Spring Semester, I worked at Moonstone Arts Center as a graphic design intern. My role primarily consisted of designing book covers for different anthologies and individual poets based on client specifications.
When I first began working for Moonstone Arts Center, I was ecstatic not only to gain experience as a designer, but also add to my own personal portfolio. I’ve had internships before, so I went into my first day feeling confident how the day would go. I’d meet my boss, the other interns, get an overview of the company, walk through the office, complete the checklist of a typical orientation. You can imagine my surprise when I walked into a small office and was met only with Larry Robinson, the owner of Moonstone Arts Center.
After a brief introduction of himself and his company, Larry showed me some of the previous work his interns designed. A wide range of styles in book covers was laid out in front of me. Some were photo based, some illustrations, and others with only type. It was as if I could see each designer’s distinct personality displayed on each cover. I remember asking Larry, “So what requirements will you need for each cover? Will there be a brief explaining the color scheme, the specific elements, and style needed?” To which Larry gave me a smile and replied, “You’re the artist, not me.”
Full creative freedom. You would think I would be jumping up and down in excitement. No rules, no other interns to compromise with, no head designer telling me what I can and can’t do. I was on my own. And yet I was completely stumped.
After being an advertising major with a concentration in art direction for four years, my routine was receiving creative briefs, coming up with concepts, and continually given critiques until I had redesigned my projects more times than I could count. Navigating full creative freedom was something I hadn’t experienced in years, and it terrified me. What if my work without any guidance was no good?
Although it was a learning process, the most important skill I learned from this internship was being confident in my own art directing abilities. I had to learn to be comfortable being on my own, not asking for a helping hand through every step in the design process. When creating my first cover, I remember checking in with Larry every hour, showing him my piece update by update. As I designed more and more covers, I gradually stopped looking for approval. I would come into the office already in the zone, eager to read the next topic that would spark the brainstorm of ideas I could explore.
By the end of my internship, I was completing a cover every shift, even starting projects that were not due for months. Having full creative freedom allowed me to rely on what I had learned in my classes and apply them on my work. It can be hard to let loose and have your ideas flow without any strict guidelines, but it forced me to dig into my own creative abilities and challenge myself, rather than wait to be challenged by someone else. I became my own best and worst critic, a skill I plan to carry with me throughout my career.