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The Company We Keep - Design Intern Edition

We asked our summer interns about their experience participating in a remote internship and about what design means to them.

As this year’s summer internship approached, it became clear that no one was going back to Square headquarters for the rest of 2020. Instead of packing their bags and moving to San Francisco, the interns stayed put in their college dorms or situated themselves in their childhood bedrooms. While working from home definitely has its perks, it also has potential downsides. What is an internship without spontaneous office connections and being able to work with mentors in person?

As the internships started, design managers tried to figure out the best way to make interns feel welcome and engaged, even at a distance. We scheduled regular check-ins, assigned additional mentors, and organised a digital hack week. Now that the summer has come to an end, we wanted to ask the interns about their unconventional summer. Remote work is at least our temporary reality, and is likely a more permanent shift, so we can gain fresh perspective from interns who are getting their feet doubly wet – they’re new to both the tech workforce and to working from home.

Eunice Choe

Product Design Intern | Point of Sale Team
Communication Design, HCI minor ‘21 | Carnegie Mellon University

Eunice’s intern hack week project: A year in review report for sellers with motion graphics and interactive web elements.

What has your remote internship experience been like?

Working remotely has been an interesting and unexpected challenge. It has taught me to be versatile and independent, and it has challenged me to be communicative and present in my workflow. I’ve had to adjust to my WFH setup in my bedroom and find ways to be productive but balanced in my schedule. I initially feared the lack of in-person interactions, but I’ve grown to appreciate how remote work has pushed me to be a conversation starter and an effective communicator. Despite being physically apart, I have had the unique opportunity to connect with other interns and designers across Square offices and develop meaningful relationships. Working in my pyjamas has been a plus, too.

Remote work has pushed me to be a conversation starter.

How would you define ‘design’? What does design mean to you?

Design is iterative and future facing. Especially this year, we’ve seen how the future of design has evolved. We are seeing how people are adapting to living life amidst a pandemic, and how new products and services are being designed/redesigned in response to the unexpected change in lifestyles. We are seeing an increase in new media activism via educational social media infographics. These are all new ways of iterative problem solving through design, all while working toward a better and compelling vision of the future. Design can sometimes be an ambiguous term, but it holds so much meaning. It’s about learning, asking questions, taking risks and being intentional.

In three words, what do you think the future of design should look like?

Diverse, inclusive, adaptable

Daniell Yang

Product Design Intern | Retail Team
Computer Science and Finance, Year: 3/5 | University of Waterloo

Daniell’s intern project: Square for retail split in-store sale and delivery order in same basket.

What has your remote internship experience been like?

The remote internship has definitely been a bucket-list experience for me; I never thought I would ever be doing a remote internship, let alone for design. Remote, by nature, forces every interaction to be intentional; every Slack message or meeting invite is meticulously planned and double-checked. Thus, it has pushed me to make the most of every interaction I have with my co-workers. I have tremendously improved my ability to present in design reviews, ask for feedback, and give helpful feedback. Note, I have to give credit to my co-workers at Square for being so accommodating and supportive of my growth (learning to cultivate relationships remotely has been another positive). Though I have enjoyed my remote internship experience, I’m still very much an office person and hope we can return one day.

It has pushed me to make the most of every interaction I have with my co-workers.

How would you define ‘design’? What does design mean to you?

Plenty of people much smarter than me have given great definitions of what design is, and as cliché as it is, the definition that I resonate with the most is Steve Jobs’ take: Design isn’t just how it looks, it’s how it works. The only caveat I would add is that I believe design should be applied to make people’s lives easier. For example, my Moccamaster is a wonderfully designed coffee machine; it is aesthetically pleasing, simple to use, easy to clean, and most importantly, makes a great cup of coffee. Furthermore, the functionality has remained practically unchanged for 50+ years – we could all learn a thing or two from them.

In three words, what do you think the future of design should look like?

Advancing human capabilities

Lois Bin

Web Design Intern | Marketing Web Team
Cognitive Science, 2020 Graduate | UC Berkley

Lois’s internship: Shop checkout redesign on mobile.

What has your remote internship experience been like?

Amazing. Rewarding. Comfortable, aka clad in oversized T-shirts from 9 to 5. I didn’t know what to expect starting work entirely from home, from onboarding to meeting a new team and my fellow interns entirely through Google Hangouts and a myriad of Slack channels (#doge and #cats are good ones). Luckily, our recruiters, my manager and my mentors have been completely receptive and accommodating throughout the whole experience, and it couldn’t have been a better time spent this summer. The breadth of designers and talent within Square is vast, and being able to work across multiple teams has been so valuable to my growth as a designer. On top of everything, this summer’s intern class has been awesome, and we’ve been able to make the best of the current remote situation through weekly quick chats, tech talks and roundtable Q&As the recruiters coordinate for us, and the intern hack week.

How would you define ‘design’? What does design mean to you?

The more I think with and through design, the more and more the driving force behind what I do is realized as the designer’s journey to understand the end user. Framing the problem with great depth and empathy has been key in being able to not only create a design but also a solution that eases and, in some cases, delights the user’s experience. In the end, sometimes the best design is one that is not recognized.

In three words, what do you think the future of design should look like?

Innovative. Conscious. Global.

Austin Lavalley

Product Design Intern | Point of Sale Team
User Experience Design Senior | Savannah College of Art & Design

Austin’s intern hack week project: Square on-the-go which aimed to help locate mobile sellers.

What has your remote internship experience been like?

Interesting to say the least. As you could imagine, finding out my first design internship would be taking place within the confines of my small college bedroom left me with some mixed feelings: knowing how lucky I was not to be one of the many students faced with cancelled internships or rescinded offers, but also realising I would be missing out on many of the aspects that truly make an internship a valuable experience. Fortunately, it seems like this was something both the campus team and my design team had taken into account, as my expectations were completely blown out of the water. Everyone I’ve talked to so far has been so welcoming and really gone out of their way to ensure the interns are getting the best experience possible under the current circumstances.

How would you define ‘design’? What does design mean to you?

Well that’s quite the question for a 250-word limit, isn’t it? Long answer short, I’d define design simply as ‘what if?’. In the context of Square, obviously design is building beautiful products to empower our sellers and buyers, but in a broader sense, I believe design to be a general curiosity about everything. Approaching any aspect of my life with a sense of inquisitiveness and wondering if there’s a better way to solve this problem, or a way to make a process more efficient – whatever comes after is what I call design.

In three words, what do you think the future of design should look like?

Accessible, specialised, seamless.

Germaine Lau

Design Intern | Brand Squad
Graphic Design, 4th year | Academy of Art University

Germaine’s Square projects: UK City Stat Sheet and the Inclusive Design Toolkit.

What has your remote internship experience been like?

Always evolving! Nothing stayed constant throughout my internship – from my workspace and creative process to my opinion of WFH. I was worried WFH would mean deteriorating interpersonal skills and lack of productivity. Office chatter and working shoulder to shoulder takes me outside my comfort zone. It’s nerve wracking but stimulating. But I came to appreciate having the space to dive deep into my projects. I learned remote meetings actually help communication skills. When there are fewer (and shorter) moments to connect face to face, you learn to use fewer words when speaking. There was no shortage of hustle and bustle during my internship. I’d like to think this experience has made me a convert to WFH.

I came to appreciate having the space to dive deep into my projects.

How would you define ‘design’? What does design mean to you?

When I interviewed at Square, I said design should amuse, be meaningful, and
say something. That still holds true to my definition of design. After my internship, I’d crank ‘be meaningful’ up a few more notches.

In three words, what do you think the future of design should look like?

Intentional. Inclusive. Provocative, maybe.

Brandon Law

Product Design Intern | Commerce Platform, Orders team
Environmental Studies, Senior | University of Waterloo

Brandon’s intern project: sorting and bulk action functionalities for Order Manager.

What has your remote internship experience been like?

This summer was not only my first remote internship but also my first design internship. I wasn’t sure what to expect, being a part of a company whose mission is to empower merchants, but I knew I was excited. Right from the start, I was given the opportunity to pick my project and tackle it how I wanted to; I’m incredibly thankful for the trust and encouragement I received from my team to explore and work through problems on my own. Through the term, I was able to learn so much about the challenges merchants are facing, learned so many different skills and perspectives from the talented people at Square, and also I learned a lot about myself as a designer, where my passions lie and what my strengths/weaknesses are.

How would you define ‘design’? What does design mean to you?

I define design as a very human approach to solving human problems, and learning how to apply it in my work gave a whole new meaning to ‘making an impact’ . It’s more than just making something pretty or something that only ‘creative people’ can do; it’s taking a step back, deeply understanding what needs people have and finding ways to solve them, which should be the responsibility of everyone building something for someone, because it affects more than just the users.

In three words, what do you think the future of design should look like?

Intentional, immersive, personal.

Zoe Allen

Product Design Intern | Restaurants Team
Economics & Computer Science, 2021 | Wellesley College

All of Zoe’s work for the restaurant team is still under NDA.

What has your remote internship experience been like?

Something fascinating about working remotely on a design team is the fact that teams must redesign how their current processes behave (e.g. meetings, reviews, brainstorming) to meet the needs of a remote team and a remote internship. Square did a wonderful job reimagining how an internship works in the face of this new normal. I’ve had an amazing experience interning at Square, from jam sessions with my team in Figma to presenting on Design Demo Day (a presentation to the whole design org) to working with fellow interns on a weeklong hackathon project. Overall, I’ve had the pleasure of working with incredibly talented designers – through getting remote coffee and lurking in their files – and working on impactful projects.

How would you define ‘design’? What does design mean to you?

The way I think about design is best expressed through the Q&A session between Madam L. Amic and Charles Eames, with questions by Amic and answers by Eames. More specifically, Amic asks, “What are the boundaries of design?” and Eames answers back, wittily, “What are the boundaries of problems?” There are some misconceptions about design that it only involves visual design or styling, but to me, design encompasses solving any and all problems, whether that be on a user-centric note or focusing on business considerations.

In three words, what do you think the future of design should look like?

Reflecting Future of Problems