In truth, it’s hard to condense a month’s worth of experiences into a short piece of writing. Interning is one thing, but doing so in a foreign environment with different workflows and a fresh set of perspectives to draw from is another.
Joining advertising agency BBH in the middle of a pitch proved intense and asked a lot of us within the first week. It pushed me to work more efficiently within my role as a creative and to take on feedback more directly. Many of the skills and understanding of an ad agency are transferable across the creative industry, which puts the internship in a valuable position for its students. We were given substantial responsibilities and made to feel like an assured part of the team at BBH.
Working on projects targeted towards a Chinese demographic added another degree of complexity to our work. We ran into several obstacles within our ideas where certain events, ways of thinking and daily practice were not present in the culture. Its demographic couldn’t connect to campaigns the same way a western society could. This was even more apparent in the language. Certain phrasing and lines of English copy could not translate to Mandarin directly. Those bilingual in the company were valuable in their ability to connect Chinese and western thinking together. This forced us to think deeper about what engages someone with advertising, what was universal in this and what needed to be specific to a Chinese audience. We were scrutinizing our ideas even more and, along with the valued critique of the creative team, it pushed our thinking a great deal further.
There was a real sense of opportunity within the wider field of design in Shanghai. In my time amongst it, two juxtapositions stood out: commercial and corporate work, found a lot in its advertising, and on the other end contemporary art in its museums. What is left between them appeared to be an exciting space for more cultural design work: design for artists, exhibitions and cultural events alike (i.e. Fraser Muggeridge, HelloMe) – already space where experimental design work takes place.
The Talking through Internships programme is a hard sell to someone with no experience of China. It asks a lot of you as an individual and required us to band together as a six-man support system. The trip will test you, no one day is the same. Yet, as the weeks went on, we became flexible and open-minded to the new positions we were put in each day. The skills and understanding acquired will stay with me as I continue education and move into a career. I’d now consider a move to China with certainty about what skills and thinking I could bring to its design industries. The opportunities being created right now puts those in western creative industries in a sought-after position, opportunities that may become as competitive as they are here one day.