. It’s cool knowing that I not only gained more experience for my resume, but also incorporated new ways of thinking with my own knowledge to help me become a better designer. Without that system of support around me that was willing to give honest feedback and expectations, there’s a chance that I would have gotten stuck creating work that was underwhelming, or even worse, boring. For providing that honesty and demonstrating that driven attitude to me, I will always be super grateful to this place and all of the awesome people that work inside.