What genOn has Taught Me, (& other reflections)

Working specifically for a non-profit organization that’s youth involved instead of interning for a creative agency seemed like a risky decision when I started the semester. While I read other students’ reflections on their internships I began to realize that I wouldn’t get much of a variety in terms of clients and kinds of designs and I feared that my experience might not be as interesting as everyone else’s seemed to be. As the weeks passed however, I realized that my fears didn’t need to be fears. Working for one main client has been a blessing in disguise because I’ve been able to see from the inside how the mind of a client works. Instead of getting a brief and then having to deliver drafts without much conversation in between, I’ve been able to communicate with the staff regularly and get a better idea of what is needed and wanted. The turn-around time here is not that fast which I know is a stark contrast to what I’ll have to deal with in the future of my career but at generationOn, deadlines are set way in advance and everyone knows when something is coming up. There’s really no last minute designing because the campaign dates are on the calendar and have to follow a design style based on the sponsor/partner for the specific campaign so there’s a style and form to follow at all times.

Beyond the things I can apply to design, working at genOn this semester has inspired me in terms of volunteering and bettering our community. I read stories of genOn youth doing great things across the country to combat problems in their cities and even in bigger communities and I am motivated. This feeling of wanting to be involved has been heavy on my mind lately and I’ve been thinking of how the worlds of service and design can overlap. Although I don’t know what direction I would like to take it in, I would love to find a way to merge these things I’m passionate about to help the world in some capacity. Reading about some of the ways these kids have put together events for those less fortunate has made me realize that creativity goes a long way, beyond the ability to make aesthetically pleasing things. That said, there has to be a way to bring art and design to community service in a new, exciting manner and my goal is to figure out just how it can happen. I’m very excited to find out just how it can be possible to achieve!

Another reason I’m glad I stuck with my gut feeling and decided to come to genOn is the staff. Everyone has been very friendly and helpful. I’m more than thankful for the instruction and encouragement of these women that I’ve met here at genOn. It’s somehow strengthened my already undying support for women in business to be part of a women-led team. Just a few of the things they’ve taught me are:

  • Practice What You Preach – during my first day here, I was told that in keeping with this expression, they like to do service projects with the staff and I’d have the opportunity to give back to the community. (That’s how I had the amazing chance to volunteer at the Bowery Mission, a mindset-changing event that I’ll never forget.)
  • Believe in Yourself and Your Abilities – once, I mentioned that I was a bit nervous to show my design for something because I worried that it wouldn’t be liked. Kate responded to my email with this: “These are beautiful! Don’t send work over saying you’re apprehensive – sell it girl!!! You have talent! ” She reassured me that my design was great and it made me think differently. I never really think that it’s important to be confident in my work & now, I realize how silly that actually is.
  • Talent Sharing is Caring – it’s very normal in the office to hear people asking for help with a program or task as well as offering help. Our lunch and learn meetings were founded on the staff sharing their talents and knowledge with us interns so that we’d be better prepared to go on to our next positions. Everyone helps each other because they know that the work will be stronger with the combination of everyone’s talents and special skills.

I’m very happy to have been working among these strong, powerful professional women and I’ll really miss the cupcake parties, conversations about Beyonce, and hearing all the interesting stories from their youth.

These are just some of the things I’m thankful for in this internship and I couldn’t have imagined a better semester as an intern.


doggy-bags friendship-kits

Pinterest Graphics for Family Volunteer Day, Saturday, Nov. 19th, 2016


genOn Clubs Disney Grant Winners


Facebook Banner for genOn Clubs

jm_social-media_rectangle_quote jm_social-media_rectangle-snowflakes

Social Media Posts for the Joy Maker Challenge

bake-sale holiday-hope-chests share-the-season

Pinterest Graphics for the Joy Maker Challenge

Speaking to your Audience

While in the advertising major, I’ve learned that a big part of advertising is obviously writing to a specific audience, usually people that you want to do act in the way that you want them to. To my understanding, the goal of advertising is to get participants/consumers/customers to recognize your call to action and then do what that is: buy a product, come to an event, support a cause, etc. Although you pick a distinct demographic to target, the copy and tone of an ad or campaign is still supposed to be easy enough for someone outside of the target to understand. For example, a classmate and I were once given an assignment to create a campaign for uSell, “an online marketplace where people can sell used cell phones, tablets, video games, textbooks and gift cards to professional buyers.We came up with a concept of a mobile device breaking up with its owner. This resulted in humorous print ads and commercials that were mainly relatable to people in their prime dating age but the idea was easily understandable even if you’re not going through a breakup yourself. Because of projects like these, I was under the impression that always when designing, you’re to speak to your audience but make sense to others.

While being part of the genOn team however, I’ve changed my idea on this a bit. While it’s always good to make sense to everyone, there are times that what you’re designing for won’t make sense to the public because it doesn’t need to. In the non-profit world, just as in any professional specialty, there are words and terms that are exclusive to non-profit work and organizations. Even some words that are used in different fields have different meanings in the non-profit world. Take the word campaign for example, the definition is: “an organized course of action to achieve a particular goal.” While the basis is the same, in the advertising world, a campaign is a set of ads (along with the design of, the concept of, and the different kinds of advertising used) that are trying to persuade you to do something. In the non-profit world, a campaign is usually a service initiative that volunteers are encouraged to get involved with. Learning about this distinction between language that’s used within a field and outside of it helped me when designing for internal matters. Sometimes, I would have to work on designs (infographics, email blasts, etc.) that would only be seen by generationOn or Points of Light staff which meant that I didn’t have to think about whether or not the audience would understand what was being talked about.

Specifically, at times working with text on designs for generationOn’s campaign the Joy Maker Challenge was easy because I didn’t have to explain the challenge to the people that originated it but other times, including what exactly Joy Maker is was space consuming.

By the way, Joy Maker is an annual campaign that generationOn facilitates connecting youth ages 5-18 to meaningful, hands-on service projects during the holiday season. For every kid and teen who volunteers throughout The Joy Maker Challenge, Hasbro will donate a toy or game to Toys for Tots. If you’d like to find out more, go here: generationon.org/joymaker

Overall, even though I might not have the chance to work on designs or ads exclusively for a specific field in the future, I’m glad I learned that there isn’t a hard and fast rule to choosing the language and tone in which you speak to your audience.

Firsthand Rebranding

Working for a company in the midst of a branding overhaul has been a very interesting experience, one that’s teaching me a lot about the inner workings of things on a professional level. We’ve all seen many rebrands that work, maturing visuals with a more sophisticated, on-trend logo and materials to follow (like Apple or Google). We’ve also seen the unfortunate cases where an attempt to be relevant works against the brand’s image (like Gap). I was a bit excited as well as nervous to be a part of a design team in the middle of a rebrand — my work would have to match the changes being made but also keep the feeling that people associated with generationOn were used to and sometimes, there isn’t always a clear instruction on how to do that.

One of the things I learned while watching this maturing of design and working with the marketing & communications team was that you really have to design for your audience. Of course, I already knew that designs were made keeping in mind the customer or participants’ response to the call to action, but this was a new level of understanding. genOn is a non-profit that strives to engage youth in service so their original branding was very youth-minded with chalkboard doodles and multiple bright colors. When they did a survey of the people who most frequently visit their website and the people with which they directly work with however, they realized that they were designing for the wrong audience. The majority of people ever seeing the genOn branding were adult women (mainly mothers, teachers & other school administration, volunteer directors, etc.). After receiving this information, the staff realized that they needed to scale back the juvenile elements in the design and use elements more appealing to their actual target. That meant incorporating more purple, one of their secondary brand colors, and trading hand-written chalkboard fonts for sleeker sans-serif type.

This is something I think will really help me in the future: the knowledge that even though a product/service is for a specific audience, the brand itself might not always target the same audience, it might even have two audiences. An example of this is children’s programming and subsequently, the toys, apparel, and virtually anything else that is linked to a character or movie/show. Though the kids fall for the easily recognizable characters plastered on every item possible, the parents are the ones with the money and the ones who will let their children watch, wear, use, and/or play with these characters. I noticed this a lot while shopping for a newborn gift in Babies R Us recently. Babies, or more specifically toddlers, obviously can’t read nor understand the packaging that their clothes, accessories, and toys come in but they’re drawn to the familiar cartoon faces. The design of these packages is usually very clean, airy, and bright and very appealing to the people who’d most likely be in Babies R Us — mothers and other female family members.

Like I said, I was a bit scared that my work wouldn’t get across the same ideas in a new way but my supervisor has been nothing but supportive and keeps reassuring me that the designs I’ve been creating for the brand are in fact helping their plan to mature!

The Blogging Lunch & Learn

Weekly, the genOn staff holds an intern meeting called “Lunch and Learn.” Being that I’m the only design person in the office, the topics of learning aren’t always as applicable to my area of study as they are to the other young ladies I work with. Some of the topics include grant writing, data, and event management. While those are extremely practical for the future non-profit managers that the other interns are, they’re not really the top things on a designer’s “to learn” list. One of the meetings, however, was focused on blogging and facilitated by my supervisor, Kate. Kate’s experience with blogging professionally is extensive as she has managed blog posts for 3 companies she’s worked for, but her personal blog also gives her a lot of knowledge. Simply Savory by Kate is her blog dedicated to food and healthy eating (and savory dishes over desserts because she claims she’s horrible at baking). As I listened to the information Kate presented, I realized that blogging is a huge part of online communication and being that I’m in communication design, it does come up on my designer “to learn” list.

Previously, I thought blogging was solely for fun – a place to rant about your day or talk about your favorite things like Julie Andrews sang in the Sound of Music – or for boring business (like a podcast you have to read). But as Kate talked about the kinds of blogs and the different intents of blogging, I realized that my idea of blogging as a professional was very off. While sometimes, blogging professionally is writing seriously, it can also be fun and light. (Kate told us of her friend, a professional travel blogger who wrote an entry titled “How much money I make as a travel blogger… Not that it’s any of your business.”) Realizing this made it possible to apply the rules of blogging to advertising & graphic design.

I quickly put together Kate’s points & how they helped me think of how to better my ads.


I’m hoping that with the few remaining lunch & learn meetings, I can find more ways to apply other office aspects to design life.

Early Self-Evaluation

Although I’m loving this internship and the amazing opportunities & experiences I’ve had while working there and getting to know other people, I feel that my own performance in terms of work could be so much better. I do the work that is required of me within a timely manner and always deliver at deadlines. However, there is a lot I’m not sure of how to do and it worries me because there isn’t anyone to ask. I’ve spent a lot of time consulting Google for help and figuring things out on my own but I feel like I shouldn’t need to do that, that I should know already. I know that that’s unrealistic thinking and of course there will be many more things in life that I don’t know how to do but I still can’t shake that thought process.

I’m currently working on redoing their PowerPoint presentation to mature their branding a little and I’m extremely nervous on how they will feel about the design possibilities I submitted on Tuesday. I’m hoping that they like them and want to go with something I came up with and don’t think that I’ve been wasting time working on these.

I am proud of myself in terms of professionalism. I’ve always hated being late to things and I promised myself that I wouldn’t be late to this internship at all. So far, I’ve made it to the office with at least 25-30 minutes to spare every morning (even when the MTA delays me). I also choose to stay in the office for lunch rather than go out so that I don’t interrupt my work. I do hope that as the next few weeks progress, I’m able to become a little less shy and engage in more conversations and not second guess my work as much.

Volunteer Experience


“Anyone who knows me well knows that I frequently forget to smile but recently, I realized what a smile can do. Yesterday, I had the opportunity, thanks to my internship, to volunteer in the kitchen at the Bowery Mission. Preparing and serving food for 250 people in a short amount of time didn’t exactly make me want to smile. Every time we repeated “Hi, how are you? Would you like some salad?” and they responded “I’m starving. Thank you so much, I’ll take anything you’ll give me,” it broke my heart. These people (of different ages, races, genders) are in need & yet they could smile and thank us for spending our time there. I don’t even want to say that it made me more thankful for the life I’m blessed enough to live, but instead, it made me just want to be that much more compassionate and caring. Just a bittersweet reminder to choose joy over circumstance and share love & happiness with everyone you encounter.”

I wrote this for my Facebook status the day after visiting the Bowery Mission. It was truly an eye-opening, life changing experience and I’m so thankful for this internship allowing me to be able to be a part of this. Since genOn works on engaging youth through service, they figure that we should practice what we preach & volunteer ourselves. I’ve volunteered before in my local community but I wasn’t prepared for this at all. To see how many people have giving hearts and are concerned with feeding, clothing, mentoring, and sharing happiness with those less fortunate really touched me. The amount of people that we fed that day was shocking to me even though I know that NYC has a huge homeless population. I just didn’t figure that all of these people would come and be so open about their vulnerability. I realized the necessity to be compassionate and understanding and offer your time whenever possible. The smiles and well wishes I received from people who’re not in the best place in life currently felt like treasure I should never take for granted. I still think of the faces I saw that day and wish that they’re doing well.

Getting to volunteer as genOn encourages put a meaning behind the designs I’m working on for them and made it even more important that I help to create content that is not only visually appealing but can also inspire others to get out and do for others.

Learning & Tasks

Being that I’m the main design person, I didn’t think there was much about design I could learn from the staff but I have been able to pick up a new skill. Since their files are located on a cloud, contributed to by participants nation-wide, sometimes, files go missing. This means that there isn’t always an original InDesign file ready to be edited and sometimes, I’m only sent a PDF and told to make changes. The first time this happened, I was so worried – how could I possibly update a file that I didn’t have? I’ve since learned how to edit using Adobe Acrobat. It’s taken a bit of researching on my own but I’ve figured out how to relink PDFs, update text & images, and other things I didn’t even realize were important. I never knew that you could do these things in Acrobat and I honestly just thought it was a PDF viewer, nothing else. I was pleased to learn otherwise.

I do have a certain level of clerical duties to handle but usually that includes updating filing for design folders in the cloud or correcting text that needs to be sent out since I am under communications. I’ve learned a bit about functioning in a business setting as well. On my first day, I got a lecture from the IT person on the do’s and don’ts of using office computers when I prematurely gave him access to my computer. I’m also learning that emails are sent to people sitting 10 feet away from you which is sort of weird to me but I guess it’s what works best.

In the genOn Office


The first time I walked into the genOn office, I was both a little startled and pleasantly surprised by the fact that as soon as I stepped off of the elevator, I was greeted by a cheerful staff. The open office has partitioned desks that face the entrance and an open work area, a semi-circle where the interns sit. From each of the desks, you can see and talk to any other employee which I was very happy to see since I thought all office spaces were lonely, boring cubicles. There’s a huge chalk wall with the company’s logo on it that runs along the back of the office, separating the main workstations from the bathrooms and kitchen. On the front and back of the wall, there are cute doodles and short inspiring quotes. There is another chalk wall in the mini library and other inspiring words designed in their branding up throughout the office. Even though the office is usually very quiet, it’s also very friendly and inviting.

There is only one man on staff so the office is dominated by 13 women. All of the employees are pretty much laid back and often wear business casual/semi-casual outfits. One of the women is often in a simple t-shirt dress and sneakers and no one wears heels really, not even the senior VP.

A typical day in the office is pretty much quiet, everyone doing their work and having one-on-one meetings within the different departments. Around 12:30, some people go and pick up their lunch, others heat up food in the kitchen and eat there. I’ve only been there four weeks but there have been a couple times where there are only about 5 people in the office. Many times, people work from home or have to leave early. Since they work on nation-wide campaigns and have to touch base with the Atlanta headquarters, there are some days that everyone is in meeting after meeting and the interns are the only ones working at our desks.

The employees are very friendly and interesting. So far, we’ve done ice breakers with M&Ms where we heard some really funny stories about each other, talked about what everyone wanted to be when they grew up, and celebrated one of the interns’ birthday. Next week, there’s even a Halloween appetizer party.

Internship Interview Process

At generationOn, I am the only design intern. I am responsible for completing a variety of design tasks/projects including, social media graphics, one-pagers for promotional material, campaign design work including toolkits, promotional pages, infographics, and program collateral.

My supervisor is Kate Kerley, Senior Manager of Marketing & Communications. There is one more member of the MarComm department which is Niki Huntsman, Digital Marketing Coordinator.

I found this internship through Looksharp.com. genOn was looking for multiple interns to fulfill roles in different departments and one of them happened to be communications/design. I applied and attached my resume and portfolio in the middle of August, about two weeks before their deadline of August 31st. I wasn’t very hopeful because there was no response and I figured they had already filled the position. During the first week of September however, Kate emailed me saying that there had been a problem when opening my portfolio but she’d like to meet with me in person in the following week.

I went to the interview early and was seen right away. We talked about my experiences as a student, the available position, and the company itself. Kate asked me about my design process and what I felt I could teach the genOn staff. She also asked questions about my workload in terms of school and volunteering. We even spoke about a previous interview I’d been on that felt like a bad fit for me. Before I knew it, she was thanking me for coming and I was waiting on the elevator. I ended up leaving at the time we were supposed to meet originally which worried me. After about 5 days though, I was emailed again and offered the position and happily accepted.

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