It’s the Small Things That Matter the Most
(by Xiaoxiao Ma, Noise 13 intern during the winter of 2020)
Why were you interested in interning at Noise 13?
I was studying Graphic Design at the Academy of Art University. During my senior year, I was looking for job opportunities in the Bay Area. I knew I wanted to work in a small creative space, get more chances to be involved with a team, and work on different projects to nurture my professional growth. I found Noise 13, a small and powerful team that creates amazing works. That Noise 13 is a woman-owned business was a plus.
What were your favorite projects?
During my internship at Noise 13, I got opportunities to develop new skills through work on motion and website design. I enjoyed creating motion pieces for Wine Country Botanical and Invisible Talks 2021. I was interested in learning Figma and working on INVT21’s website.
It was a great experience to collaborate with other designers on refreshing the brands for Creativity Explored and San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. I didn’t get many chances to work with other designers when I was in college, so I was used to working alone and I felt like my designs had to be complete before I could show them to other people for feedback. However, teamwork is powerful. I got better as an individual and came up with stronger results by incorporating collaboration, sharing inspiration, and embracing different perspectives.
What was the most important thing you learned?
My understanding of design has changed.
When I was in college, I felt design was about what it looks like and feels like–its visual impact. I thought “the design looks beautiful” was the biggest compliment.
Now, I look at design as more of an affective and ownable system, a system that can communicate issues and solve problems. As I consider how I might build up my design system today, I think about the different touchpoints I am designing for and how I might interpret the design in different ways.
Were there any challenges during your internship? How did you overcome them?
I get anxious and nervous when I face new environments. It takes me a long time to connect with people, and it’s hard for me to let new people in, so I usually keep quiet. However, the company is small, so I got more chances for face-to-face interaction with my colleagues. Everyone in the office is friendly and supportive.
In the second month of my internship, we started quarantine. The beginning of quarantine time was difficult as I learned how to manage my anxiety and isolation. I felt it was hard to stay connected when my colleagues and I were actually apart from each other, and hard to get inspired without going out and being around people. The team found ways to virtually keep in touch and stay connected. Even though we were not able to celebrate any accomplishments in person, we still created virtual birthday and anniversary cards for coworkers. I received my sweet promotion virtual card from the team. I felt seen and recognized. Also, we shared our music lists, kept happy hours, had virtual lunches, and the designers had a weekly virtual meetup, an “imagination station” for sharing inspiration. It helped me understand the importance of teamwork and communication.
At first, I felt overwhelmed when I had multiple tasks. I was being hard on myself because I wanted to take the time necessary to do a good job and finish the task in a tight timeline. After the third month of my internship, things got easier. I just gave myself some time to get up to speed.
What advice would you give to a fellow intern?
The more you can be involved, the more and faster you will learn. I had the opportunity to support other designers with some client projects. I learned a lot from listening and observing how other people do things and their creative processes.
Pay attention to the details. The small things matter the most. Consciously organizing working files and using a consistent file naming structure can expedite the workflow for the whole team.
Collaboration is important. It’s always helpful to have more eyes look at the designs and get objective feedback. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, express concerns, disagree with any of the comments and feedback, or explain and defend your reasoning behind designs.