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Which Firms Pay Design Interns

If your firm is not on this list, do something about it.

Which Firms Pay Design Interns
[Photo: Filip Bunkens/Unsplash]

When you’re starting off in design, you might think that interning at a prestigious firm or company is a great way to jump-start your career. But some studios only offer unpaid internships, limiting the talent pool to people who can afford to live in expensive, design hubs like New York and London (or whose parents are willing to subsidize them).

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To help aspiring design and creative interns avoid this situation altogether, the graphic and interaction designer Barron Webster has created a searchable resource, which lists firms and companies that pay their design or creative interns more than the New York City living wage of $13.65 per hour. The list so far includes design mainstays like Frog, Ideo, Pentagram, and Huge; publications like BuzzFeed, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times; and large companies like Etsy, Adobe, Nike, Google, Warby Parker, and HBO.

The entire site has been crowdsourced over the last few months, mostly through Twitter, Facebook, and email. If you’re a design intern who has been paid a living wage in New York for your work (or someone who works at a company and vouches for it), you can submit the firm’s name via a Google form. It’s an honor system and Webster acknowledges it’s unscientific, but he says no one has complained to him so far.

The simple, almost brutalist website has a search bar. Below it, all the companies Webster has uncovered are listed in bubbles. Click one, and it takes you to the company’s website (in an ideal world it would take you right to the page that shows the institution’s design internships, or details exactly how much they do pay).

[Screenshot: payinterns.nyc/courtesy Barron Webster]
“Many esteemed creative firms still have archaic habits of paying interns little to no salary,” Webster tells Co.Design. “The high cost of living in these cities means that often, people without financially stable backgrounds or families can’t afford to take internships that would lead to opportunity down the line. This ends up skewing the diversity of voices in creative industries toward the already economically advantaged.”

But while attempting to address this larger systemic injustice that exists in the design industry, Webster also wants to help out today’s aspiring design students find jobs they can actually afford to do and put on their resumes.

“I know a few people who have had to choose between low-paid internships with a prestigious firm and a job back home that doesn’t relate to the career they want,” Webster says. “I’ve also heard stories of people who chose to go into debt to live in New York City and take unpaid positions. This site is meant to help people find internships where they don’t have to make choices like that.”

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Webster plans to continue building the New York site incrementally, and is hoping to launch one soon for London, providing similar information based on London’s living wage. He’s working with designers in other cities as well to start building local lists that will act as a resource for aspiring design interns–and a check on the industry revealing which companies are truly dedicated to creating a more diverse workforce.

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About the author

Katharine Schwab is an associate editor at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture.

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