Bachelor of Fine Arts
Shedd Aquarium

About My Co-op Experience

I chose to take advantage of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) Cooperative Education Internship Program (Co-op) because I wanted to see what it was like to be a designer out in the field. At school, we learn a great deal about our craft, but we’re still creating work in a protected learning environment. I wanted to break out of the bubble and see how my design skills measured up in the real world.

For the past year, I have been working in the Planning and Design Department at the Shedd Aquarium as a graphic design intern. I have been fortunate enough to be treated more as a junior designer than a typical intern. I help the design team with projects on many different levels ranging from initial conceptualization to postproduction and anywhere in between. I have also been able to manage projects from start to finish completely on my own.

Recently, I completed a large-scale banner that directs guests to the new Jellies exhibit. The banner blends a variety of aesthetics and images from the Jellies ad campaign that was created in-house. The project required me to use my own design sensibilities while still being aware of the established campaign aesthetics.

What I Learned from My Co-op Experience

This experience has helped me tremendously as I prepare for life after art school. Not only have my internships boosted my portfolio, they have also increased my confidence as a designer. I have been through several interviews for post-SAIC opportunities, and every hiring manager that I have spoken to has been impressed by my professional experience and wanted to hear more about it. Being able to talk about my design work within real-world scenarios has helped me stand out from other job candidates. Because of my experience, I was able to land a professional internship with The Walt Disney Company, which has always been my dream.

I’ve learned what it means to be a real graphic designer, not just a design student. I’ve learned how to function within a team and how to interact with a diverse range of people. I’ve also been exposed to the level of responsibility and motivation that designers need to put forth every day in order to uphold the creative vision of the entire design team.

About the Employer

Located in a park along Lake Michigan, Shedd Aquarium and is one of Chicago’s most popular attractions and has been designated a national historic landmark by the National Park Service. Opened in 1930, it was the first inland aquarium to maintain a permanent exhibition of both freshwater and saltwater fishes. About two million people visit Shedd Aquarium each year.

About SAIC Co-op Internship Conversations

School of the Art Institute (SAIC) students share their co-op internship experience and what valuable insights they learned along the way.


Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.