“Mismanaged experiences can be overwhelming – or underwhelming.” How High Tide approach internships
Following Singapore’s Fable and Brighton’s UnitedUs, we complete our internship-focused trio of articles with a trip to New York to speak to Brooklyn-based studio High Tide to find out how they do it. “Historically we’ve always had a three-month long summer internship programme,” they tell us. The only exception for this was in 2020 when the team worked remotely and felt that the WFH set-up didn’t provide a suitable learning environment.
When the equally exciting and scary period of graduation season rolls around, aspiring creatives will be finding their footing in this fast-paced design industry. Internships, to an extent, aim to bridge the gap. This is one reason why High Tide treat the selection process with the same care and seriousness as hiring any other full-time role. “It’s always the ambition to offer the summer intern a full-time position at the end of the programme if it’s good for everyone involved,” Allan and Miller explain. “We’re very scrutinous of the applicant’s portfolio and how they present themselves in their cover letter, drawing up a shortlist of five candidates to interview.”
All internships should be paid positions. There’s nothing more to it.
Along with Miller, who leads the interview process, the shortlisted candidates meet with the mid-level designers that will be their day-to-day support. “The successful candidate is then onboarded like any other member of the team and introduced to everyone for an opportunity to learn more about each of our teams outside of design, walked through recent (and greatest) case studies so they get to see how we do what we do.”
Like any other member of the team, the role is paid. For interns, who typically work four days a week, this is the NYC minimum hourly wage of $15 an hour for the three-month period. “All internships should be paid positions,” the pair emphasise. “There’s nothing more to it. As an agency, you can’t celebrate how you nurture talent and invest in your employees’ growth (which everyone does endlessly) AND THEN dangle that same commitment as a ransom in return for free work for your interns.”
They should always be challenging.
As paid members of the team, interns at High Tide have plenty of live vocational learning opportunities, with a mix of work on both client and internal projects. “The client work is usually double-briefed so the intern can benefit from the opportunity without the accountability/pressure of making the final deliverable,” Allan and Miller note. “They also work on new business pitches, helping us craft great presentations while learning firsthand how the studio presents itself, how we pitch for work and how we structure projects from beginning to end.”
Adapting to a fast-paced environment can be a learning curve. Or simply, it might not be the right environment for some. Whilst the Brooklyn-based studio do their best to find the right fit, things don’t always work out. “They should always be challenging as that’s the basic root of vocational learning and professional growth but mismanaged internship experiences can be overwhelming – or underwhelming – for both the intern and the mid-level and junior team members they are joining alike…”
From logistics to culture, internship programmes can have some turbulence – something that often gets smoothed out over time. Having hosted internships for several years, High Tide are fully aware of the vast benefits of a successful one. For the intern, High Tide suggest that placements provide “a chance to build often career-long relationships and mentors” along with some projects to boost their portfolio. “And fundamentally,” they add, “they’re still the only institutional form of access into a creative career (unfortunately).”
For the agency, internships also give mid-level creatives the chance to begin to learn how to manage creativity. With an intern among the team, Allan and Miller think this is also a great chance to find incredible entry-level talent for permanent positions afterwards. And with a new voice in the studio, the pair conclude that interns will always provide “fresh thinking from a new perspective.”