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Intern Blog

Xue's Story -- Graphic Design

Monday, May 2, 2011

Xue Li

1st entry: February 18, 2011

I started my current job as a graphic designer since December 2008. I have been working in this position for 3 years now.  It is at a print shop within an educational institution. This semester I start using it as my internship experience that counts for 3 credits. This is a small size print shop targeting students, faculties, student orgs, and other customers. It is a very time concentrating and customer-oriented job.

I was a transfer student here in the summer 2008 and have been looking for any possible jobs openings. I still remember how I heard of the job; which was from a friend of mine. He took a picture of the job posting with his phone and emailed it to me. I didn’t think I was 100% ready at that time but I tried and I got the job. So the first thing I learned was not to under estimate yourself and not to let go any opportunities. Even when it is a tough time for job hunting, it is always good to try and keep trying. There’s nothing to lose.

Soon after I turned in my application and resume, I got a call for interview. There were 4 persons who interviewed me. One of which is the supervisor; the other three are the designers working there. They were very good at asking questions. They pretty much covered all different aspects of that job, which includes background knowledge, technical terms, design concept and customer service. In the interview, they asked a few technical terms that I’ve never heard of. I was very honest and explained what knowledge I did know and I will work on those that I didn’t know. Even though I eventually got the job, the very important thing I could had done was to do more research. That is because understanding your target employer is the key point to know who they are looking for. Hence, I could have knew those technical terms, if I have known more by spending a little more time doing the research. 

Overall, it’s a great working environment that fits my major perfectly and I have truly gained a lot of experience.


2nd entry

Beginnings are always hard. I had a very hard time when I first started this job. There was a lot to learn. The first challenge was to learn the technical skills. In the print shop, they have the regular format color printer, black and white printer, copier, wide format printer, laminator, duplicator, business card cutter, folding machine, binding machine so on and so forth. It’s almost impossible to learn everything at one time, so the best way of learning is by getting some hands on experience by using them. And most importantly, do not hesitate to ask questions when you forget something. I learned that most co-workers are willing to help you when you are a beginner. They understand that you are still learning. But do not ask same questions, then it shows that you are not learning hard enough. As I started working with different projects, I got to use different machines.

The second thing was to get familiar with the server. At this print shop, we have our shared folder with almost everything we created on file. Hence, as a designer I need to know where to save files and where to find them. Among thousands of files and hundreds of gigabits, it was frustrated at the beginning.

So when I was not busy, I would go through every folder on the server just to see what they were all about and what are in each of the folder.

There was a lot more to learn in the beginning. There was also a lot of frustration of course, but it was a great learning process. I’m still learning something new at work every day and I really enjoy it.

3rd entry

Helping customers is one of the biggest parts in my work on daily basis. It requires skills such as customer service, communication, and trouble shooting skills. Sometimes customers come to us for technical questions. For example, they would ask why their files are not printing out right or why the colors are not looking the same as the computer screen. One of the best customers I’ve ever met was a girl who wanted a tri-fold brochure. She couldn’t figure out the layout herself, I helped her in putting it together and printed it out. Later, she came back with a Caribou gift card. It made my day.

Sometimes customers come to us for design requests. Different customers have different kinds of project: business card, brochure, poster, album cover, or direction sign. This allows me to be creative and at the same time make the design to fit what they want. There are a few basic steps to this process. First of all, customers come to us and explain their project. We will then make an order form and write down as much detail as possible. Next, we as designers will make a few designs for customers to choose from. Upon their request, we will make adjustment unless they request for other new designs. Finally, when all the designs are good to go, we will start the printing process.

Working with customers defiantly helps me build my design skills. Through my experience, I learned that design is not ONLY there to make the products look good. The design will also function as a medium to pass information the audience.


4th entry

As I work there for almost 3 years now. I got to know my co-workers a little better. This makes is really fun environment to be working in. One of my favorite parts is our potluck. It usually occurs on random Fridays. This event helps to brings us closer together and makes our whole working atmosphere a little less stressful. We have four designers at our print shop and I truly enjoy working with them as a team. Working in team could be hard; it requires patient, collaboration, and effective communication. In terms of working individually with other designers, we’ve been working really well together. We have been able to help each other with technical questions and also finish up projects together. For example, I take a designer order on Monday and clients want to get it done by Tuesday. I may start with the design and leave note to designers who work on Tuesday to make final changes. I think working in team is very important. A good teamwork can make more progress than the sum of individual team members.


5th entry

It’s going toward the last month of this semester. Since another designer and myself are graduating soon, we were about to hire two more designers. It’s been such a great experience going through the hiring process which included application reviewing and interviewing. Here, I want to share a little bit about it. Within weeks after we sent out flyers, we have received approximately 20 applications. Based on their applications, there were many things we see in these candidates. Next was to decide who are qualified to get interviews.

It’s my pleasure to have the chance in reviewing applications, resumes and cover letters; and giving my input. There are a couple of dos and don’ts I would like to share with you. First, it’s important to attach a well-written cover letter and resume. It seems like a common sense that everyone should know, but we did receive some applications that didn’t have cover letter attached and a few didn’t even have resume attached. Without a resume, there’s no way for a company to evaluate if the candidate qualifies for the position. Cover letter is defiantly a plus showing how passionate a candidate is. Secondly, candidate’s professional skills should match what the position requires. Since we are hiring a designer position, we are looking for print design skills. Some of the candidates who are majoring Computer Science wrote down a lot of programming skills on the top and overlooked designing skills, which became a minus for our review.  A very successful designer Nate Mueller has once told me “if you are looking for a job doing video and that is what you’re really good at, put those programs on the top. If you are looking to do print design, have photoshop, illustrator and InDesign at the top.” I hope this would help a little. Next step is interviewing the potential candidates. It’s defiantly a different feeling for me to be part of the interviewer. I can almost see my younger self on the other side of the table when I got the interview in the same room. Through this whole interviewing process, I’ve learned a lot. It helps me understand what interviewers think or what key qualifications they are looking for.


6th entry

It’s getting close to the end of the semester. My internship is close to being done at this point. In my last entry, I mentioned that we were hiring new designers. Now our new designers who were hired are already going through training process. It’s really great to see new faces and recognize how talented and passionate they are. I’m more than happy to help them in getting familiar with our working environment and equipment- just the same as how I got trained.

Time has passed by so fast and I realized how much I’ve learned and grown. With an honor of being the Student Employee of the Year, my internship is coming to an end. Looking back to the past, there are a lot of people I want to thank. I want to thank to the supervisor, director, associate director, graduate assistant, student manager and all the other designers that I’ve been working with. Without everyone’s patient and help, I won’t have learn and grow as much as I did.

I believe internship is one of the most important things for college students. It is a preparation for real life in the workforce. I think everyone should use this great opportunity to learn and practice in your professional skills in the field. No matter if it’s in a bigger company or a smaller company, you will always find something challenge and interesting.


- Xue Li


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