Here are five things I’ve learned this summer under the supervision of the wonderful team at Oxide.

1. There is no such thing as validation in the design world.

My summer at Oxide has been interesting. I feel like I’ve grown to become a much more capable designer, while at the same time feeling like I haven’t learned anything at all. For some reason I thought getting “The Oxide Internship” would make me feel validated, like I had finally done “something.” As soon as I found out I’d been chosen for the internship my mind was immediately on to planning for the next step — whatever that might be. That “something” I’d been working toward had suddenly became an accomplished goal, and I was eager for the next challenge I might find.

Self-portrait by Tyler Olson

2. Always get paid in tacos.

Part of what makes a design career appealing to me is the fluidity. There are so many different ways you can do design work, and depending on how you work there are a lot of different ways you can get paid. I’m not saying it’s a good business decision to take part of your fee in taco vouchers, and Drew even told me on my first day that it probably wasn’t, but how can you argue with tacos.

3. Donate your work.

Design brings people together and helps build communities. Oxide’s commitment to donating work to local non-profits is the number one thing that appealed to me when applying for the internship. When I decided to focus on design, I knew I probably wasn’t going to get rich, and that was fine by me. I’d rather have my work have a real impact on my community. Being given an opportunity to work on some community-focused projects as an intern was very special to me.

4. Design is a service-based industry.

I think I was in denial after working in retail for so long, but I realized being a good designer revolves around being able to provide good customer service and getting the client what they need. Creating a stunning layout or interesting logo is cool, but if it doesn’t fit the client’s needs it’s just not appropriate. Having glimpsed Oxide’s process, their commitment to creating thoughtful design that accurately matches the client’s needs was very eye-opening.

5. They’re all just people.

My first introduction to Oxide was at a midterm critique in the fall of 2017. Designers from across town had come to UNO to look at our brands we’d created that semester. Josh and Wes had stopped by and I remember being so nervous when they were reviewing my work. They told me about the Oxide internship and told me apply, to which I thought, “Yeah right, like I’ll even get a call-back.”

I think my biggest takeaway from my time at Oxide is realizing that no matter how much great work people put out, when it comes down to it they’re just people. They won’t have all the answers and they often won’t know the best direction to take, and neither will you. You can’t get caught up worrying about what the perfect decision is, because there won’t be a perfect decision.