Internships provide Design students real-world experience

USF Design student Interns

Each year our Design students take what they’ve learned in the classroom and gain additional experience in the real world through internships.  This semester 15 students are busy interning at non-profits, businesses, start-ups, foundations, and design firms around San Francisco.

Design students in the Design Internship course are growing professionally and creatively through professional experiences at a range of companies.  Internships serve as a testing ground for student’s future careers, introducing them to new working environments and projects that “provide learning experiences that we either can’t or shouldn’t be in a college classroom,” says Professor Stuart Mckee, who teaches the course this semester. These experiences allow students to network in the industry, collaborate on design projects, and work with others in specialized roles. They also expose students to new opportunities available within the broad industry of design. While interning at Root Division, a visual arts non-profit, senior Megan Badilla learned new skills in both graphic and exhibition design, pushing her to further explore a career in non-profit work and arts education.

Digital illustration of kids preparing for a preparing for a party.

Megan is working on Root Division’s design team, creating branding and exhibition material.


Each experience is a unique opportunity with new lessons to be learned.  Senior Lauren Imada is working as a Graphic Design Intern at the Creative Services Department of the San Francisco Symphony.  Lauren learned that designing projects for class is different from designing for clients; “people want you to design certain things that you probably have no personal attachment to and you learn not to take it too personally when they’re unhappy with your work. Of course, it’s frustrating to have to change one piece of a design multiple times, but you learn a lot about communication and empathy when designing something not for yourself.”



Image of Cafe Reveille in colorblocked orange frame

Terence uses design skills in a social media context for Bob Cut Mag’s online presence.

Senior Terence Ho serves as the PR Intern of Bay Area publication, Bob Cut Mag.  Designing for weekly social media posts, Terence learned to mitigate creative block by collaborating with others for inspiration or direction. “Just ask, it doesn’t hurt. Not sure of a color or set of colors to choose from? Ask a friend what’s the color of the day. You’d be surprised what kind of colors a person would associate with a Wednesday.”


In addition to working on-site at their internships, students also meet in the classroom throughout the semester.  Class time is used to contextualize the internship experience in the context of the design profession.  Students are able to share experiences and get help with issues that might come up.  A portion of the class is also used to work on improving cover letters, resumes, and portfolios, so that students will be better prepared for future internships and jobs after the semester is over.


Professor Mckee also offers his advice from his own work and internship experience. He shared that it is more important to know where you want to work instead of knowing what places are currently hiring. If there is a firm or company you know you want to work with, make sure they always have your resume, even if there are no open positions. When it comes time to hire, you will not be in a pile of applicants, but already in their files. He also believes that it is important for young designers to explore many positions until they find the right fit. Internships are temporary positions that allow students to test different areas of work and teach students what environments and projects they work best with.


Other students in the Internship class are taking on design roles at 826 Valencia, Modsy, Friends of the Urban Forest, Side C, Mocha Girl Beauty, Revialiste, Copia, Bloom Bras, Hella Slingshots, and others.


Design students learn valuable lessons through their internships and this course, which will prepare them for their professional career. Not only does this give them the skills and exposure they can utilize, but a greater sense of what they will find fulfilling after graduation. Professor Mckee hopes these experiences benefit the student as they begin searching for jobs after gradation because “If you love the job you have, that’s the value of life.”