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Since October 2012 I have been lucky enough to undertake a 3 month internship in the design team at the RSA – which happily , has been extended to a 6 months  (I’ll assume I have been  doing something right!)

Social design (or design for social good, maybe an easier way to understand it) is a passion of mine; however this is an area that I feel is still sadly underrepresented in the design world. I was starting to tear my hair out at the prospect of finding an opportunity to gain experience within this sector; then I found the RSA internship scheme. A full time position with real, grown up things that most interns can only dream of, like a salary, and paid holiday, at a globally respected institution. Perfect. Even more perfect when they offered me the position!

Sadly, my time here is flying by, and it will be mid-march before I know it! So I thought I would take a few minutes to reflect on my internship and  try to  offer some insights for anyone who may be thinking of applying to the two amazing internships that are currently on offer. So here are three things that I have learned during my time at the RSA:

Just because you haven’t done something before, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a go.

This one is pretty self-explanatory really, but oh so true. People really appreciate a ‘can do’ attitude, even if this means shutting your eyes, pinching your nose and launching yourself in at the deep end. You can always ask for help if you are unsure, and as internships are one of the only opportunities you will have to try things out ,with no commitment, its 100% worth giving something new a go. The RSA has been great at encouraging me to try new things; take on responsibility, undertake training and work in different areas to those that I am used to. I have learned a huge amount as a result.

Doing stuff is good.

When people find out that I am a graphic designer, the most common response is something along the lines of “Oh, so you make flyers and stuff.” There’s an assumption that you spend all day every day wearing all black, laughing at comic sans, whilst glued to your mac. This couldn’t be further away from the truth at the RSA. Working with the design team has taken me to a water treatment site in Leeds, a plastic recycling facility in Dagenham, the RBS head office in Edinburgh and an e-waste centre in Sittingbourne, the senior common room at the RCA, various conferences and lectures, and a coveted seat at the Royal Designers for Industry award ceremony.

Closed Loop in Dagenham for the Great Recovery

Yorkshire Water treatment centre tour for the Student Design Awards

Royal Designers for Industry award ceremony, RSA

It’s been great that I’ve had the opportunity to travel around with the projects, meet some amazing people and see how the RSA functions beyond the office, but the most important lesson that comes from this is DOING stuff is so much better than just thinking about doing stuff. Ideas are great, but having an idea won’t get you very far, you need to act on that and DO something. This is something the RSA is great at, and I love hearing about all the other projects that are going on – what everyone is DOING! This leads me nicely to my final point:

The RSA is a complex organisation.

I thought I had a pretty good idea what the RSA was before I started working here, but I have been proved massively wrong. I am still trying to work out how to explain it in one sentence (answers on a postcard please!) When people ask me where I’m working and what the RSA is, I end up just reaming off project after project of amazing, fascinating work that is taking place under one roof. I wish I had time to spend a day with each team in the Action and Research Centre (ARC), as there are so many things happening that simply pass me by. And I would encourage any future intern to make the most of being here by immersing yourself completely – I only wish that I had done this more!


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