Working for a nonprofit organization showed me a side of a business that I had not experienced before. One thing I noticed is that the people working at the center are very dedicated to their clients and projects. They have a passion for what they do that I don’t think is as evident in a regular working environment where people are thinking more about making money than helping clients. On the other hand, the clients can be a little pushy because we offered them a free service, we tend to get all sorts of clients. Perhaps people who can afford to pay a large fee to a design firm know that their designs will get revised. Our clients sometimes were too attached to their ideas and refused our revisions. Also, since the center was nonprofit, everyday costs had to be trimmed wherever possible. The workers and volunteers there never ordered lunch. Instead, a local restaurant donated leftovers that supplied the center for the whole week. I could not get used to eating the same thing for a week, so I always brought my own lunch or politely had a tiny bit of what everyone else had.
The only major event that I attended through this internship was when my supervisor and I went into the city to get sponsors and donations. This surprised me a lot because, for the first time, I realized that my supervisor did not get any support from the government or receives any salary from the clients. I have a lot of respect for her and I guess I can consider her a role model, because of her dedication to the job and her passion for helping others. I found it difficult to be outside for long hours trying to solicit donations or volunteering from anyone who may be interested to help and to go ‘door to door’ and ask for donations. My supervisor, my mentor, feels passionate about her mission to provide this service to those who could not afford it or who need to learn more about design and media. I did not realize just how much she works at this, how many hours of her time is given to the assistance of others who need this service. I appreciate her much more and respect what she does even though I don’t see myself doing this kind of volunteer service. It amazes me that someone like my supervisor is trying to unite the disadvantaged and giving them a voice and an opportunity to get their ideas brought to life.
One specific project that stands out for me is a book cover that I helped a customer design. This taught me how to deal with clients, especially those who have very strong opinions about how their work should look. I know it’s their own personal work, they have feelings about how things should look. The customer that I worked with felt very strongly that her book cover design was perfect ‘as is’. It was too crowded and confusing. I could see where she wanted to go with the design, what she was trying to present. So I gave her some options on how to make it better. The customer became a little offended at my suggestions and did not want to change anything. I learned through this experience that we need to be patient with customers and try to use their ideas as best as we can. There may be times when a customer is very open to making changes, and I know there will be customers who totally refuse any ideas for revisions. This is part of the job I suspect.
Recently at the internship, I was given two projects. One is designing a greeting card for WPC and the second is to design a book cover and postcard for a member at WPC. The first greeting card project I am working with another intern at WPC, we both made sketches and ideas for the card. It’s an interesting little project but to get ideas down was really difficult because my supervisor was (not) very open to anything. She didn’t give a specific idea of what she wants or which dictation she’s thinking of, so we tried various sketches. The second project is to design book covers and a postcard. This is for one of the members at WPC. She wrote a book on her own, and my supervisor and I had a meeting with her and discussed what the book is about, target audience and what she wants from WPC. My job is to revise her postcard, first book cover, and design for the second book cover. I love this project more because I actually meet with the client and work directly with the client. It feels more likes the real life experience. But the difficulty of this project is to connect with the client because she had a postcard design already, which I felt was very disorganized, very ‘busy’. Busy, I mean that it has too much for the eyes. For example, front and back have two very different colors schemes, too much contrasting. Front side is earth tone and back is in pink and I don’t think the design works but she wanted that way so I can’t change the way that I think is good. The hardest part is to teach design to the client, for example when we doing the book cover she showed me the first book cover, she has an image in a rectangular shape and on the yellowish ground color background and back has another image and her self-portrait too. So I tried to tell her in design wisely, we try to avoid putting an image in the square shape. She asked me why I don’t know how to explain to her why and I know I can’t just say because it doesn’t look good. I am learning many strategies of working with clients, and know they are not as design conscious as I, so I must be patient. Occasionally. Overall, it was a great experience to work with her.
A typical day for me begins at 6 am, a bit early for what I have been used to. It is the summer and warm and the sun is up so it is easier to get out of bed compared to a cold and dark December. I drive to the College and attend a Design Team class from 8:30 am until 11 am. then drive to the WPC office, which is about 15 minutes by car. Parking is easily available because there is a big Lowes parking lot. I start my day at the WPC at 12 pm – 12:30 pm. In the first week of my internship, I mainly organized files and mailing correspondence to clients. I had to find the client information and print mailing labels. This is one of the first new skills that I learned, how to print mailing labels, and how to use the printers of the center to accomplish this. The printers are big industrial sized machines, and I feel they are good to learn to use, because someday I may work for a design firm that prints in bulk and operates these large machines. They are noisy machines, and emit an odor of old ink, and can get hot when they are working constantly. This is one reason that the printers are located at the back of the office where there are some big windows. Usually, I finish at about 6 pm, and the office remains open until 8-9pm. From there, I return home and do some work at home as well, like finishing projects on my computer.
The WPC is a non-profit organization. They accept anyone to be volunteers, and the culture of the workplace is informal, though with a sense of purpose. Everyone seems very dedicated to their work and passionate about the work we do. I never hear anyone complaining about the work, because they know that the job they do is a necessary assistance for the community. The workers are happy in their jobs. The dress is informal as well, comfortable clothes. The office is located in an open space, with no partitions. A typical workstation is a desk with a computer. There are a few very large printing machines located toward the back of the office, where a wall of books is also located. A typical work day for a full-time employee like my supervisor is from around 9 am – 8 pm, when the center is open. The hours are not regular because the workers often travel within the city for the clients. One thing that surprised me is the lunch time. A local restaurant donates all the meals for the WPC. However, this is only done in bulk, on Saturdays. This means that a few people go to the restaurant with large containers on Saturdays and take a LOT of food that will last the office through most of the week. I was surprised by this because everyone shares everything, like a family. It makes sense because this is a non-profit organization, they do not have any large income, so they must cut their daily living costs wherever possible.
My role in the company is to create the design for certain client’s projects, and organized the files. My supervisor is Ms. Lisa Dianell, she is the full-time volunteer at WPC, and one of the managing directors. I got this internship from the suggestion of Prof. Nicolaou. I called into the WPC office and asked if they need an intern. Lisa asked me to come in on Saturday, June 10; I had an in-person interview with my supervisor for about one hour long. We discussed my previous experience and looked at my portfolio. At the beginning, she explained to me about the company and what they do, their goals and objectives. I arrived early in the morning of June 10 and didn’t wait long to begin the interview. Ms. Dianell asked me about my skills, both language, and technical skills. She then asked me about my strengths, which programs I felt better working with. We also discussed my own goals for the future, for example, where I will see myself in the future, so we can better design my internship experience to fit the needs of the WPC center, and my own goals. Overall, I felt very good after the interview, and on the same day, I was accepted for the position. Ms. Dianell asked me to stay that day as my first day of internship.
For this summer semester of 2017, I’m an intern at Women’s Press Collective (WPC), located at 68 12 St., in Brooklyn. It is a small 100% volunteer-driven private organization. The majority of people at the company are part-time volunteers. The few full-time workers are supervisors, including my own Lisa. The company operates with a focus on publishing facilities more readily available to other organizations and individuals who are trying to make the world a little better. They serve lower income women who need assistance with graphic designs for their own businesses.
The WPC receives donations from the public, without government help. In turn, they serve to help lower income people with graphic design, by allowing them access to designing and printing services. The company was founded in 1982 as a small organization that wanted to give regular workers a chance to have a voice in the community. During that time, there was a problem with minimum wages, and the founders of the WPC wanted to give these disadvantaged workers a chance to share their experiences with the world. This is achieved their publications in magazines and other printed media.
I work in the graphic design sector of this company. Although the physical space of the company is small, occupying an open office. My desk is located in this open space, and there are no partitions or doors in the whole space. I am located more toward the back of the office, by the large printers and a small library.
Recent news articles about the WPC have focused on their activities for the International Women’s Day, and how the WPC has made ambitious initiatives that they presented to the UN.