After graduating this June from UW, I spent the summer at frog’s SF studio as an Interaction Design Intern. It was an incredible learning experience being at frog, surrounded by super talented designers and getting the chance to work on projects in healthcare and emerging technology with robotics and voice UI. I’ve had a few people reach out regarding what it’s like to intern at a design consultancy and what the culture is like at frog so I thought I’d share a bit about my experience.
What is frog’s culture like?
I remember someone telling me that frog is where you come to do the best design work of your life. After meeting so many of the frogs in the SF studio and learning about the different projects that come out of frog, I can confirm that this is true. At frog, the caliber of talent you are surrounded by is really high and everyone there is extremely passionate about their work. I found it really inspiring to be in that environment.
At some of my previous internships, I found myself with ample spare time even while working on my project. At frog, I genuinely felt like there was not enough time in the work day. At the beginning of my internship, I felt a little overwhelmed juggling client and intern project work. I’m glad I experienced having to hustle during this internship because it made me realize that this is how I want to be challenged at my future job. Wherever I start my full time career, I hope that I will be surrounded by people with the same work ethic as all of the people I met at frog.
Another great thing about frog is the network of current and former frogs you have access to. I ended up grabbing coffee with a former frog intern after she reached out and I also had a UW alum that works in the NY studio reach out to me!
The learning opportunities
Every Monday, there was a studio-wide all hands meeting to stay updated on what work was going on in the studio and hear about projects that had just been completed. On our first day, we got to hear a talk on “Crossing the Cannabis Chasm” at all hands. There were so many interesting projects I got to hear about. You can read about some of their past work on frog’s website.
I was encouraged to grab coffee with people in disciplines I wanted to learn more about. I asked the strategy intern to walk me though her client project. I also got one of the visual designers to show me her sketchbook and illustrator files because I was curious what her process was for coming up with icons and illustrations.
Throughout the summer, we had frogs from other studios visit and give talks about their projects. We also had other guests come in and give talks, such as the founder of Lava Mae, a non profit that provides mobile hygiene services to the homeless. One evening, I found myself mingling with some VCs and founders at frog’s event for Tuesday Capital. There were many opportunities to meet some really cool people, and being in the Bay Area during the summer meant that there were a lot of interesting intern events to attend.
How is the internship structured?
The internship was 10 weeks long. The first day was filled with some HR and introductory materials. We had frog 101s to get introduced to all of the disciplines at frog (ID, VD, IXD, Strategy). In the next couple of days, we were already jumping into client and intern project work.
What’s unique about the frog internship (at least in the SF studio) is that ideally, you will spend half of your time on client work and the other half of your time on an intern project with the other interns.
The purpose of client work is primarily to shadow the team working on the project and help out with whatever tasks you’re asked to help out with.
I got to do one client project that wrapped up halfway through my internship. It was for a healthcare client and was a very strategy heavy project, so I spent more time doing due diligence with a deep dive into the client’s existing digital ecosystem than I did designing wireframes and mockups for the concepts. I joined the project post-research phase so I got to see the team go through concept generation and final presentation preparation.
At a design consultancy, a lot of work and time during client work goes towards making a solid keynote deck to present work from each phase to the client. After reading through some feedback my team received on their draft deck, I realized that making an effective deck is truly an art learned over time and extremely difficult.
Since the internship is only 10 weeks long, interns won’t get to experience all of the typical frog program phases on a client project, so the intern team came up with a project for us to do with each other.
With the intern project, the interns had a chance to go through the typical frog program phases: Researching, Concepting, Designing, and Prototyping.
The project ask we received was:
Design a robot, or system of robots, to improve the wellbeing of independent seniors who are aging in place. The robot should fit beautifully into the home environment and empower them to address an issue they are facing.
Intern project highlights
Field research at frog = visiting seniors’ homes to hear their life stories and eat cookies
Research at frog is very thorough and takes multiple weeks to complete. Frog has a couple of dedicated user researchers, but I was surprised that all of the designers and strategists on a program are also expected to carry out research in the field for their project.
For every project, frogs are expected to immerse themselves in their interview participants’ environments. All of us interns visited seniors in their homes to interview them in order to gain a clearer sense of the context in which they are aging in place. This was my favorite part of the internship, because how often do you get to visit seniors’ homes to listen to their stories and get offered homemade cookies and coffee as a part of your job?
I learned about other design disciplines
During my internship, I not only got to learn more about interaction design, but also learned more about industrial and visual design. I collaborated closely with the other design disciplines + strategy for my client project and the intern robot project. I knew nothing about industrial design prior to this internship, but working the industrial design intern allowed me to watch and work with her closely as she went through her process of sketching and creating prototypes. I also got work closely with the visual design intern as she went from mood boards to determining our project’s visual language and crafting high-fidelity mockups of my wireframes.
I explored designing for emerging technologies and worked on my craft
Over the summer, I gained exposure to designing for robotics, voice user interfaces, and AR data-visualization. This was the first time I worked on a robotics or voice user interface project. I was able to take a look at frog’s previous projects related to chat bots and voice-UI to see how they approached interaction design for different mediums.
Being able to ping the other interaction designers for feedback was incredibly helpful in getting the feedback I needed to improve. The critiques helped me get better at presenting my work and identify how I can get better at sketching wireframes.
One of the suggestions I received to improve my wireframing abilities was to practice wireframing existing websites to see if I can make a more abstract version of a detailed website and still have the affordances be clear.
I received quality mentorship
I had weekly one-on-one chats to check in with my manager. My manager did an amazing job encouraging me to grab coffee with other frogs I was curious about and constantly asked what I wanted to get out of this internship. He encouraged me to give a presentation to the whole studio where I talked about the disconnect between student designers and the design industry (if you’re curious about the talk I gave, read about it here). At the end of my internship, I received actionable feedback on ways to improve my soft and hard skills.
My manager wasn’t the only one who provided me with awesome mentorship though. I had an intern buddy who I could talk to about anything and everything. I also received career guidance from many other frogs in the studio as well as had an eye-opening chat on how I, as somewhat of an introvert, can find my unique way to voice my ideas during team meetings, which is something I am constantly working to improve on.
As I wrap up this reflection on what I did this summer, I wanted to give a special thanks to Seth (my manager) and Sally (my intern mentor buddy), the whole intern coordination team, the other interns, and everyone at frog SF for making this internship so spectacular. I’m really grateful to have had this opportunity to intern at such an amazing company and I hope to be back in the Bay Area again soon!!!