Dang It Navigate, Why Did You Have to Teach Me So Much?

by Courtland Hendershot

As my internship at Navigate comes to an end, I’ve been looking back at my time to see if I can make a list of the things that I’ve learned. I’d like to start off by saying that I am not majoring in graphic design, marketing, film, or really any of the fields in which Navigate specializes. This presented me with both a challenge and an opportunity.

Even though I don’t study graphic design or film, I’ve found that I enjoy both very much. And throughout my internship, I’ve been able to greatly increase my skill level in those fields. I learned a bunch of new tricks and shortcuts to use with tools like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Premiere Pro. I began to get a better understanding of web design and how to use tools like WordPress to make web sites. And I discovered that video production involves many many small details that I never would have thought about. These were hard (and great) skills to learn, but they weren’t the most important. For me, the most important skills I learned at my internship this summer were deeper, more fundamental skills like collaboration and communication.

At the beginning of my internship, I had a pretty good understanding of composition, color, and other aspects of design because of the design and art classes I had taken. I didn’t know, however, how to take my ideas and designs and actually bring them to life on my own. The Navigate team quickly showed me how it’s done: through collaboration. It’s not always easy. The collaborative process usually involves lots of meetings and a willingness to be open to critique from other people. But those interactions are essential because of how the dialogue and brainstorming can foster new ideas. Even the best creatives in the world don’t have all of the great ideas in their own heads; sometimes you have to put your brainchild out in the open so it can grow with the help of your fellow creatives.

A prime example of this was a video I worked on with Navigate’s video guy, Steve. The script for the video was written by another one of the Navigate interns, Abby. Then Steve shot the video (all of the interns were featured in the video) and I helped to edit the video and come up with the final product (with help from Steve and others at the office). This whole project was a collaboration between several people, and therefore we were able to combine our individual personalities and skillsets to create something better than if it had just been me. This is why Hollywood movies are always going to be better than a one-man YouTube show (well, the bigger budget helps as well).

Another thing I learned this summer was the importance of communication: especially when it comes to clients and coworkers. Without proper communication, your ideas will never get past your sketchbook. Using our intern video again as an example, if there had been no communication between all of the people working on the video, then there would be no way of knowing what we wanted the end product to look like. No matter who wrote the script, the videographer might have interpreted it a totally different way. And then once it went on to post production, it might be interpreted in yet another way. Lack of communication in that scenario would most likely lead to confusion, missed deadlines and the project going over budget.

In one of my art classes we did an exercise that illustrated the result of this kind of bad communication pretty well. The participants took a piece of paper and folded it several times. Then the first person drew a head on the first part of the paper and folded it back so the second person couldn’t see the rest of it. The second person then drew the body, and the third person drew the legs. When they unfolded the paper at the end, there was a person (or creature) with the personalities of all the artists involved. The problem was that there was no communication between participants, so the creature was a mess. It would have been much more coherent if the artists had able to see each other’s work and communicate their respective ideas before they did their own thing. This is the same way in every aspect of design when more than one person is working on it. If there is no communication, then the finished product will have no unified look.

When I began my internship, I was expecting to learn a lot about design and marketing. What I did NOT expect to learn was that collaboration and communication are more important than any tool or process in bringing ideas to life. I’m grateful that I can now carry that knowledge into ANY career and even life as a whole. Thanks, Navigate!