When I learned I was accepted as a digital communications intern at Madeo, I was ecstatic. This was my first step into an industry that I knew little about but was intrigued by the possibilities.
At least for me, it was hard to imagine writing jobs that weren’t in education, academia, or publishing prior to this internship. Studying literature and writing thousands of words over a few years made me certain that writing content during my internship would come naturally and require little guidance. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was my introduction to a different approach towards writing, and ultimately, a different understanding of digital communications as a whole.
The storytelling process at Madeo was a departure from the academic writing I had become accustomed to. Whereas in a literature essay I felt as if the writing became increasingly specific and narrow, tailored to a particular audience, the writing in this internship needed to be widely accessible, informative and engaging.
At Madeo, I also got to delve into industries I would never have anticipated. I explored the world of events by working with Madeo professionals on contributing editorial content to zkipster, an event management software, participated in criminal justice reform by managing content for Innocence Project’s World DNA Day campaign, researched ways to make a transportation startup smart and friendly, and played my part in social justice by contributing both research and content management assistance to an in-depth segregation report by EJI.
The relationship between design and storytelling is intertwined.
Looking back now I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection. I appreciated both beautifully designed web pages and gripping stories, but I never really considered how the two must work together to achieve a desired goal, or how designers and writers must collaborate to find the perfect balance.
During the internship, I was invited to work on a project that made this relationship clearer to me. Madeo had already created an online branding workshop a year ago, and this year Madeo was invited by Visual Magnetics to produce a new version of the workshop using the Foster magnetic pieces to help startups and other organizations begin building their brand identity.
I was given a big role in helping produce the workshop materials. I worked with a design intern and with more senior designers at Madeo over several weeks. The project was a full-on collaborative experience between design and storytelling. I researched Visual Magnetics, Madeo, our branding workshop, and the inspiration behind the workshop to consider the “tone” of this particular workshop. I shared my notes and thoughts with the rest of the designers, and they continued with design to define a visual identity for the workshop. One role couldn’t have been done without the other, and this was my first personal experience where I saw how design and content informed each other.
We also created a print booklet for the workshop. Here, I found a clear challenge with writing. I frequently needed to rewrite and adjust content so that it worked within the designed layout. I learned when to follow and apply copy editing and when to take a stand when I felt the content didn’t need to be removed, but simply modified into the design. Advocating for my writing and negotiating for what I wanted was also a new experience for me.
Learning to read from the perspective of my audience.
I found that when you get involved with a project it’s easy to take for granted how informed others may be when they first approach what you wrote for them. While certain explanations may seem redundant when you’ve been engaging with a project for weeks on end, I learned that it’s important to take a step back and try to look at it as if you’ve never heard anything about the project and envision someone’s first interaction with it.
Taking a moment to pause and consider first impressions of my audience helped me identify the information that must stay, even if it disrupts the initial plan for a design.
Stepping outside of a project so that it can be communicated effectively to a wide audience was an exciting part of the process — it kept projects feeling fresh. While parts of this were simply intuition, the bulk of this process was accomplished with research and working this out over multiple projects.
These are simply a few of my personal highlights, but the scope of projects emphasized one major takeaway from the whole experience:
In the end, I learned that digital communication is more than just writing.
Like many of the things I know now, it feels rather silly to make that statement. However, coming into this, I truly underestimated the time dedicated to research and strategy, and I didn’t expect to relish that stage of the project as much as I now do.
Digital communication is much more than putting words on a screen. It’s about digging deep into the project, the industry it relates to, the people working on the project, and communicating all of these moving parts effectively to all sorts of audiences. Writing is what we do to make this information digestible, but communicating is a dynamic process that I’m happy to have started exploring.
If you’re interested in learning about the experiences of other digital communications interns at Madeo, check out how one intern dived into the world of user experience or another’s take on collaboration.
Written by Rebecca Martin