Reflecting on a great year at Hypergram

As my time as a design intern at Hypergram has come to a close, it was an absolute must to sit down, reflect on this past year and write a few words on exactly why it’s much more enriching than any education I could have received in that same timeframe. “You’ll learn everything on the job” is a saying that’s always thrown around as soon as internships and industrial experience is mentioned and they couldn’t be more right. It really is that invaluable stepping stone before leaping out into the real world and what you learn is something you can’t obtain in a classroom.

Careers won’t fall out of the sky and into our laps anytime soon so before going back to hitting the books at university, I took a year out of my degree programme to work in the design industry. Looking and securing internships is a daunting one. I spent my Christmas and New Year holiday of late 2013/early 2014 cooped up inside my bedroom creating my portfolio to apply for internships. I was hungry, looking for a perfect place(s) to jumpstart my career. I had secured some shorter placements over the summer but was looking for something a little more long-term. Luckily, Project 53 were on the hunt for someone to join the bootstrapped operation as their first official design intern around the same time I popped my portfolio in the post to them. I didn’t want to be some asshat claiming to be a designer guru by any stretch. Simply sending a personal portfolio, lead to making it known to the directors about my sizzling motivation to work at Project 53 in an interview and two weeks later, I was diving headfirst into projects.

Coming from university where all-nighters were quickly becoming a routine, it’s good to leave the nocturnal owl behind, instead seeing the daylight, getting myself some vitamin D and becoming a solid 9-5 employee. I’ve had the chance to wear many hats and there’s been no job too big or small. I have worked with small and big name clients that even the grandparents would recognise. It’s great to offer a fresh pair of eyes on projects and it’s one step better to see something you’ve worked solidly on for a while finally be catapulted out into the wild for all to latch eyes on.

I feel I became a valued member of the small team, taking on as much work as possible. I saw it as a responsibility on my shoulders to prove my mettle, perform well and not be afraid to push myself into new situations instead of just cruising in my comfort zone. I’ve paced it in the fast lane, taken risks and worked against my usual aesthetic grain. Yes, I’d made mistakes and botched things up a time or two but that’s when you realise what sort of real learning curve you’re on. When I’d lost some creative steam, the team are there so I could pick the brains of the creatives around me, taking all their suggestions and critiques with a pinch of salt.

I’ve worked in tandem with a small team of designers, project managers and developers and we all sit shoulder to shoulder, all huddled around a simple mission: the create awesome work. They’re relentless for excellence and make it a priority to lean in 110%. It’s a small close-knit team, a 4 man squad for a while, so instead of knowing a little about a lot, I’d gotten to know a lot about a few. I much prefered it this way. I’d become much more than just a cog in a machine, as I had countless opportunities to play a part in all aspects of the process, from idea generation to seeing off the final product and I don’t feel this is achievable when you’re lost in a sea of employees that comes with a much bigger team.

So what’s great? They treat their interns like (gasp) people. I’ve not been their glorified coffee runner, signed myself up to being their junior accountant instead, or been tucked away in the corner of the studio away from the fun and lumbered with the “grunt” work. Sure, every project isn’t always as glamourous as the last but there’s nothing wrong with a little drudgery every now and again. I’ve had the chance to hone my craft, work across disciplines, dabbing in areas I never thought I would as well as working with the team to expand my knowledge and foster creativity. All voices, including mine were heard loud and clear without all the layers of ego getting in the way.

Within the creative industry, speed and efficiency combined with integrity is industry standard and this has opened up my eyes. It’s been pedal to the metal from day one and there’s been no hand-holding for a induction period like you’d receive in education so I’ve had to be quick on my feet. Alongside a little doggedness, determination and maintaining enthusiasm for the “get up and go” each and every morning helps when confronted with the inevitable knock-backs we all experience.

Internships have become a hot potato to many. It seems an obvious answer that you’ll emerge with direct experience of working in a professional environment, having received advice, guidance and practical experience whether it’s big or small agency you work for. But my experience has gone beyond just that. I’ve been shown the mechanics of studio life, taken up the chances of shadowing my fellow designers and developers as well as them taking the time out to give me some mentoring. It’s been a fast-track course in studio etiquette.

I’ve been able to experience meetings and liaise with clients myself so I’ve caught a glimpse of how much work it takes for this whole team of talented folk to piece together finalised deliverables. They’ve given me a vision of what success looks like, the tools needed for accomplishment and we’ve all used our big bad brains to get the creative juices flowing. Essentially, turning ideas into assets. It’s been all about getting fully involved and being open to new ideas, technologies and of course, having a good old laugh along the way. Alongside the team, I’ve made very good relationships with the office printer, my notebook and the Adobe Creative Suite, from 9am on a Monday to 5pm on a Friday.

I’ve broadened my horizons and absorbed things I never thought I would. This is as cliché as it comes, but it’s experiences like these when you reflect and realise a lot about yourself as an individual too. As a 21 year old, I thought my growing spurt was over but it’s hit me like a slap in the face about how much I’ve changed in such a short space of time. I now see no reason to work myself into the ground and burnout. Our long hours and hard work are a given but we enjoy the fruits of our labour and know the times to relax and unwind over cold pints, refilling the creative gas tanks before resuming the design drills after a well-earned weekend.

It’s true. Experience really does shape the way one approaches, visualises, conceptualises and executes a design project. Work has rarely been a straight line but why would I want it to be? It’s like a good old game of Snakes & Ladders at times, progressing up the ladders and sliding down the snakes but nevertheless the end is in sight and it’s all worth doing for the learning process. I have landed some great experience over the past year and I feel it’s put me in good stead and shaped me to become a better designer as well as directing me in the best possible way to hopefully obtaining that shiny degree! The team have trained me to work my fingers to the bone - and even then wear out the bone too. But with this, will reap the rewards too.

It really is best thing since sliced bread and I’d do it all over again!

Charlotte Allen

Charlotte