Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top 10 things I learned during my first week as a design intern

Let me begin right off the bat saying that I love my new internship.  I am completely in the right place and don’t even consider it a j-o-b.  That being said, there aren’t many things that David Letterman and I have in common.  For instance, I don’t have a second home in Montana (or anywhere else for that matter), am not an internationally known superstar (not yet at least) and don’t smoke cigars.  But the one thing that I do have in common with Big Dave is that we like lists.  Top ten lists to be exact.  So, without further ado….the Top 10 Things I Learned My First Week as Design Intern. 

1) High End – There are many levels of design firms out there --- low, middle and high.  Each level serves a purpose and has a unique personality.  The high end is where my design firm lives.  Beauty is measured by lavish objects d’arte, furniture and interiors.  The beauty is painstakingly clear.  Almost as is you are in a pretend land – such as a movie set.  

Incredible office chair (example of exquisite beauty) as seen in “Wall Street Money Never Sleeps” that I’m hoping to see this Friday night as an admirer of both movie and design...

2) Confidentiality – Most of us don’t realize how valuable our anonymity in life is until it’s not there.  We are allowed to walk through the streets and shop as we like without a lot of eyes staring at us.  Our high end clients are not usually afforded that small luxury.  With this level of design firm, confidentiality is the key to everything we do.  Clients are paying you to stay quiet, keep their privacy and do a bang-up job.  They are not paying you to tell everyone what they had for dinner last night and the type of undies laying on the floor when you went to measure for window treatments.

3)  CFA – “Cut For Approval” is my new vocabulary term for the week.  Believe it or not, a high end designer can request an oversized mock up of just about anything for these clients.  This is no paint chip from Benjamin Moore or a skimpy fabric swatch from Calico Corners.  This is bigger than that. Take for instance a rug that you have envisioned for your client.  As a designer, you can request a large mock up of the rug or CFA.  Sure you might start with a swatch but the CFA is expected before anything is built into drapery or furniture.  Just this week, I saw the most incredible rug with leather trim as a CFA.
 Highland Court sells amazing fabrics to the trade...and of course, will do CFAs.

3) Business Skills – If design if the name of the game, then tracking your business is the food on your table.  Organization is not only important, it is required.  Binders will become your best friend – one ofr invoices, one ofr CFAs and one for every client.  Tracking and managing your paperwork is a must.  That business undergrad degree of mine is going to come in very handy.  A good design firm is talented but a great design firm is organized.

4) Marketing  - Word of Mouth baby.  If you make a name for yourself, there is no need for marketing.  As with most quality products, there’s no need to advertise when the product speaks for itself.  People will call you just because of your reputation.  No yellow pages google for interior designers here….

5) Co-workers  - People are people in the design industry.  It’s totally different industry, but the same questions still arise: where we should go for lunch, what we are doing this weekend and what (or even who) was annoying in the office this week.  My favorite validation of the normalcy in the design arena – happy hour.  Count me in...

6) Arm Size – My first pickup was at Ann Sacks.  No, I’m not talking about a vehicle here but rather the blazing guns on my arms.  This week, I had to pick up a huge tile sample.  Beautiful but very very heavy.  Picture me in heels, skirt, oversized handbag and this massive piece of amazing tile.  All that was running through my head was “Don’t drop it, Carla.  Don’t drop it.”  Toting sample like this, I’m bound to beef up those upper body guns.
This is the beautiful 18x18 sample I was hauling around.  The description reads:  "The distinctive veining pattern of Pantano evokes the dramatic movement of ocean tides during the night.  Veining ranges in color from pale silver to dark moss green, occasionally interrupted by brilliant inclusions of white quartz clusters".  Ann Sacks starting at $11.67/square foot.

7) Degree – The ever-growing debate of do I need a design degree or not?  What’s my conclusion thus far?  Maybe…But definitely I need to brush up on my CAD!  Computer Aided Drafting is a software that most industries who cater to visual design use.  Architects and even some cartoonists use this functional tool.  For me, it would be extremely useful to produce floor plans and other visuals for my clients.  I’m bumping that class up on my must- have for next semester.
8) Parallel Parking – Gracias Chicago!  I still have it….first time was a charm.  Without missing a beat, I’m able to park the Pilot (Honda that is…) on the street in downtown and run in to pick up whatever I need to without any stress.  Good thing too as this will become a regular routine for me.  Now to pad my ipod song list for complete commuter perfection.

9) Experience – Internship + School = Success.  This is truly the best thing that could have happened to me.  You learn more on the job than you do in a quarter at school.  Put yourself out there and pursue  the internship.  It’s invaluable.

10) Priorities – With a brutal schedule, I have really had to hone my priorities to a very few for the sake of staying sane.  Sure, I want to return every phone call and go to every girls lunch but I’m realizing that I have limited bandwith right now.  Faith, family and friends – in that order.  My time is precious right now.  It won’t always be this way, but it is a way of life for the next little bit.  Thankfully, I am blessed with a fantastic support system who understand my situation. 

     Although the list above has been precise and to the point, it seems as if my whole life is exactly like that right now.  Juggling all the balls required of mom, wife and intern is completely exciting and completely exhausting!  But I would not trade all of the craziness for anything… Until I get my second home in Montana and learn to actually not choke on a cigar, these top ten will serve as my link to David Letterman – and to my future as well. 

    Love, C

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