Author Seth Godin likes to reiterate that, “No one learns to ride a bike from a book, or even a video. You learn by doing it.” In a way, this applies to all things we learn, doesn’t it? While you can learn the basic theory of UI/UX design by watching videos, you can become a designer only if you do the work. One of the best ways to learn the practice of UI design is by getting an internship. It will give you hands-on experience, working on real-world projects, collaborating with professionals, maybe even being paid for it! In this blog post, experts and mentors in the field of UI/UX design offer their best advice for finding the right UI design internship for aspiring professionals.

UI Design Internship: How does it Work?

As might be obvious from the name, user interface design is the process of building interfaces for machines. This could be absolutely anything: From a website, to applications for mobile phones, wearable devices, smart TVs, digital interfaces for elevators, to even airplane cockpits. As an experienced user interface designer, you might get a chance to design anything that excites you. To reach there, a UI design internship is a great first step. Let’s see how, when, and where you can get one.

When is the Right Time to Get a UI Design Internship?

Springboard mentors say that the best time to get an internship is when you already have some user interface skills. It is a terrible idea to expect your superiors at the internship to teach you the basics. Instead, if you already have the foundation, theoretical knowledge and some practical skills, an internship will be a place to test your mettle in the real-world. You will also be able to contribute to the company you’re interning at.

So, before you look for UI design internships, learn:

  • What a UI designer does — understand the job description, responsibilities etc.
  • Basics of UI design theory — best practices, principles, trends etc.
  • To use UI design tools — Photoshop, XD, HTML, CSS etc.

Where to Get UI Design Internships?

Fundamentally, there are two kinds of design organizations. Most UI jobs are typically held in either of these.

  1. Product companies like Google, Uber, Airbnb etc. who design their own apps. As an intern in such a company, you will gain deep knowledge about how to design product interfaces, their design philosophy, culture, brand etc. 
  2. Agencies like Ideo, Opposite, Redd, Netbrahma etc. who consult and build designs for others. At such a company, you will gain wide knowledge across multiple kinds of products, audiences, brands, styles etc.

If you’re just beginning your career, don’t worry about which kind of company to choose. Both of them will offer you invaluable experience. But remember to calibrate your expectations when you start your internship.

How to Get a UI Design Internship?

As an emerging field in India today, user interface design jobs are plenty, but qualified designers are few. As a result, several organizations open up internship opportunities for freshers that serve as the entry point for full-time UI jobs. To land a great internship, follow these steps. 

Join the community

Before you actually apply for internships, get acquainted with the world of UI design. There are several groups on LinkedIn / Facebook / Slack etc. for UI design professionals. Most of them are free, but some of them may charge a membership fee. Find the ones that seem like the right fit for your interests and join them. Subscribe to newsletters from top design companies/magazines to stay up to date. Once you are comfortable, attend offline events and conferences as well. These present an excellent networking opportunity.

Keep your eyes open for advertised internships

Across online platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, Internshala etc, there are several internship opportunities regularly posted. Make sure you check these platforms for opportunities that excite you. If you have dream companies that you would like to apply to, check their websites for job postings. But remember, not all internships are posted online. Many companies have no formal internship programmes but are willing to accept interns on a case-to-case basis. So, don’t be discouraged if you don’t find an opening, contact them anyway.

Prepare your application

There is a lot of competition for the more prestigious internships. Several candidates with great qualifications apply for top internships at Google, Apple, Microsoft etc. If you’re looking for an internship in any of these places, make sure your application stands out.

  • Make a strong CV, outlining all your relevant skills and experience
  • Have a portfolio that lists all your high-quality work. Don’t worry if these are just your side-projects. It’ll demonstrate you have hands-on experience and that’s what matters
  • Update your LinkedIn profile, online portfolio etc. to present yourself professionally in case the recruiter decides to Google you

Apply for internships

For those that are advertised, apply as indicated in the job posting. If the ad asks you to go to their website and fill a form, do only that; do not email them instead. Follow the procedure they ask you to.

On the other hand, if there is no vacancy posted, ask someone in your network to introduce you. For instance, if someone you know from a LinkedIn community works at a company you want to apply for, request them politely to introduce you to the head of design or HR department. If you don’t have anyone in your network, go ahead and cold-email the company anyway.

Follow up but keep at it

Don’t apply and forget about it. Follow up regularly to see if the company has made a decision. Our experts suggest that you follow up at least twice before moving on. Sometimes you may get a rejection letter, Don’t be disheartened; request them to give you feedback, so you can grow. Either way, learn from your experience and keep applying. If you knock on enough doors, one will certainly open. In the meantime, continue to practice and build your portfolio. 

In the beginning, you might feel like you are shooting in the dark. But as you understand the world of UI design, build your network and get acquainted with the right people, it will get better, even though it might take time. If you’re looking for a more focussed learning experience, consider Springboard’s UI/UX career track: It teaches you in-demand UI/UX skills, along with offering real-world projects, 1:1 mentorship, career coaching and a job guarantee.