Hi—let me introduce myself: my name is Julian Wieckardt, a 22-year-old born and raised in the Dutch city of cheese, Gouda. For about a year now, I have been working in the Design team at Wild Digital. Having started as a graduate student to currently working full-time as a Junior Digital Designer, it goes without saying that I've grown a lot over the past year. As working in an ambitious and continually growing team isn't always a walk in the park, I would like to take you along and tell you about my experience of working at Wild Digital.

My internship

It all began on the 5th of May, 2020—that's when I started my internship.

To graduate from my Bachelor's in Communication and Multimedia Design at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, I needed to do an internship and work on a project which I would then document and hand in at the end. While at Wild Digital at the time, my sole priority was the project assignment with Hans Muelders, Brand & Digital Designer, acting as my mentor and there to help me whenever I got stuck.

My assignment

ORYX is a sports performance company that specializes in sports biomechanics. They approached Wild Digital to update their brand positioning and website to match their product's high standards and design. Their product, ORYX GO, helps running athletes get the best performance possible for their skill level.

My task was to optimize the user experience and interface of ORYX GO according to their brand promise.

My daily tasks changed according to the different phases of the project. Firstly, I started by researching the subject, which consisted of interviewing the target audience, user tests, and the necessary desk research. Based on my research findings, I constructed a list of user needs and system requirements. From there, I created a low-fidelity prototype, performed users-tests, processing the feedback, and eventually created a high-fidelity prototype as an end product that I user-tested once more. I was thrilled with the end results because you could clearly see a difference when you compared the data from my initial research to that of the last test.

If I'm honest, though, I experienced this assignment as a rollercoaster and a true test of everything I had learned during my Bachelor's. Little turned out the way I initially planned, but I got there in the end. I graduated with a 7.5 for this project!

Here are two key takeaways from working on that assignment:

It is crucial to define goals and deliverables that are clear to all stakeholders in the project.

One of the mistakes that I made was not defining the project's direction. When I got started, I didn't set objectives, nor did I outline critical end results that I would work towards when designing. Consequently, my research ended up taking way more time than necessary. Annoying, to say the least!

It’s okay to show unfinished work for feedback.

When you're new and getting started at a company, you want to show that you are up to the task and, naturally, your best work. But, I was worried about giving the wrong impression and disappointing my mentor Hans and agency owner William Duijzer when I showed them unfinished work. However, in reality, they were really there to help me create the best product possible, irrespective of the stage I was in.

My traineeship

After completing my internship, I made it clear to Wild Digital that I wanted to stay at the agency as a Digital Designer. However, given that my graduation assignment ended up being more of a research-based project rather than a design-intensive one, we decided that I should continue on a traineeship basis. By doing so, I could demonstrate my design skills.

My day-to-day tasks changed drastically. I went from working every day on the same project to working on 2-3 projects simultaneously with deadlines every 3-4 weeks. Also, my tasks within the projects changed from doing a lot of research and formulating requirements to focusing more on user experience and visual design. I started attending client meetings and meetings with developers to broaden my soft skills and gather the basics of hosting these meetings. Eventually, I was hosting these meetings myself after building up my confidence, expertise and project knowledge. Moreover, I really noticed the improvement in my design work after shifting my focus from research and the school assignment to project-based design priorities.

What helped me grow were the weekly 1-on-1 meetings that I had with either Hans or William. During these feedback sessions, we discussed my progress and the work that I had delivered, and we used the time to discuss focus areas that I needed to work on. Asking the team for constructive feedback was crucial for me to accelerate my growth.

Here are two key takeaways from my time as a trainee:

Appearances matter.

I used to think that the only thing that counted was the end result: do you deliver on what you promised? However, during my traineeship, I quickly learned that was not the case. A client doesn't see the time and effort you put in to ensure a successful project. What they do see is your body language during meetings and the way you communicate. If these things are not professional or trustworthy, the client might not be happy with you as a designer even if you deliver killer results. So don't just be a person clients can trust; act like one too.

Expand your viewpoint.

I've worked on multiple projects where I initially thought that I had made a nice design. But when I checked in with the team to gather feedback, all proud and happy about my design work, they still saw points that needed improving. After diving into their feedback, I was amazed to see that something that I thought fit all of the client's requirements could be improved. It made my job as a designer become more challenging and so much more interesting. So when you think you're done, start iterating.

Becoming a Junior Digital Designer

Fast forward to the end of my traineeship. I felt like I had become a design professional and grew in confidence through:

  • My approach to taking on a new challenge
  • Having a clear understanding of what was expected of me when taking on a new challenge
  • My proactive approach to work and tackling client pain-points
  • Developing soft skills both in the office workspace and with client relations

Besides that, my designs also flourished. I got better at explaining design choices and presenting my works on a high level. My progress and efforts didn't go unnoticed at Wild Digital. Towards the end of my traineeship, William and Hans announced that they wanted to keep me on as a Junior Digital Designer in the studio!

The future

At the moment, it almost feels surreal. I am doing what I love and getting paid for it. Currently, I am working on a project for one of the most prominent football influencers in the Netherlands, which, I know, is insane! Check out the first part of the FC Straat project here.

Aside from the projects, there are so many reasons for me wanting to keep working here. I enjoy the casual vibe in the studio; one minute, we'll be messing around and having a laugh, the next, everyone will be in the flow and hyper-focused creating quality work. As Wild Digital is a growing agency, I get to work with designers with 10+ years of experience who are helping me grow both professionally and as a designer, faster than I could have ever imagined.

As you've just read, a lot has changed in the last year. I can't wait to see what I'll be doing and my role in the studio in 3 to 5 years. Back in May 2020, there were 3 of us working here. Now there are 8 in a little over a year. It's safe to say that the agency is going places. I would like to experience that journey and maybe mentor designers the same way Hans and William did with me in a few years. So let's see what the future holds.

Julian Wieckardt
Junior Digital Designer at Wild Digital