Thomas Essl

29 July – 13 September 2013
Royal College of Art and Imperial College London

When applying for an internship at Art.Lebedev, I had a set of hopes and expectations. After all I had carefully considered what I needed to learn, what skills need to be improved and what environment that could best be achieved in. In fact, I had applied nowhere else since I was sure of my choice and I got lucky to get an offer for an internship here. Needless to say that my expectations have not only been met, but exceeded by far.

At Art. Lebedev, you act as a professional designer. You take charge of your projects. From the first sketch that gets selected onwards, you are responsible. It is your design, you have to iterate it, push it, manage it. It is your responsibility but also your freedom and if you do well, you get the credit.

The projects themselves are as diverse as they come. During my time I did more (but certainly not only) stylistic work than I had expected (as opposed to innovative concept generation). Generally, I have been working on industrial-, product-, and graphic design but my guess is that it really varies depending on what contracts the studio is working on at the moment you are here.

Since one helps in all stages of a project, the actual individual tasks include everything you need in a complete design process: design sketching, model building, project discussions, 3d modeling and rendering, photoshoping, researching... plus occasionally acting as a model in a photo shoot for other departments. The design process itself is not as collaborative as I am used to; you generally develop your ideas and present them regularly, but you are free to set up collective brainstorms if you feel it would help.

Overall, within those two months, I had my hands in as many as 13 different projects (with a core of 7).

Of course, there is more to the overall experience than just work.

The new studio that the company moved to only months ago is fantastic! It is a lofty, industrial space, with massive windows overlooking the city and places to relax like the cafe or the sofa in my boss’ office (where I was allowed to live in during my entire time in Moscow). It is a place that many refer to as the Russian equivalent to Google.

From the job offer on, everyone is dedicated to help you with whatever queries you may have and it really is the people here that make your time an unforgettable experience. From the girl that makes you coffee in the morning (I love you!) to the other employees you hang out with and especially the other interns you will work together with.

Another uniqueness is how dedicated Timur, the art director (and your boss, should you come here) is to actively teach you stuff. That happens through actual lectures with slide presentations as well as explanations and informal discussions on momentarily relevant, industry specific situations and it was also through these chats that I learned lots about design relevant, cultural differences.

Finally, I have some specific pieces of advice for you:

Do try to learn a bit Russian in preparation and while you are here. In the studio, most people understand English at least a bit, but in the rest of the city, hardly anyone does. Knowing a few phrases will help you not getting lost (especially the massive and rather confusing underground system) and generally in daily life (shopping, getting a «taxi», etc.). And regardless of how hard everyone says it is, it’s a lot of fun too.

In terms of design, you probably know how opinion based the work in this industry is. Hence I would recommend not only to do what you are asked for, but also follow your own gut-feeling and keeping those ideas in the backhand in case new alternative designs are required.

So. That’s it from me. All that is left to say is that I am very grateful for the opportunity to work and learn here and the only thing I regret is not having stayed longer.

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