An Honest Look at the Graphic Design Industry

 In Design, Intern, Office culture


This post was written by Tabatha Ptashnik, a second year Graphic Design student at Red River College.

My two weeks interning at Honest Agency couldn’t have gone by faster, but I think it was just enough time to get an honest look at what it’s like to work in the graphic design industry in Winnipeg; doing real work, for real clients. 

I am now in my seventh year of post-secondary education— I do have a degree to show for it, phew!— but unfortunately I have spent next to no time in a specialized workplace. I’ve grown very used to the life of a student— classes all day, homework all night, and assignments, assignments, assignments. 

Though these assignments have helped to develop the skills I require starting out in this career, they can only come so close to emulating the nature of real-world projects. It has been such an eye-opening experience at Honest, to the luxuries and limitations of client work. Let me shed some light on what I’ve discovered:


  1. COPY – you don’t have to write it! In school, not only are you required to think of an amazing concept AND design it beautifully, but you also have to come up with the copy. Yes, we’ve been told again and again the importance of being able to write— and I totally agree— but I’d much rather reserve that energy for diary entries about my latest celebrity crush or obnoxious online rants under a secret username. 
  2. LATE PENALTIES – they don’t exist! At school, if an assignment is handed in late— even by two minutes— there’s an automatic 30% deduction. It doesn’t matter that the work is amazing or that the elevator was made to stop on every floor before arriving at the one for your class. Of course, deadlines are to be taken very seriously, and are important to client-agency relationships, but there is level of understanding and communication from both parties when things do not go as planned. 
  3. PRINTING – the costs don’t come out of your own pocket! Is anyone familiar with dropping $30 on a printed project only to get it back with indecipherable notes written all over it, in permanent ink? Devastating. In the industry, the client is responsible for printing costs and there are specific proofs made to indicate changes. Mind you, a designer is accountable for costs when mistakes are made on their end— but that never happens… 
  4. REWARDS – getting paid is the obvious one, but I was an intern, so there was none of that. I’m talking about libations. In the industry, it seems like every agency, client, and supplier are gifting wine or making a point of buying it for their staff. The transition into the weekend becomes way more natural when wine is in hand by Friday afternoon. 
  5. HYGIENE – it does exist! I find that graphic design students, myself included, usually give up on eating well, getting enough sleep, and general cleanliness by about halfway through the first semester of each school year. This would not fly in a professional setting which ultimately makes for a more enjoyable workplace and much happier and healthier employees. 


  1. (and only 1) BUDGET – you can only design the equivalent of what the client will spend. An idea for a school assignment can be as grandiose as you’d like, as long as you’re willing to put in the time. At an agency, the time and costs of a project are estimated in the beginning stages and the client expects you to come close to meeting those figures. Thus, there isn’t always time to execute complex concepts, and sacrifices have to be made. At the same time, that’s what graphic design is all about— working within constraints and problem solving. It also means not taking your work home— the reason professionals have time to eat, sleep, and shower. 

So I guess what I’m trying to get at here (and have come to realize during my time at Honest), is that even though school assignments can be fun, this girl’s ready for a real job. Thanks for the revelation, Honest! 

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