Making an internship work

 9 September 2011

Rhiannon Jones is a graphic designer working for Warner Music Group. She spoke about how a 3 month internship led to a permanent job in the music industry.

Design internships helped Rhiannon gain industry experience after university.
Design internships helped Rhiannon gain industry experience after university.

Finding work after graduating

After graduating from the Lincoln School of Art & Design, I jumped straight into interning. I realised that I'd need to gain as much industry experience to stand out before I'd be able to get a paid job.

After 7 months of interning at different companies in London and Shrewsbury,  I heard about a design placement on the Warner Music group on Facebook. I thought I'd give it a go, but never imagined they would get back to me. I was getting use near-misses and lack of response from companies, so didn't get my hopes up too much.

I'd always seen the music industry as an ideal, but was unsure how a graphic designer fits into a label (I’d presumed most designs were done through agencies). But I felt it was an amazing opportunity: my portfolio was growing and the range of work and skills I had gained from university and previous internships would put me in a good position.

A graphic design internship

I had great feedback from the interview and landed a 3 month internship at Warner Music Group. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was enthusiastic and willing to do anything and everything to make the right impression.

"I've learnt so much in my first year and my skills have progressed."

It ended up being the most amazing 3 months, working with a great team on real projects including :

  • the advertisement for Biffy Clyro's first arena tour (featured in The Guardian and NME)
  • tour merchandise for Marina and the Diamonds
  • online banners for Paramore.

I worked very hard but there were lots of perks, I got to meet Paolo Nutini, party at Zach Braff’s birthday with Joshua Radin and Kevin Spacey and went to a lot of gigs for free! It actually felt like a job from the beginning, even though I was interning

Within the first month of my internship I put in a job proposal. It was the perfect role for me, but if I hadn't have interned at Warners I would never have even thought about working in a record label.

I had great support from the team I worked with. I just needed to prove there was a job for me and that I would be an great asset to the team and Warner Music. I continued to push myself and worked hard to impress. Two months after finishing my internship the role of Junior Designer was created!

Working as a junior designer

After a year in my role, I’ve worked with Warner Bros Records, Rhino Records, 679 and Atlantic Records, as well as working for a variety of internal departments:

With Brand Partnerships I work on presentation pitches for deals. For example, I worked on a collaboration with MAX FACTOR and Marina & the Diamonds.

For D2C (direct to consumer) I mainly create banners for online stores store.ukundercurrent.com and rhino.co.uk . We have meetings to discuss the marketing campaigns for the sites and how we can show fans new products.

Currently I'm working a lot with Tour Merchandise, as we have four tours coming up. I work with the Head of Merchandise to create ranges to show the artist, marketing and management. This is then discussed, amended and sent to print.

As the role was created for me, it's constantly evolving and I work with my boss to push boundaries and create great designs. I've learnt so much in my first year and my skills have progressed but it's important that I keep learning, researching and grow as a designer.

I'm very grateful that my boss saw the potential in me to take the risk. It is a huge advantage when interning that, as well as coming away with the experience, you may come out with a job!

Internships as a route into the industry

Interning has very much become the norm after graduations. A lot of companies use internships to recruit graduates. They aren't just looking for the qualifications – they’re looking for experience and initiative.

"The range of work and skills I gained from university and previous internships put me in a good position."

As a designer, you have to be the one that stands out. Show what makes you different from the thousands of other graduates that have completed the same course.

It will be a big advantage if you can use your summers at university to intern – you will already be a step ahead when you graduate. I did a lot of freelance work through university that boosted my portfolio and got my name out there. I also set up a website with my portfolio.

While interning, it’s important to have to right attitude. Show your employer that nothing is too much trouble and receive every task with a smile – it helps give the right impression!

Financially, an internship is a difficult position to be in, but it’s one that could land a great job. Ultimately, I had to balance the fantastic opportunity with getting into debt – I was very lucky that it paid off.


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