I never did a placement at College. Dave did. He went to London for a few weeks and worked on some stuff for Sainsbury’s. On his last day he accidentally walked into an all-day strip club. He loved that placement.
You’re not going on placement to learn how to use InDesign or Photoshop. Sure, you’ll probably pick up some shortcuts or tips (most of the time the students are teaching us the tricks), but you can learn the basics of these tools using online tutorials. You’re there to get a taste of what the next 40 years of your life are going to be. Besides, NOBODY actually knows how to use the pathfinder tool in Illustrator.
As this is an extension of your education, it’s all about learning. You might be asked to sit in meetings with clients, to shadow more senior designers as they’re briefed on a project. You may even be asked to make a brew or run some errands. Don’t let your ego get in the way if you’re asked to do something you deem below you. “Oh, they’re just asking me to make the drinks because I’m the student”. We run the studio, but we also empty the dishwasher, make the drinks, fetch the team lunch and replace the loo rolls. It’s a team game.
We’ve spoken about how to handle pressure before. As a placement, you shouldn’t be under a massive pressure to perform, but some pressure it’s good, as it’s realistic. At Uni you have deadlines, but they can sometimes be stretched if you’ve not got around to finishing that project. In the real world that’s not possible, so it’s good to learn from an early stage that not all pressure is bad. However, if you’re getting screamed at from day one I’d cut that placement short.
It can be quite daunting, rocking up to a new place when you don’t know what to expect. We’re all just people, and people tend to be empathetic when someone new enters their domain. If you lack confidence that’s fine, don’t let it be a barrier. I’m an introvert, and love nothing more than fucking off and getting away from everyone. But introverts are still great team players. No matter your hang-ups, everyone has been in that position at one part in their lives. If you’ve managed to secure yourself a placement, the studio are investing time into you, and they’ll look after you.
We like to get our interns to work on live projects, not to necessarily use the work (unless it blows our socks off) but get real experience working on a real brief with real time constraints and limitations. There are many stages to branding projects, and each may require a different setting and mindset. Brainstorming ideas is a different animal to sitting at a computer and artworking, and it’s great if you can get a taste of everything in-between. Our projects can be quite varied. We have a love of working away from the computer, so we also encourage the students to see that not all creative needs to be made on that big screen in front of you.
The beauty of placements is you can get a taste for what it’s like to work in lots of different environments pretty quickly. Try getting a placement at a small studio, try working with a solo designer, or try getting into a huge agency. You may find you hate working in a small team but love working in a 100+ team, or vice versa. Now is your time to test!