My experience at BBH Shanghai was entirely immersive, intense, valuable, fun and ultimately incredible. I could not have anticipated how much I learnt and gained from this experience and this is thanks to the support from TTI, the opportunity from BBH and then the amazing people I had the opportunity to live and work with who totally expanded my abilities and outlook as a designer.
Firstly, it is essential to comment on how accessible and easy this trip was made for each individual thanks to Catherine and the team working to make it possible. By providing us with endless support, navigating through the scary bureaucracy that blocks one from traveling to China was made easy and we were still given essential insight so as to make sure we had knowledge of the process for future. The way TTI is structured and supported meant it was entirely accessible to anyone deserving of a place, irrelevant of financial situation and prior knowledge of traveling abroad this, I believe, was paramount in making it the experience it was.
During my visit to BBH I was placed in Blacksheep Design which is the design specific team of BBH Shanghai. Here they bring BBH ideas to life and make them visual as well as working on their own visual communication pitches and projects, they almost exist as their own design agency. Throughout my four weeks there I could not have felt more welcomed, trusted and educated by the team that took me on. During my very brief stints at design studios in England a lot of what I experienced was making hot drinks and doing work that seemed to keep me busy but was mostly disregarded – in shanghai I felt like part of the team.
The work load is very high for so many people, so if you can help you will be invited to do so and all and any ideas are respected and discussed on a level that makes everyone feel like peers. Meetings were often communal and as an intern I felt privileged to be invited to a number of these that introduced me to the projects and prompted me to assess how I could be of help to the team, which I would then be slotted into. BBH, and I’m sure most of the advertising world, is incredibly fast paced and it was exciting and challenging to push ideas through confidently within such restraints. Throughout my time I felt continually comfortable suggesting ideas without fear of being ignored or undervalued. The creative environment within Blacksheep thrives on the quick and communal sharing of ideas, so there were many instances to contribute ideas, research and visuals, essential in every project.
The breadth of work was similarly engaging. In just four weeks my design skills were tested; I picked up being the lead designer on a international company’s brand guidelines, working directly off client feedback, I designed a poster for a national campaign, I worked on various pitches and presentations including extensive research into visual references and brand communication and began some logo variations for a charity hoping to update their brand. Not only was I welcomed and trusted as an asset to the team but the head designer listened to my interests and skills and pushed me towards projects where he recognised I could excel. Shanghai itself is a brilliantly diverse city and BBH demonstrates this beautifully. Everyone is fluent in English but I got the chance to work with people from China, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea and England meaning my understanding of cultures and countries, and their design practices, was expanded dramatically. Alongside working with such an array of people both me and Paulius, who joined me at BBH from Kingston, were continually invited out for lunch, drinks, dancing and football and so felt included in the buzzing social world around BBH as well as making true friends with our co-workers. I wrote in my profile description that ‘working in a new country rather than simply visiting it as an outsider is the best way to truly experience it’, and this could not have become more true. We spent our time within and outside of work with new friends that lived and breathed the best of what Shanghai has to offer, and made sure we saw it too.
Being at BBH challenged and pushed so many of my skills as a designer and as a person. By being welcomed onto so many projects at different stages I needed to be incredibly flexible, serious with my time management and confident and friendly as I joined a new group of people. Similarly as my role shifted between projects I was quick to brush up on my digital skills in Adobe programmes so I became a wiz at making graphs, situational mockups, presentations and illustrations as well as a great knowledge in new shortcuts and tools passed down to me from the eager-to-teach head designer.
I hope this report makes clear how much I value my time at BBH. Not only did I learn so much about business and design practice but I got to be creatively and technically challenged and made true friends that are already hoping I will be back soon, maybe to BBH.