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Stories from Design Bridge: Interning in Amsterdam

Meet Sam. Originally from Belfast, Sam joined our Amsterdam Studio as a Junior Designer in August after having completed a 6 month internship with the team whilst studying Graphic Design at The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) last year. As we’re currently taking applications for internships in Amsterdam, so we caught up with Sam to find out more about his intern journey, and what’s happened since he graduated…

Hi Sam! So tell us, what made you apply for an internship at Design Bridge Amsterdam? 
I was fortunate enough to visit several creative agencies during a university class trip to Amsterdam, which included Design Bridge. We were given a great presentation by one of the Creative Directors who told us all about the Studio and what it’s like to work and live in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam Studio’s internship programme was mentioned, and we were encouraged to send in our portfolios if we were interested.

I got a good feel for the Studio’s atmosphere during my visit and was really impressed by the amazing work I saw, plus Amsterdam has a great vibe and there’s so much to do here, so I was really hooked on the prospect of doing an internship. I sent my portfolio over and a few months later, there I was!

If you had to choose, what would your top 3 highlights be from that time?
That’s a tough one as I had so many great experiences. Firstly, would probably be just meeting the team. The Studio is incredibly diverse with dozens of nationalities and professional backgrounds in one place, and I felt like I was learning something new about different cultures or the industry every day. Plus being surrounded by such a talented team was incredibly inspiring for me as a designer. Settling in came very naturally, especially as there are plenty of regular social traditions to get involved in, like (often themed) afternoon tea on Wednesdays. That was a great way to get to know everyone quickly.

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Second would be seeing how a large project I worked on evolved and developed during my internship. The project was for a massive global coffee brand, and it was fascinating to see how such a large-scale project came together over time. It was a great feeling to see elements I contributed to being included in the mix.

Lastly would be simply exploring Amsterdam and the surrounding areas. It’s such a great place to visit, with so much to see and do. The Netherlands is very photogenic so, for someone who loves to take pictures like me, that was a big added bonus. In fact, I took most of the photos on this blog post!

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Did doing an internship change your ambitions as a designer? 
Yes, massively. The whole experience was incredibly affirming for me. I think that during university it’s normal to doubt yourself and your abilities. I sure did both. However, coming here and getting stuck into real-world work gave me so much more confidence than I had before. Working in such a fast-paced work environment really sped up how fast I could tackle a project, which can feel like a big hurdle for a lot of students in university.

If anything, spending time in a living-breathing studio helped to demystify the whole design process, and it’s definitely given me a much clearer understanding of how the industry works.

And now you’re graduated and working full-time in the Studio – how did that come about?
In the time of my internship I was lucky enough to have dipped my toes into a vast number of different on-going projects. Not only did it give me a great deal of real work experience, it also allowed me to demonstrate a wide range of my often lesser known skills to the Creative Directors supporting me. I think this (and a good rapport with the team) left a good impression, and towards the end of my internship I was offered a full-time position after my graduation.

Given what you’ve learnt, what advice would you give a design student looking for a placement or internship?
Some really practical advice would be to take a good amount of time to look at places to rent as it can be difficult to find accommodation on a student budget, especially if left to the last minute. It’s also worth looking just outside the city, like I did, as the rent can be lower and the areas generally quieter. The DB team were really helpful with things like helping me work out a travel route for my daily commute.

Buying a bike to get around is also a given – it is Amsterdam after all! There are countless bike shops all over the city and many sell affordable second-hand bikes, so it’s worth visiting a few reputable stores to find one to use during your time here.

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Ask questions. If you’re not sure of something, just ask someone about it. It’s much easier to learn when you’re not stressed out about something you’re unsure of. It’s also valuable to just talk about other things, like work you’ve seen that you liked or disliked, or any creative projects you do outside of work. Seasoned creatives can often offer interesting insight or useful advice, so show people in the studio your university or personal work and get some valuable feedback. Make the most of having a studio full of designers at your disposal, it may help give you an edge when building your portfolio.

Enjoy the experience, have fun and get to know everyone around you. Whilst it’s very useful to make contacts in the industry, since creative types usually have a lot in common, you can also make some good friends, too.

Lastly, buy a museum card. Amsterdam has some amazing and inspiring museums, but they’re not free and visiting them can be expensive collectively. Investing in a museum card is a great way to visit many of them without breaking the bank.

And finally, tell us something that no-one at DB knows about you…
I actually wanted to be a lepidopterist when I was a kid.

*quickly Googles* Someone who studies moths and butterflies, what an interesting alternative career choice, thanks Sam!

Check our Careers page for the latest internship, freelance and full-time opportunities to join our Studios all around the world.

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