Interns Inc., Vol. 2

Hey everyone!   My name’s Max and I’m one of Go Media’s interns for this summer.  I’ve been here since early July but this is my first post for our Zine.  I’ve bounced around several of Cleveland’s fine institutions of higher education and am currently a junior at Cleveland State University studying promotional communication, mass media and graphic design.  I was born in New York City but have called Cleveland home for the last 16 out of my 20 years.

When I’m not in the office, you can find me clutching a guitar (usually my beloved Telecaster), checking out a show at The Grog Shop or Now That’s Class, or stuffing myself at Ohio City Burrito.

For my first post, I thought it’d be interesting to talk about my experience at Go Media coming from a non-traditional design background.  I’m sure a lot of our readers come from fine arts backgrounds so I thought I’d talk about things from a different perspective:

LOVE OF THE UNKNOWN: Why It’s Important Not To Know Everything

I’ve performed in front of thousands of people, snowboarded down mountains and circumnavigated the entire United States.  Save for roller coasters and Fox News, there isn’t that much that scares or intimidates me.  But my internship at Go Media was different: It was my first long period of time spent working in a professional setting.  Not only just with people whom I knew were good at what they did, but with people I truly looked up to and greatly respected – leaders in their respective fields.

I knew something was off when I showed up for my interview in a suit and tie and was greeted by people in t-shirts and jeans.  I found myself stammering, rambling, exaggerating, forgetting the responses I had rehearsed the night before.  I guess my interviewers saw some faint glimmer of hope through that shroud of nervous energy because the next thing I knew, I was climbing the stairs at W. 45th and Lorain to start my first day.

There’s something else you should know about me before I go on.  I don’t go to art school anymore.  I did for a semester and when I was there I hated it.  Of course, there are a lot of other things I can tell you about myself as well:  I am a designer, guitarist, songwriter, traveler and chronic overthinker.  Most of my interests have evolved out of a love for music and skateboarding.  I taught myself Photoshop when I was 13 years old and the desire to design & create began to manifest itself into most aspects of my life.  It was this desire that has led me to discover an amazing creative culture here in my hometown of Cleveland, and ultimately what led me to my internship here at Go Media.

But I digress:  I hated the seven-hour studios, the endlessly negative critiques and the general malaise and pomposity of the average art & design student who thinks they’re God’s gift to the art world because they can slap a few sentimental words in bold type on top of a grainy Photoshop-filtered photo of a river or a street and call themselves “designers.”

Okay, I’m rambling a little bit and I don’t want to knock art school too much –  I’m sure there are thousands of people who have had positive experiences with it, but it just wasn’t for me.  I’m sure anyone reading this who’s ever attended an arts college can at least somewhat identify with my sentiments.  But my main beef was that the people there, at least where I went, behaved as if they knew everything.  The students, the instructors, the administration – everyone.

So many people fail to recognize that art and design is a never-ending learning process.  There are no solutions that work 100% of the time and sometimes the best way to approach a problem is the last way you’d ever be taught in a classroom.  In fact, the belief that you always know the best solution to a problem as soon as you’re confronted with one can often vastly limit your creative scope.  It’s crucial to keep this in mind and it astonished me that things could be looked at in such a black-and-white, absolute fashion.

These were the thoughts and fears that raced through my mind as I climbed those stairs to start my first day.  I was concerned that the next six weeks would be an endless labyrinth of templates, rules and revisions; that I would be a workhorse rather than a new creative force with some things to say.

It turned out that I was expected to be everything at once, which was explicitly terrifying and angered me at first.  Learning a new set of foreign, complex techniques and systems can be overwhelming, especially coming from a primarily self-taught design background.  But I did the only thing I could – I dove right in.  In doing so, I learned one of my most important lessons so far at Go Media (other than what’s new in CS5):

It’s fine to flounder, to flail.  Encouraged, even.  Struggling to right yourself and succeeding out of your own accord is worth so much more than immediate heaps of praise and reinforcement.  I say this not because I don’t value the latter, but because the former has ultimately provided me with the momentum and intrinsic motivation that we as designers and, more importantly, as people need in order to keep things exciting and challenging.

And I’m still flailing.  With all the knowledge I’ve gained and progress I’ve made in the brief period of time I’ve enjoyed here, I know I’m just barely skimming the surface of the seas of knowledge that represent the dual worlds of design and business.  But I am learning to take comfort and refuge in those vast, uncertain places.  That hunger to create through learning and experience as well as accumulated knowledge is something I see everywhere at Go Media, albeit in a much more refined and developed state.  It’s a feeling that pervades this place and through creative organizations across the world, and the best ones never lose sight of it.

About the Author, Maxwell Stern

I like design, guitars and burritos. I just sold out and got a Twitter. Follow me if you enjoy design, guitars and/or burritos.

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