hi guys! i am out of town this week teaching in san francisco, but katie is going to take over for me this week and answer today’s advice question: “what do you look for in a designer or intern?”


i look for a solid portfolio that shows a variety of print and web, a nice sense of color and layout. their site is usually straight forward and easy to navigate. when i contact them it’s nice when they respond in a timely manner. don’t keep people waiting or they’ll move on to the next person.

when i’m looking for help i also reach out to people in my network to see if anyone has a good recommendation. i keep in touch with one of my favorite professors from MICA and she always has someone’s info to pass along. every designer she has sent me has been hired. note to students: keep a good relationship with your classmates and your professors. think of them as your coworkers and your boss. they will be one of your most important assets when you graduate. your classmates will go off into the real world and get real jobs. when their boss says “we need help, know anyone?” they will think of you and if you showed up to class on time and if you presented killer work.

when i look at students i think it’s great when they take their project past what was required. i’ve seen some start with a packaging project. then they turned it into a lifestyle shot and then a social media campaign. it’s so great to see people thinking about the big picture. it’s also a major plus when a candidate has lots of skills vs just one. they are more valuable because they can help with so much more.

when it comes to the interview i like it when people look me in the eye. i also like a firm handshake. nobody likes a wimpy one. i know i shouldn’t but when someone gives me get a weak handshake they go down a couple notches in my book. i like when the person laughs or makes me laugh. i like to be around happy people so don’t forget to smile. i like when people ask me a lot of questions (makes me feel better about asking them a ton). i want them to be curious and have an extreme hunger for knowledge. it shows me they’re ambitious and eager to work hard.

(illustration by katie evans. read more freelance advice posts are over here!)


Add your own

    Hanna says:

    Thanks for that advice! I have to start going to interviews very very soon (not as a designer, but anyway) so I like to get all the advice I can at the moment – especially some that is not the typical sit up straight blabla!
    Have a good day!

    Jana Miller says:

    I’ve been learning so much from this series! I’m just starting out in the design world and it’s been so helpful 🙂 Thanks!

    Pegah S says:

    I have a question, what do you do about health insurance when you go freelance?

    Shawnee says:

    Great advice! I’m currently a student, and it’s good to know about these things while still in school and the importance! thank you.

    alicia says:

    Solid answer. I agree that taking one concept and expanding on it and always keeping the big picture in mind is great. Besides looking great visually it shows that you are versatile and can problem solve! Plus it happens a ton in the real work world anyway!

    Christina says:

    I’d also like to add that I look for humble folks and people who are eager to learn (in the case of an intern). I have met a lot of students/recent grads who think they know everything already and it makes me think they are going to be a pain or unwilling to do junior level work. Enthusiasm and a positive attitude is key – and I’d say is equally as important as the work in their portfolio.

    Brooke Miller says:

    I am a student that is halfway through my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design. I have two questions.. Do you prefer your interns and possible hires to have a masters degree–or do you base a lot more on their portfolio? Do you have any advice for a designer looking for internships and opportunities? I feel as though in the creative field, sometimes we are left to fend for ourselves when it comes to finding work!

    Thanks so much! I love this series! Keep up the amazing work!

    Sarah says:

    Very solid advice. I think it’s also really important to make is clear that you are a good communicator and have great people skills. Many designers embody that hide behind your computer screen, quiet, nerdy type. If you’d be great in a client meeting or bringing in new business, make sure that shows in the interview!

    Kate says:

    Do you have any advice for someone who doesn’t have those connections gained in school and needs to find other ways to network? I have a BA in humanities–totally unhelpful for networking, now that I work in art & design! I feel behind having not gone to school, and missing out on those connections makes me feel even more lost!

    Thanks so much Katie. Great to hear your perspective as i am looking for my first intern. Hairy scary! I agree a nice clean portfolio with the work doing the talking is so much easier for me to judge.

    Sarah says:

    Do you have an advice on how to approach a company you are wanting to have a design internship with? With large companies i feel like it can be hard to find the right person to contact and it can be very intimidating! yalls advice would be greatly appreciated!

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