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Bonnie Siegler

Dear Bonnie: Dissed in Denver


Editor's Note: Dear Bonnie is our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do, and invite our readers to submit their questions directly to: [email protected]


Dear Bonnie,

I am a rising college sophomore who landed a summer internship with a prestigious studio, only to find that once hired, the jobs I’ve been given have been pretty menial. I can’t help feeling that I’ve been misled — and worse, that I’m wasting my talents on people who don’t appreciate all I have to offer. I feel like I’m wasting my summer, too. Help!

Dissed in Denver

Dear D,

I'm sure you do have a lot to offer, but here’s the thing: some of what you have to offer is actually not that good. You simply haven't been studying and/or working long enough to even know the difference between good and not that good — or, for that matter, the truly great and the truly terrible. With luck, one day you will know, but that takes time and experience.

You haven't said that you think you know more than your teachers, but if you’re 19 years old and complaining that your talents are being wasted, there's a good chance you feel this way. But the honest truth is that you don’t know more than your teachers. They’ve seen you before and they’ll see you again. There are lots of you and only a handful of teachers. Listen to them, trust them and most importantly, learn from them.

When you get an internship at a prestigious design studio, you should be incredibly grateful. Those are coveted positions. You have not been misled, and you are doing exactly what you should be doing at this point in your career: you are an intern and it is completely normal to be expected to do 'menial' tasks. Do the menial tasks and do them really, really well. Listen to the people around you. Pay close attention. Look at what they're doing and ask questions, so you can learn why they do what they do. Let it be known that you would love to do even more, and if you do really well on the smaller jobs, maybe they’ll give you a chance. But keep in mind that your lack of experience might mean that you can't be much help to them. This year. If you work really hard and are a pleasure to be around, they might ask you back or recommend you to another great studio for next year. If you complain about not being appreciated at this stage in your 'career', you could quickly get a reputation, quite frankly, for being an asshole.

The most important thing for you to do now is to change your attitude. Be thankful that you know what you want to do with your life. Be excited that you even get to work in your chosen profession this summer. Do freelance work and lots of it, and get better and better and better with each project. Then, graduate from college, get a job, and be the designer who has the good fortune of being responsible for the self-entitled intern who thinks it’s beneath them to make a comp. Let's talk then.

For past Dear Bonnie columns, click here.

Posted in: Dear Bonnie, Design Practice

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Bonnie Siegler Bonnie Siegler is an award-winning graphic designer. She is the founder of Eight and a Half, a multidisciplinary design studio based in New York, and before that, was the co-founder of Number Seventeen. She got her degree at Carnegie Mellon University, has taught in the graduate design programs at Yale University and the School of Visual Arts and was the 2014 Koopman Distinguished Chair in the Visual Arts at the University of Hartford.

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