Caleb Hou - Full

Caleb was our design intern for the summer of 2014. As his internship came to a close we asked him to summarize his experience, along with any nuggets he had for other up and coming designers or future interns.

Transitioning into the world of design from college can be a daunting task. Aside from working freelance, permanent design jobs can be tricky to land, with fresh graduates often passed over in favor of designers with real world experience. I sent my application to Substantial as a long shot after applying to over a dozen other companies. Substantial is well known for being one of the most active companies in the community. Often participating in AIGA events and hosting workshops, Substantial is one of those companies that an aspiring design student hopes to end up at [ed. note: Excellent]. There were many reasons for choosing Substantial, but the most important reason was that working here would give me the most potential for growth. Much to my joy, I was accepted into the internship program as one of the few design interns to ever work there.

Having never worked at a company before, I wasn't sure what to expect. When the word "intern" is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is a kid that buys coffee from Starbucks. Luckily for me, Substantial does not subscribe to that way of doing things. Instead I was immediately integrated into a team and given the freedom to learn, explore, and make mistakes. Everyone is there to support each other and ensure that we create the best products we can. I felt valuable and useful, a feeling that is not often given to the temporary intern. Every day I learned more than I had in months working freelance at school. I learned how much more there is to design than making buttons or comping out wireframes in Photoshop and Illustrator.

Rather than sticking to a more traditional process where designers create and finalize a design before handing it off to developers, I worked in an Agile process, working continuously with developers to create. This went beyond production work and I learned how to work with a team of both designers and developers. This knowledge is invaluable in the ever-changing world of design.

To me, one of the best parts of Agile is the steady stream of feedback as ideas are introduced and refined as a team. As a newcomer, it was definitely a process to learn how to quickly switch from one concept to another. Rather than slowly refining an idea, the priority is to be creative and come up with as many concepts as possible, even terrible ones. After that brainstorming, we filter by asking ourselves why we came up with those ideas and how we could develop them to be useful. While my degree was a great introduction to design, nothing could have prepared me for the level of thought, preparation, and work that goes on at Substantial. While our work can be tricky, the process behind each decision ensures that no part in our product is careless or made without thought. The standard to which we hold ourselves and our work is one of the many qualities that sets us apart.

Though there are days that are more exhausting than others, the feeling of accomplishment that I get every day is more than worth it. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of my team as an intern. Though I will be proud to show off my product work, the real reward was working closely with the talented and inspirational men and women of Substantial.

For those who are interested in interning at Substantial, my advice is to not be afraid to reach out and ask (ed. note: we've heard that one before). Though you may think you're not ready, you might just be what the company is looking for. There are plenty of desirable qualities beyond expertise in a certain field that Substantial looks for. Passion, creativity, hard work and fun all come with the job, so prepare appropriately. The experience of my internship has more than fulfilled my expectations, and thankfully my journey at Substantial is not yet over. I'm looking forward to learning more at Substantial as a (non-intern) graphic designer.

Caleb is now a designer at Substantial.