It’s impossible to adequately summarize everything I learned at my internship at Oxide, but a few fun facts that leap to mind are:

  1. Design internships can actually be paid (gasp!).
  2. It’s much easier to be on time for work when you love your job.
  3. Business meetings can be fun!

Whatever horror stories you may have heard about overworked, underpaid (or worse still, altogether unpaid) interns doing nothing but slaving over a hot letterpress and whitewashing the office walls, cast them aside. My internship at Oxide has proven to me that the often-promised (yet rarely delivered) concept of a “fun office environment” is not merely a manipulative recruitment gimmick used by department stores to lure desperate applicants into their ranks (I speak from experience), but something that can really exist. At Oxide, work truly was fun. Between the laugh-out-loud-funny logo concepting sessions – where a minimum of three joke logos were almost always sketched before any serious work was done to the ever-hilarious banter between Drew Davies and the rest of the team throughout the day, there was never a dull moment.

Self portrait by Michael StevensSelf portrait by Michael Stevens

While being an intern at Oxide allowed me the opportunity to learn directly from some of the midwest’s best designers, I realize that Oxide has been a formative force in my education as a designer since long before my internship ever began. When I was in high school, I made a studio visit to Oxide that ultimately inspired me to become a graphic designer in the first place.

If it hadn’t been for that visit over four years ago, I probably wouldn’t have pursued graphic design in college, or chosen graphic design as a career path. And beyond compelling me to pursue design in the first place, Oxide’s work continued to inspire me throughout my college career. I remember frequently referencing their portfolio throughout my school design projects for inspiration. Because I was carefully looking at Oxide’s work as a student, I feel that I had an edge in the classroom – an edge that helped gain me opportunities exactly like this internship.

After having been a fan of Oxide for so long, I was, of course, thrilled when I was accepted as their 2015 summer intern. I had always envisioned working at a branding agency like Oxide as my goal after school, but I wondered what agency life was really like. I admit, early on, I feared that I had idealized the whole thing. I wondered if working at an agency would prove to be disillusioning. After all, I had read a lot on the internet about the terrible dichotomy between the ivory tower of design school and the reality of working as a designer in the “real world.”

I’m happy to say that no such disillusionment occurred. My time as an intern only encouraged me to look forward to post-graduate, full-time work as an exciting new chapter in my life as a designer: an opportunity to move beyond practice school assignments into the realm of working with real people and solving real problems – a shot at the real thing.

This excitement for what’s next in my career was never more palpable than during my biggest project as an intern this summer. I was designing a new logo for the Refugee Empowerment Center, an organization that helps new refugees find work and housing upon their arrival in the U.S. I had designed plenty of logos in the past, but mostly fictional logos for school projects that were never seen by anyone other than my teachers and classmates. Designing a logo for the Empowerment Center was my first experience of designing a real-world project of that scale. It is truly empowering to know that the logo I built, once trapped behind my 17″ computer screen, now has a global reach which will symbolize hope for thousands of the world’s most destitute souls.

Thanks to my time as an intern at Oxide, I feel better equipped to handle the challenges that I’ll face when I take my first full-time job. I’ve gained valuable skills in regard to client interaction, office workflow, and effectively incorporating feedback. I’ve also learned a lot of nuts-and-bolts software techniques, and feel more technically competent. But above all, what I learned from my internship was that I made the right decision going into the business of graphic design. I can’t imagine a job that’s more fun, inspiring, or personally fulfilling, and I look forward to what the future holds for my career as a designer and creative.