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The internship heard ‘round the world

Tags:

Scope:

  • Brand Identity (Visual + Voice)
  • Brand Strategy
  • Digital Design
  • Event Design
  • Experience Design
  • Marketing Collateral
  • Naming
  • Photo + Video Production
  • Product Ideation + Prototyping
  • UX/UI
  • Web Design + Development

Accolades:

In the summer of 2018, we had a rogue idea. A few factors contributed. First, we were AIGA San Francisco Design Week sponsors. Each year, we developed event programs, and the majority of attendees were students or young professionals looking for a way in to the industry. Second, we noticed a big gap between the work agency creatives were doing now and the internship model that supposedly prepared them for it. Third, our company ethos is simply: “help people.”

Maybe we could help this situation. Today, the modern creative has to be more lateral and hybrid — part designer, strategist, entrepreneur, artist, and economist. The old agency internship still isolated interns to the one-dimensional: pair a designer or junior art director with a writer and have them make Facebook ads for 3 months. Other than some notoriety on their resume (if it was a decent creative shop), they didn’t learn much. Certainly nothing they couldn’t learn in design or portfolio school.

We knew it hurt them. And it hurt agencies too. Today, the lead time from finding great young talent, to getting that young talent actively contributing in a valuable way, is getting longer and longer, because creative work is more nuanced and extends beyond technical craft skills.

So we started with the question: “What if…?” What if we could shorten that learning curve exponentially — from 3 years to 6 months — while giving young creatives an experience they’d never forget? What if we could expand the notion of being “a creative” beyond siloes of “writer” or “designer”? What if we sent interns around the world to top agencies to learn the business of making work from end-to-end?

It turned out to be 2 interns. At 6 agencies. For 6 months. In 6 cities, around the world. The focus would be on the business of getting great work made, while allowing interns to get more looks at more company cultures to learn faster what environments they thrive in. For agencies, they gain access to a community and talent pool more attuned to what agencies actually do. It was a leveling up experience for everyone.

The idea needed a brand. WGI’s identity retains contradictions at the heart of the whole wild notion: helpfulness and defiance, friendly support and avant experimentation, healthy skepticism and a tinge of idealism. Combined, the brand seemed to say what we, the interns, and other agencies were all collectively feeling: “Fuck it. It will be incredible. Or it won’t. But it will be different.”

Agencies from all over the world hopped on the train. To date Collins, Character, Koto, Gretel, Base, Made Thought, Parkside, Re, W20, Listen, Prophet and Butchershop have participated. In two seasons, we’ve received over 5,000 applications from across the world, and selected a total of 8 very special interns. Our first two were Maddy Curracan and Whitney Badge, both who found great roles following the experience.

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“I never thought my life could take a turn this bright.”

— Maddy Curracan, Edition 1 Intern (now a copywriter at Collins)

We wanted to create a space for the interns to share what they were doing and learning. The WGI website and social channels became the internet trail for their amazing journey.

WGI continues to evolve with new ideas, resources and services to bring more people into the community. WGI’s program director, Ian Ernzer, shared the WGI story on the mainstage at the 2019 C2. And our latest partnership with SidLee’s Factry, a school for teaching creativity to all professionals, adds a new dimension to the program.

Look for more hot stuff from WGI in Edition 3.