Internship Whatever Projects
Introduction What is Whatever? Whatever Projects is a small design agency based in Fulham, London that was founded in 2007 by Pierre Andre Bene Lassin (33) and Andre Cruz (30), however Andre now works freelance full time elsewhere. The studio itself also doubles as Pierreâ€™s house and this is where I stayed during my 5 days. Whatever Projects almost purely focuses on digital design including mainly art direction, branding, web design and web development. They have worked on some design for print in the past however it is more financially viable to focus on digital services as this is what the clients they deal with need the most. In most based design for print including business cards, stationary etc are add-ons and donâ€™t contribute much to the company workload or income. During my internship period at Whatever Projects there was also another intern, Natalia Gasto Juarez (28), a Catalonian graphic designer who studied for 4 years at Northumbria University. She has until June before her savings run out and she has to return to Barcelona, having previously had 4 other internships.
Monday The French & Spanish I arrived late because there was a fire and the District line got shut down whilst I was on it. Incredibly stressful to get stuck in the middle of London somewhere unfamiliar and have to get a taxi, bus or walk quite far to get to the studio. This wasn’t much of a learning experience but more of a confirmation that I’m not really that confident when it comes down to sorting myself out when there’s a problem in real life. Once at the studio I met Natalia and started work pretty much straight away on the Whatever Projects website. Pierre is planning to redesign and re-launch the website to make the company appear to be more professional and as such be able to attract bigger clients and budgets. I was assigned to update a previously designed version of the website by taking creative direction form Pierre. I showed him my progress at intervals to get feedback and move forward. This was literally a step-by-step process going through minute details until he was happy with something. Creatively this was rather boring but nice to flex my design sense and explain why things would or wouldn’t work. It’s important to note also that Pierre has no practical experience of designing having previously worked only on the business side of the product design company Ora Ito.
Tuesday It’s not what you know After a day of tweaking the website slightly over an afternoon we began again looking at other pages of the website however this was essentially the same as Monday. Whilst most likely representative of real design studio life in the way in which the work I was doing was not creative or challenging I still felt as though I could have been applying myself in a more constructive way; this was bitch work. So whilst the work was tedious and unrewarding I tried to learn as much as I could about design as a business instead. Pierre had previously worked for a French real estate company and was their top salesman for a few years until he suddenly quit in order to open Whatever Projects. So whilst he is a good businessman in the sense that he’s good with people and has years of experience networking and selling he lacks a lot of working design knowledge and although his art direction is good, it isn’t ground breaking. I found it frustrating that Pierre would refer to projects in a way that inferred that he had completed the work whereas in reality he had found clients and then contracted a designer and developer to create the work. Although this is just a minor point it’s more about the principle about recognising contribution from others on the team and not attempting to take all the glory of work completed. By experiencing the day to day running of projects going from clients to the agency I learned a lesson in the structure of a design agency. I found out that essentially it only needs to consist of a designer, web developer, creative director and accounts manager; although several of these roles could be performed by one person. This has sort of given me a bit of a hint at how I could structure or start my own design studio/agency if I wanted to in the future. The main struggle if I did would be to aquire clients and big budgets, this is where Pierre is useful because he is a great networker and people person. Another lesson learned therefore was that I need to up my game in terms of interacting with people in other businesses and making contacts who could become potential clients.
Wednesday Change your mind again Yet again this was another day of working on the website with Pierre and learning that he is a person who likes to change their mind an awful lot based on whims and other things he has seen. Whilst it is important that the website looks good in order to get clients it is also important that it functions well and sends a certain message. These aspects of the website seemed to have been forgotten or at least put by the wayside in favor of aesthetics and flashiness. At some point during this day a courier delivered a brand new iMac to the studio which was a gift from the owner of Mount Street Printers, Alex Cain. This was the clients contribution to the agency as Whatever Projects were working closely with the printing company to create their new website. Whilst surprised by the generosity of Alex it was also good to see that client/agency relationships can be very personal and rewarding if nurtured. This day ended rather uneventfully with more website tweaking although I did get a chance to talk to Pierre about contracts with clients and how he works payments etc. He said that he doesnâ€™t use contracts but uses quotes in their place, charging a deposit of 40-50% on each project at the beginning and the rest of payment on completion of the job. He also noted that in some cases he will charge a deposit of 30% upon receiving a brief from the client, 30% upon putting forward a proposal and the remaining 40% upon completion.
I can see the advantages using deposits to ensure you have money in the bank if something goes wrong and to ensure client loyalty. I was however rather concerned that he wasnâ€™t using contracts and think that the deposit model could be used really effectively within a contract to ensure legal security and steady cash flow.
Thursday Business & Pleasure Once again more work on the website although this time sourcing images from other projects to use for each page. Pierre instructed me to take images from other projects, in many cases from websites which Whatever Projects had built but hadn’t created the images. I was kind of concerned about how legitimate this was mainly because he’s attempting to make the agency look good based upon other peoples work; when asked he said he didn’t have a problem with it. There was a meeting the evening of this day to discuss the Mount Street Printers website which the owner, Pierre, Natalia, Andre and myself attended. It was great to meet Andre because not only is he a solid designer he is also a really solid and trustworthy guy. We had a conversation about which Mac mice were better; I love when other people are passionate enough about design to discuss the pros and cons of computer mice in the realm of graphic design. The meeting was rather pointless, as I have found that most meetings are. The client was there to stress a point of why he wanted the website to be full screen and Pierre and Andre were happy to oblige him so it seemed like something which could have been settled quicker over the phone. This however is a great way of making client relationships much more personal and improving satisfaction. We had a party that night at the studio that a bunch of Pierre’s friends attended in which they ordered and took a lot of cocaine and he ordered a prostitute for himself. This was a bit of an eye opener for me because morally I disagree with both but on another level it’s a lesson in not mixing work colleagues and whatever you do outside of the work environment. Needless to say I lost a lot of respect for Pierre during that party and that coupled with the fact that he is £4000 overdue on his rent, seems rather exploitative of people and doesn’t know how to run a design agency properly was the nail in the coffin for me even considering going back to intern there once I graduate.
Friday The slow train home In the morning Pierre and myself went to a business meeting at the real estate agency where he used to work. I quickly learned that I really need to know what kind of meeting Iâ€™m going to and whether or not to wear a shirt, needless to say I needed to be wearing one and wasnâ€™t. The meeting was with the owner of the company, Athena, Roman Carel. He needed some business cards edited quickly but was also interested in getting a quote from Pierre about branding a business of his, which could lead to design of stationary, and web design/development. The meeting itself was an incredible learning experience because it with a client who knew about design and how it would effect his new business. We were able to discuss in detail things that the branding would need to say and how the audience, who are exclusively French, would need to be approached in a certain way that differed from English people. This was the first time that I had heard a client be incredibly specific and informed about their audience and be able to convey this in a clear way to me. From now on I am going to make sure that any client of mine gives me clear information to me about his/her audience so I may make this the main focus of my design work and play it as a key to the success of their business, venture etc. The rest of this day passed rather uneventfully by finishing the business cards that the client needed quickly, having my train to Leeds cancelled and then sitting on the floor for several hours. I can see the advantages using deposits to ensure you have money in the bank if something goes wrong and to ensure client loyalty. I was however rather concerned that he wasnâ€™t using contracts and think that the deposit model could be used really effectively within a contract to ensure legal security and steady cash flow.
Evaluation The end of ambition So overall the week was rather odd. I had hoped that the internship would turn out to be a learning experience in terms of design and designers but I appreciate that it was more about business and creative direction. This was definitely a massive learning experience for me regarding people and it has shaped my view of the design world and where I want to place myself within it. From this point coming into the last 6 weeks of my final project I’m still concerned that I’m going to struggle to find employment when I graduate. This internship can go on my CV and has given me a good sense of business but my portfolio is still lacking and I don’t have any leads for steady work in London. It feels as though I need to get a more stable internship or at least sort my portfolio out in a more professional manner. It’s worth noting that Pierre was very complimentary about my work and me as a person so at least I can gain a little bit of confidence. He was impressed by the manner of my email being quick forward and that my portfolio and blog were indicative of my passion, talent and creative life style. However I worry that more professional agencies will see the same things and think that I am not professional enough for them because I’m not trying to do the normal thing.