Is a graphic design internship really worth it?
Nowadays, many universities require students to undertake an extended internship as part of their curriculums and many companies take advantage of the low-cost labor associated with internships. The big question is, is it really worth it?
We all know the famous quote that “There ain't no such thing as a free lunch” and we know that any successful relationship is a give and take relationship and the same is true for any successful job as well, hence a company that is exploiting interns without giving back a fair share, or an intern that is not adding any value to the company, both do not qualify as good internships and are destined to fail. A successful internship must be a give and take relationship.
Now that we have established that a successful internship is one that adds value to the company, while at the same time provides significant rewards for the intern, we can start analyzing the different types of rewards and the benefits companies get from the internship programs.
Let’s start with the rewards.
Many companies offer a stipend payment as a monetary reward but the main goal of any internship is education. Educational institutions are the best for teaching theoretical knowledge but companies that focus on solving real-life challenges better teach hands-on experience. Any successful employee or for that matter, any freelancer or business owner as well must have a combination of theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience, which is why so many institutions require their students to undergo internships.
This means that any successful internship must provide some sort of hands-on experience, in a way that the interns are challenged to put their theoretical knowledge into practice, hence getting ready for the workforce.
Now, from an employer’s perspective:
Looking at the U.S. Department of Labor, it may seem like an intern can't do anything useful and may just be getting in the way but in reality, interns bring many fresh, trending ideas and as well offer low-cost labor opportunities. But as stated above, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch so the employers must in return put in a lot of effort in their training.
Many startups think they will simply get interns to jumpstart their entrepreneurial ideas and to run a low-cost business but the fact is that if they don’t have training skills, they will quickly realize that Cheap is Almost Always More Expensive.
It is true that interns are a great fit for startups but that’s because startups are the most dynamic and agile companies. They can quickly adapt to, and can create the training requirements for each internship program. If they lack such capability, they are better off hiring experienced employees.
Now that we have a better understanding of the pros and cons of internship programs, let’s take a look at the main questions one must answer before starting an internship.
Things any company should know before offering internships.
We will start with the questions that every company should ask themselves before starting an internship program and what to ask their potential interns before starting the internship.
- Do we have the skills and manpower to onboard and continuously train the interns?
- What do we plan to get out of the internship, something we can’t easily get from regular paid employees?
- Do we plan to hire the interns as regular employees after the internship is over?
- Are we able to provide significant value for the interns in a way that they will feel compensated for their efforts?
- Is it a one-time or ongoing internship program, and can you reuse some meticulously created training materials in the future?
- To make sure you are not fooling yourself, ask yourself, “what if funding was not an issue, would I still hire interns?”
- Do you run the risk of exposing intellectual property when sharing them with temporary employees such as interns?
- If you hire offshore interns, you need to ask yourself, “do I have experience in managing offshore employees?”
Things you should ask yourself before applying for an internship
Now, we will outline the main questions that every intern should ask themselves and their potential employers
- What am I looking to learn and master with this internship? Ideally, it should be something I can’t easily learn at my educational institution.
- How will this internship help me get a better understanding of real-life situations and challenges in my field of expertise?
- How will this internship help me get a better job with a potential employer?
- How will this internship help me expand my level of expertise and help me with my future learning goals?
- Besides my direct area of interest, will my internship help me with basic business skills?
- In addition to a stipend and the educational rewards, what else do I gain from this internship?
- Will this internship help me get a job with the same company or at least help me get a job with another company?
- Has this company executed an internship program before and did it meet or exceed the expectations?
Case Study: SelfCAD’s Design Internship Program
We stated above the importance of combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience, so to demonstrate the above concepts, I will analyze a successful design internship program from SelfCAD and how it answers the questions listed above.
About the company in focus:
SelfCAD is a startup company that has developed an intuitive, online and offline, user-friendly, CAD software that one can master in just a fraction of the time it takes to learn compatible CAD software.
SelfCAD’s diverse artistic and technical toolset makes it suitable for any 3D design requirements. SelfCAD is doing for 3D what Wix did for websites and what Canva did for 2D graphics. You can design, render, and slice anything in SelfCAD from start to finish.
About the internship program:
SelfCAD has recently developed a state-of-the-art Interactive Tutorial feature. The Interactive Tutorials are supposed to be the best and fastest way to learn 3D modeling.
Now, for this internship program, SelfCAD is looking for design students to create interactive tutorials and publish them on its official tutorial page.
The main task is to record tutorials for freelance designers without an engineering degree, and without any previous 3D modeling expertise.
The Interactive Tutorials are sophisticated and automatically create all the steps, so the design interns just need to make a design while having the record tutorials feature on.
The goal of these tutorials is to teach 3D modeling for beginners with an emphasis on Product design or architecture design, as these are what SelfCAD is commonly used for by Small And Midsize businesses (SMB) and freelance designers. The main requirement to qualify for an internship is to be a naturally talented designer, with an ambition to learn 3D modeling.
No prior 3D modeling experience is required and no official design courses are required, although most interns come from design institutions, yet, most of them are 2D Graphic designers, without any 3D modeling experience.
Now, check out how the SelfCAD team answered the common questions revolving around the interns.
Do you have the skills and manpower for onboarding and continuously training the interns?
Absolutely. SelfCAD has an experienced customer support team that is used to solving its user’s design challenges and is used to make design suggestions on how to make the best out of SelfCAD’s tools, and overall, how to become a better 3D designer. This same experienced support team will be used to train and guide all new interns.
What do you plan to get out of the internship, something you can’t easily get from regular paid employees?
Fresh, trending ideas. These interns can find cool and trending objects that beginners would like to design. They also offer a better understanding of SelfCAD user demographics.
SelfCAD has many Freelance Graphic Designers that venture into 3D and teach themselves 3D Modeling using SelfCAD. So, working with the same demographics is the best way to understand their thoughts and what training they appreciate the most. Such interns can naturally make the best Interactive Tutorials for beginners.
Do you plan to hire the interns as regular employees after the internship is over?
There is no commitment for future employment and only time will tell how many interns will get permanent employment at SelfCAD. However, SelfCAD is training all their interns with the mindset that they are onboarding full-time, long-term employees.
This is important because it ensures that every intern gets the proper training which they deserve.
Are you providing significant value for the interns in a way that they will feel compensated for their efforts?
Yes, these interns get to learn and master the art of 3D Modeling. They equally learn a lot of business and communications skills by working directly with SelfCAD’s marketing and support teams
Can the interns reuse some meticulously created training materials for the future?
It’s hard to reuse the internship training materials, as each intern gets one-on-one training but some interns are already helping with training their peers. However, reusability is not the biggest concern in this internship program, since the Interactive Tutorials they create are all reusable, moreover, newer interns learn a lot by replaying these tutorials, so they are in a sense all reusable.
If funding was not an issue, would you still hire interns?
Yes. For all these reasons stated above, these interns are a great fit for what we need. They create the most sought-after 3D objects, and they are uniquely qualified to teach 3D modeling to beginners.
Do you run the risk of exposing intellectual property?
No. This particular internship does not require sharing much of any intellectual property and even if it does, these interns are all great, and have unquestionable characters.
Do you have experience in managing offshore employees?
Yes, SelfCAD is an agile startup, and as such, has always relied on offshore employees. SelfCAD has a few offshore offices and besides the offshore offices, they also have a lot of experience in working with freelancers as well.
Now, let’s talk about how the interns answer their questions.
What would I like to learn and master with this internship?
This internship provides an unmatched opportunity for anyone looking to venture into the field of 3D modeling. If you are interested in learning how to become a better designer, this internship is not for you, because you won’t be working with a senior designer, but if you are looking to get technical design skills, especially in the field of 3D modeling, this internship is the best option for you.
The skills you learn in this internship are not limited to SelfCAD but are transferable to any 3D modeling application. In design institutions, we learn how to become better designers, how to make compositions, etc. But we often lack in teaching how to best use these skills when working with CAD software, and this is what we get from this internship.
Will this internship help me get an understanding of real-life challenges in my field of expertise?
Well, it will not teach you how to solve design problems but how to correctly use CAD software. SelfCAD offers design-related internships as well, where you get a chance to work with a brilliant senior designer. But for this program, the focus is on technical skills needed to become a professional 3D modeler and such an internship opportunity is hard to come by.
Will this internship help me get a better job with a potential employer?
Absolutely. Asides the potential for permanent employment at SelfCAD (something any internship can also offer), you get an opportunity to build up your professional design profile. You get to publish all your interactive tutorials under your own name where you can also write any custom bio.
Having such a great design portfolio adds a lot of value to your design skills, hence, making it easier for you to find any permanent employment and If you want to become a freelance designer, this will help you get good-paying gigs a lot faster.
How will this internship help me expand my level of expertise and help me with my future learning goals?
Well, there is no better way of learning a new skill than teaching them to others. Hands-on experience is essential for mastering any trade but you do not always get the proper feedback for how to improve and speed up your work. As long as the end results are satisfactory, you will often get a pass, even when you can still improve your skills a lot. However, when your job has a teaching requirement, you will not get a pass on just visual performance.
You can create a really nice design that looks visually pleasing but the time it takes to make the design will depend a lot on your experience in using the design software and even more importantly, in the design workflow.
When you create interactive tutorials for SelfCAD, they will make sure you streamline your design flow and that you use the best tools available for each particular design. Such an internship will leap-start your professional design career and will offer an unmatched opportunity.
Besides my direct area of interest, will my internship help me with basic business skills?
Yes, you get to work with SelfCAD’s executive teams and that will teach you a lot of general business and communication skills. You will also learn a great deal about organizational skills while working on the Interactive Tutorials, as you’ll learn how to streamline and organize your design flow.
In addition to a stipend and the educational rewards, what else do I gain from this internship?
You get all the basics you can expect from a successful internship, such as a letter of recommendation, a letter of completion, and as stated above you also get to keep your professional design portfolio, which will help you with any future job opportunities.
Will this internship help me get a job with the same company or with another company?
As already mentioned above, there is no commitment for future employment, however, asides the possibility of getting permanent employment at SelfCAD, you can offer services to continue making Interactive Tutorials for Small and Midsize Business (SMB).
Small and Midsize Business (SMB) are often burdened with onboarding new employees. Onboarding designers is even more difficult, especially when they need to teach them how to streamline the design flow and how to use CAD software.
Moreover, Graphic designers often tend to be freelancers who don’t like to stay very long at a single job, which means that Small and Midsize Business (SMB) need to constantly train new employees and this is where SelfCAD comes to the rescue.
Small and Midsize Business (SMB) can hire a professional designer to create custom Interactive Tutorials suited for the choice of objects and customized to the design flow their employees need to work with. This will help them onboard new designers by simply having them replay these tutorials.
This provides a great potential employment opportunity for interns. As they finish a 6 months internship, they will be the best qualified for creating such custom tutorials.
Has this company executed an internship program before and did it meet or exceed the expectations?
Yes. Most of our programmers, developers, and designers started working at SelfCAD as interns and were later hired as full-time employees.
As mentioned earlier, SelfCAD believes that in order to make sure every intern gets the proper training that they deserve, it is essential to train every intern the same way you train long-term employees, so that when they finish the internship, they become the best-qualified candidates for the new job opening in their fields, or get hired back to perform the same or similar tasks.
How SelfCAD teaches design interns
Well, let me share with you what Yash Nimbalkar wrote to us as a reply to our questionnaire;
Q: Tell us more about yourself and why you decided to join SelfCD’s internship program.
A: Hello there my name is Yash. I am a beginner in the world of 3D. I have tried out different applications but I found SelfCAD so easy and smooth. It makes it much easier to create different objects in it, so when I learned about the Interactive Tutorials internship program, I jumped on to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so that I can become a great 3D modeler with the help of the SelfCAD Software and their training team.
Q: Looking back, are you happy with your decision?
A: Absolutely! It’s hard to believe that I’m now only in the 2nd week of the program and I have already learned somany design tips and tricks.
Q: Can you tell us the training flow and how you interact with the training teams?
A: Sure, for the first few objects, they first asked me to show them an image of the objects I’m interested in designing by myself. Then we discussed which design techniques and tools to use for the design task. After that, they allowed me to select any object of my choice.
Once we agreed on the design, they asked me to make a draft design as either a video or interactive tutorial, whatever works best for me, and that I should submit the design to them for review.
I must say that I was overly confident. I was sure that I made perfect tutorials but as I will share with you later, to my surprise, after I submitted and got the review, I realized how much I still had a lot to learn.
Q: Can you tell us how the review process works?
A: First off, I must say that all reviewers are polite and legit. They always provide very clear instructions and suggestions. As stated above, I was surprised by how many mistakes they found in my initial designs, but they assured me that it was normal for beginners. They equally showed me steps on how to improve on my design and workflow.
Q: What is the next step after the initial review?
A: They reply with very clear instructions for what needs to be improved and how to make them as expected.
I then send them back an improved tutorial for review and the process repeats itself until they are satisfied with the results.
Q: How do you proceed in making the final interactive tutorial?
A: Once they are satisfied with the design flow, I record an interactive tutorial and send it for publishing approval. If all is approved, they will publish it on the official tutorial page.
Q: Asides the design problems, what other issues do you face while making tutorials and how do you fix them?
A: Empty steps. Designers often play around until they get the final results. For example, if you need to position an object, you may try eyeballing it and take a few repeated steps until you’ve arrived at the final and most suitable position. Such practice leaves a lot of steps that can be removed. SelfCAD calls them empty steps and they will ask you to redo such tutorials.
As regards fixing them, there are 3 main ways to eliminate them.
- SelfCAD will teach you how to use more technical tools. For example, instead of using the move tool, you can use the snap or align tools to position the objects much faster and more accurately so that you get the position right the first time instead of guessing around.
- You first create the objects as you would normally do and when done, write down the final positions, so that when you create the final tutorial, you just enter the exact positions.
- If you make a mistake while still in recording mode, you can simply use the undo feature to remove a previous step(s). So, as long as you are mindful, you can simply undo any mistake, without redoing the tutorial. If however, you have already finalized the tutorials with empty steps included, you will need to re-record them from scratch. SelfCAD is planning to add a feature that will allow you to remove empty steps even after recording is done but for now, you need to re-record in such cases.
Q: What is your design experience using SelfCAD?
A: I had only a few hours of work experience before joining this internship, but making 3D models is a lot of fun in selfCAD and anyone can make it. So, with the help of this internship training, I hope to become a professional 3D modeler soon.
Q: Can you share some design samples of what you learned while working on these internships?
A: As mentioned before, I’m only in the 2nd week of the program and have so far created only 2 tutorials, but I am already able to share some valuable 3D modeling lessons I learned while making them.
My first design was my Cup tutorial. My tutorial was focused on absolute beginners with a goal to teach them how to make a cup in SelfCAD. The concept was very simple, you take a basic Cylinder primitive and use them for the cup base and then cut part from a Torus primitive and use it for the cup handle.
I used basic transformations to size and position the objects, so I quickly got the position and size as expected, as you can see below.
As for cutting the Torus, SelfCAD had already explained to me in the first training sessions the difference between combining objects using the merge function, or simply grouping them, vs using Stitch and Scoop union tool. So I knew that in order to cut and remove the inner part from the Tours, I needed to use the union function and as you can see below, the union toll successfully removed the inner section and it also created the correct geometry that combines them both into a single manifold object.
At this point, I was sure I created a perfect beginner tutorial but I simply forgot to hollow out the cup, and without that, you can’t place any liquid inside, thus making it useless. The SelfCAD team showed me how to hollow out and the process is quite simple. You just delete the face you want to remove and you then add thickness to the entire mesh.
You can see in the above example how I successfully deleted the top and added thickness to the cup. But there was still a problem, which was that the thickness is uniformly applied to the entire mesh, which means it also closes the hole of the Torus. In this particular example, I used a thin thickness of just 3 so that was not such a big issue. But supposing I had used a thickness that is bigger than the diameter of the Torus, this would have created self-intersecting faces, making this a non-manifold object. And because this is used for teaching beginners, we need to teach the best and the most recommended design practices.
Moreover, from a design perspective, this is totally wrong, as you can’t let the liquid enter the handle. You must find a solution that keeps the entire inner part of the cup solid.
So SelfCAD rejected this tutorial and showed me how to do it right.
What is the correct way of attaching a cup handle?
Well, problem-solving 101 suggests you split the problem into smaller pieces and analyze how you can solve each smaller problem separately. This turns out to be no different. Remember, I said I had to cut and combine, so what if I treat them as separate problems? Well, therein lies the solution.
Let me show you how, first off, I also had to change the design flow. Instead of first combining and later hollowing out the shape, I first cut the handle, then I hollowed out the cup, and finally, I combined them.
To show you why this flow is really important, let me demonstrate what will happen otherwise.
I will explain below what you see in this image.
First, they explained to me that the four (Union, Difference, Exclusion, Intersection) tools in SelfCAD’s stitch and scoop are basically standard boolean operations and like any boolean operation, they are only applied to intersecting objects.
An intersection does not mean one object is touching another, it just means that the volume of one object goes into the volume of another object.
They explained the concepts of volume very well, so I now have a clear understanding not only of boolean tools, but also of 3D objects volume, intersections, and know a lot about manifold issues.
Now if you first add thickness, the Torus will only intersect the thickness of the Cylinder, so it will only remove that intersection part (when using the difference or union tools) and keep the remaining inner parts.
In other words, to remove the entire inner part, you need to maintain the entire volume of the cylinder before making the boolean operation between the Torus. This is where splitting the problem saved the day. I still used the Stitch and scoop boolean tools but I added an extra step as follows,
I first used the Difference tool to cut out just the outer part. I then hollowed out the Cylinder without first connecting it to the Tours. I then used the Boolean tools again, this time on the union, which combined the pieces.
They also explained to me that because boolean tools need an intersection, it is recommended that I add some outer thickness to the cylinder since the first cut had them just touching each other. The union would still work in this particular case but as a best practice, I need to teach this concept so I ended up using mirror thickness, which split the inside and outside thickness equally.
In the top left image, you can see the original objects, on the top right, you see how it looks after the cut (I moved it apart so you can see it better). On the bottom, You can see how I hollowed the cylinder separately, and next to it, you can see the combined object that has solid insides.
When looking at the final results, you get the feeling that this is just a very simple tutorial. And you are correct. It only has a total of 27 steps, and you can complete them in less than 10 minutes. However, just within the time that I have worked with SelfCAD’s technical team, I have received a lifetime of hands-on experience and these lessons are the same regardless of which 3D design software you chose.
When it comes to my second tutorial (Gun design Tutorial) there’s a bit more complexity to it. I first made them using only primitives, similar to my cup tutorials, and that resulted in too many unnecessary design steps and complexity.
I also made some mistakes. I forgot to add thickness to the gun barrel, which caused the object to become non-manifold, but After a few back and forth conversations, I ended up making this entire design in just 61 steps and that includes adding the plates and coloring the object.
This is simply remarkable, considering the number of details added to this design. I was able to accomplish this by learning new to use tools from SelfCAD’s amazing arsenal. But more importantly, the SelfCAD team showed me when and how to use them correctly.
I remember watching hours of blender videos, just to learn how to work with the very basics, but had no success. It’s unbelievable that within a short week of working with SelfCAD, I already managed to create a few nice designs.
I really appreciate this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to learning a lot through this internship.
You can see the excitement and learning experience Yesh got in his first week and rest assured that all interns get the same level of specialized training.
Everyone comes from a different background and everyone has a different level of expertise, which is why SelfCAD needs to customize and individualize the training, but the overall experience and interns’ excitement is the same.
Some of the interns are already in their second month and are already creating really advanced designs. The real winners however are the SelfCAD users, which is the main goal for this program. They will get a lot of different Interactive tutorials, with many different design styles and many different types of objects, so they can quickly learn and master SelfCAD.
As a side note:
We mentioned above that SelfCAD automatically creates these interactive tutorials, all you need is just to activate the recording feature. However, it also has an optional ‘Description’ field where designers can add any explanations they deem important, and some of the designers are already taking advantage of this feature.
These explanations are similar in nature to the ones we provide to the interns, so this is a great way for anyone to learn and master SelfCAD, and 3D modeling in general. Want to join SellfCAD’s internship program? Email Jobs@selfcad.com
If you are interested in designing tutorials without joining the program, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be happy to help you with the entire process.
Enjoy powerful modeling, rendering, and 3D printing tools without the steep learning curve.
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