A Reflection on Design in the “Real World”

By Esmé Bleecker-Adams, FCLC 2021

Click here for Esmé’s reflections on a theater production experience at the YMCA.

Last summer I worked as a remote graphic design intern for a company that does affordable data visualization and management for nonprofit organizations. It did not turn out to be exactly what I expected, but nothing ever does. At the end of the day, I think it was an important learning experience, and I’m glad to have gotten a taste of the potential professional applications of design. 

I learned that while an eye for color and shapes is helpful, the real necessity in creating promotional materials and social media content is a gift for effective marketing strategy. In hindsight, I should definitely not have been surprised by this, but I’ll admit I did sort of expect to be drawing pretty pictures. In fact, it’s all about simplicity and using the right keywords to attract attention quickly and from the intended target audience of potential clients. I tend to be overly wordy, which is great for filibustering and little else in life. 

As far as the colors and shapes go, consistency is important; so walking into an already established brand, you are learning the design language of that particular company, which is harder in a way than making up your own from scratch. The tools existed before you and they’ll exist long after you’re gone, but your task is to figure out how to use them most effectively in the time you have. 

In my graphic design class, we read a treatise that said that good design goes totally unnoticed because its purpose is only as a vehicle for the information it conveys. I think this is a little extreme but makes a good point, and while designing in “the real world” is a creative pursuit, it’s also one of utility. 

Since the summer, I’ve been noticing more closely how brands and services portray themselves in the ads on subway walls, on social media and all around me. What story is the particular arrangement of words and images trying to tell, and to whom? I’m glad for the new perspective, and that I’ve come to understand a more expansive definition of creativity and its applications.