Prior to my internship at MANNA, I had no “real world” experience with events. Sure, I’ve worked on mock campaigns and class projects where we’ve planned events, but I’ve never actually had to go through with them.
MANNA’s Pie in the Sky fundraiser (their largest of the year) was the first time I’d ever worked on something as it was actually happening. Flyers I designed were going to clients, or out in email blasts; labels were being printed; marketing materials distributed to agencies and pick up sites. It was great being able to see my work out in the world, but it was also a little scary. There was no longer the reassurance that if I didn’t like something, I could go back and fix it. These were no longer personal projects. They were work projects, things that served a larger purpose than adding to my GPA. Things like typos, or pixelated images, or missing fonts didn’t just mean -10 on the assignment, it meant setting back schedules to go back and fix a problem that didn’t need to happen in the first place. Or even worse, sending out a flawed design and having that reflect poorly on the organization. And I became a little obsessive over it.
One thing I pride myself on is working quickly. As the sole graphic design intern, there’s not a lot of time for brainstorming in the sketching stages. There have been times when I have to go from sketch to ready-for-upper-management-approval finished product in a day. And I like that – I like the challenge it gives me. But the fear of messing up a small detail started getting overwhelming, and I started slowing down. Unlike class projects, where there’s constantly new eyes and new opinions on my projects in all of its stages, I would often be the only one looking at my work until much later in the process. I became terrified that I was going to miss something – a stray hyphen, mismatched point sizes, rogue W’s from switching between Normal and Preview modes on InDesign. I obsessively looked at hex codes and RBG values to make sure every color was the same, double and triple checked all stroke and point values, made sure everything was spaced properly yet was still readable. I was slowly driving myself insane over details. One time, after seeing the word “thanks” so often in a project I was working on, I became so sure it was spelled wrong that I had to step away from my laptop to give myself a break. I even started having pie nightmares (pie-ghtmares, if you will), where we sold out of all of our pies but people kept trying to order them. (Which was a bit ridiculous, since as the design intern I didn’t take any pie orders). But it was clearly affecting me, and I knew I had to get a grip.
Looking back, I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes, by Lorne Michaels: “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30” Here, he’s talking about writing and preparing comedy sketches for SNL, but I find that it applies to every day life pretty well. My work (and anyone’s work, really) doesn’t go out in the world because it’s ready, it goes out because it has to. There are deadlines to be met, pies to be packaged, mail to be shipped. There’s no time for perfectionism. The only thing I can do is work as hard as I can, to the best of my ability, to turn out work I’m proud of. I’ve also since realized that even though I may be alone as the graphic design intern, I’m not in solitary confinement. If I think I need another pair of eyes to take a look at something in progress, or if I’m worried about spelling, or if I need to see if something is actually blurry and not just my computer strained eyes, there are people in the office who can, and even want to, help. Design isn’t a solo act, and it’s not fun when you make it so. But sometimes – and this was the hardest to learn – sometimes it’s just 11:30. Sometimes the deadline comes up and work needs to be submitted, whether I’m personally happy with it or not. I can tweak and nitpick and edit for hours, but there’s no time for that. If a design works, and if it’s done by the deadline, it goes out.
These weren’t easy things to figure out. But I’m glad MANNA gave me the chance to learn more about the “real world” of design and event planning.
And they make some pretty great pies.