I receive an email from Drew Davies formally inviting me to intern at Oxide; it is a bit like receiving an invite to Hogwarts, I imagine. I have been a fan of Oxide’s work long before I had ever heard the name. This is my one opportunity to learn design magic from some of the best the Heartland has to offer.

My internship requires 80 hours of work, and I arrange two straight weeks to work with the team. This schedule gives me unique insight into the day-to-day life at the company. The first lesson I learn: I love this work. I can tell that the rest of the team also loves this work. Everyone comes in with a smile and leaves with a smile. Setbacks are taken as part of the process. When you do the work you love, it energizes you. I feel like I could skip to work every day if I had the time. I settle for the hour drive in from Lincoln — and I do it gladly.

Self-portrait by Anita EppSelf-portrait by Anita Epp

The office instantly feels like home, and it only takes a minute to understand it has less to do with the warm wood floors than with the people (and dog) who work here. The team is incredibly welcoming, and I am determined to be as much help to them as possible in the coming weeks. When I am handed a solo project, my first inclination is to be intimidated. As I dive in, I start to understand that, while all projects are different, the fundamentals of design don’t change. The client is new, the content is different, but the design process, at its core, stays the same. My second lesson: trust that process.

Being a student, I don’t often get to work with real clients, so observing client/designer interactions is especially valuable to me. Designing for a wide variety of clients and businesses is part of the challenge of Oxide’s work. Sometimes clients love what they are given. Other times, the work doesn’t resonate with them at all. The third lesson I learn from Oxide: embrace the feedback. Honest feedback is absolutely the best kind. What can seem like a failure at first is actually quite helpful in the whole process. Knowing what isn’t working (and why) gives a better, more informed direction for the project and, ultimately, a more successful result.

As my internship inevitably draws to a close, I realize that a good designer isn’t magically built in two weeks. I am encouraged to remember that each of Oxide’s team members was in my shoes at one point. After a small glimpse into what a career in design could be, I am truly looking forward to the work ahead of me.