Interning-in-Place: Design students share interning experiences during COVID-19

Last Spring when San Francisco issued shelter-in-place orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t just classes that went online at USF, but internships as well.  Students enrolled in the Design Internship class typically work on-site in Design agencies and firms to get hands on experience, but like many other experiences, students quickly switched to interning remotely.  For some this brought new challenges and even whole new projects.  Below are just a few of the experiences our students had “interning-in-place”.  

Design senior Jennifer Brooks worked as a graphic design intern at UbisoftShe worked on a number of projects including branding their annual company meeting (twice, thanks to COVID-19), designing publisher sale graphics for the Nintendo Switch Store, creating templates and graphics for individual game’s social media pages, and even helped design the box art for two unannounced games. 

Jennifer described “As an intern, I relied heavily on watching how my coworker’s work and learning from that.   So when I was unable to watch my team work in person, I had to start asking a lot more questions to make sure that I got clarity on anything that I might not be familiar with.  Working from home has given me a new confidence when communicating with co-workers that I don’t think I would have built in the office.” 

Best of all, Jennifer was hired on full time after graduation.  “At first, I was unsure of my chances of landing a job at the end of my internship simply due to the demands of the job and the skills required. Over the semester, I grew more confident in myself and learned that what I didn’t know skill-wise, I could make up in work ethic. I’m proud of myself for stepping up and proving my worth to my team and I’m ecstatic to be able to stay with Ubisoft long term.”  

Ubisoft banner created by Design Intern Jen Brooks

Annual Ubisoft Company Meeting Branding created by Design Intern Jen Brooks.


Design senior  Mel Chang interned in the signage and way finding department of the San Francisco International Airport.  Airports were certainly one place that needed immediate changes to signage and Mel was part of this rapid, essential design process.    “Having to move my internship from in person to remote was an odd experience to say the least” Mel described.  “A key part of my work involved me being on-site at the airport, so initially, the idea of switching to remote work felt almost impossible to me, but then the impossible happened.  I think shelter-in-place gave me a new sense of adaptability as a worker that I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise.” 

When the COVID-19 crisis hit SFO Mel helped create new signage to help promote social distancing in elevator procedures, in which only 2 people maximum are allowed to use an elevator at a time.  She “took our existing elevator icon and played around with it to portray this new safety procedure in a way that would be understood regardless of any language barriers.”   Mel also had to problem solve how best to communicate which restaurants and shops were open in each terminal.  “Because of the uncertainty of the situation and safety concerns, we decided it would be best to create decals to go on these existing concession maps that would direct the passenger to SFO’s website to show which concessions are currently still open.”

COVID-19 elevator signage at SFO

SFO Elevator signage created by Design Intern Mel Chan during the COVID-19 crisis.

COVID-19 map signage at SFO

SFO map signage created by Design Intern Mel Chan during the COVID-19 crisis.

Reflecting back on her internship, Mel says:  “ I am most proud of the sense of community my internship site had. Since the beginning, every day was a joy for me to come in and work because the people around me created such a positive work environment. Even when the majority of staff began working remotely, I could still feel that sense of community I felt when we were still on-site in our interactions. I will always look back at my time at SFO and be grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve gotten to meet and work with.”  



Design senior Sarah Hamilton interned at  Replate, a non-profit organization that leverages technology to connect surplus food with those in need. She served as the company’s primary graphic designer, creating graphics for social media, animating educational videos and ads, designing web mockups, and more.  For Sarah, the transition to remorse work was easier than most as pre-COVID-19 she already split her time between working in the office and working remotely.  Sarah described:  “Luckily my team already utilized many online tools to stay connected and productive, but not being able to see my coworkers in person in the office was (and is) challenging.”  Sarah’s site supervisor was so impressed with her design skills and work ethic they offered her full time work after graduation.  Besides landing a job, Sarah also says a valuable take away was learning “how life can change dramatically at any given moment, and your plans can fall through without warning. As scary as this is, it’s a reminder to be flexible and comfortable with uncertainty.”

Social Media graphics from Internship

Social media graphics created by Design intern Sarah Hamilton for Replate during the COVID-19 crisis.