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Posted 12.02.19

Working at Vitra - Interior Design student reports back from top industry placement

By Lauren Taverner Brown

BA (Hons) Interior Decoration, Design & Styling student Kate Bond (right) at the AKRIS event. Photo credit: AKRIS

Here at Plymouth College of Art, we support our passionate, free-thinking students in getting as much industry experience as they can whilst they are studying. We also encourage our students to think of themselves as professional practitioners - from photographers and fashion designers to fine artists and interior designers, from the moment they step into the college.

Currently in the final year of our BA (Hons) Interior Decoration, Design & Styling degree, Kate Bond recently spent six months on a marketing and design internship at the London showrooms of Vitra, an internationally renowned furniture company.

With their headquarters in Switzerland, Vitra is a family-owned brand that is famous for manufacturing the works of celebrated designers. Founded in 1950, Vitra pride themselves on creating innovative products and concepts with great designers, which are used to build inspirational spaces for life and work. In 1989, Vitra opened The Vitra Design Museum, an institution dedicated to the research and presentation of design, past and present.

Originally from Chichester, Kate moved to Plymouth to study on our UAL Foundation Diploma in Art & Design at Palace Court, Plymouth College of Art’s dedicated pre-degree campus.

Kate told us, “I was blown away with the facilities provided by the college, and the close-knit community. I decided to stay at Plymouth College of Art for my degree, because I was impressed with the fact that the wide range of facilities are so easily available to every student, and it's so straightforward for courses to cross-cut and collaborate with others. I also liked the fact that it’s easy for students to develop their work in new mediums, with help from highly skilled technicians.”

We caught up with Kate to chat about how she secured her internship with such a prestigious brand, and where her career is headed next...

How did the internship with Vitra come about?

Firstly after updating my CV and writing a cover letter, I worked closely with the Careers & Enterprise team and my tutors to refine my application.

After emailing my application to the Marketing Manager at Vitra, I created a physical copy of the application with my CV, cover letter and parts of my portfolio, and sent it in the post to their head office.

Tell us a bit about your role and responsibilities at Vitra?

The internship was based at the Vitra showroom in Clerkenwell. As it was a six month internship, I moved to London for the duration. I started working with the marketing team, however during the course of the internship I branched out to take on roles within the design and sales team.

My responsibilities included assisting in the planning and delivery of UK events, both in the showroom and externally - for example product launches, industry exhibitions, press events, product placements and collaborations.

I was given a lot of responsibility and was able to work on some really interesting projects. I collaborated with Swiss fashion house AKRIS, who specialise in luxury goods for women, for the launch of the new Alexander Girard SS18 collection launch in Mayfair. I pitched my concept to the store manager, complete with floor plan and ideas for giveaways. I then liaised with the transport team to arrange the furniture for the event and collection.

My tutors, Ally Turner and Cathryn Bishop, gave me such fantastic support before my interviews, and they really boosted my confidence.

- Kate Bond, BA (Hons) Interior Decoration, Design & Styling

I also designed the 2018 designjunction VIP & Press Room, and Talks Broadcast Suite & Speaker Lounge. For this project, I managed the full process, from design to implementation. I pitched my designs for all three areas to the Managing Director and Design Team at Vitra UK, and once this was approved, my presentation was sent to the Vitra HQ in Basel, and I’m proud to say it was signed off. The brief was set in collaboration with Emma Baldin, Vitra Marketing Manager and the designjunction Directors, mainly to focus on the footfall of guests.

During my internship I worked with Vitra’s Marketing Manager to distribute regular newsletters to both industry (B2B) and consumer (B2C) contacts, as well as helping to create a social media strategy, and managing content for Vitra’s Twitter, Facebook and blog. As part of this work I collaborated with Elle Deco, and I designed the Instagram story for the Vitra 2018 sale.

Photo Credit: The Conran Shop

My role included working on PR with Vitra’s marketing manager and the brand’s external PR agency, managing the logistics for product loans, and I worked to provide images requested by magazines including Living Etc, World of Interiors, and 25 Beautiful Homes, as well as helping to plan press trips for journalists to visit Vitra’s HQ.

I was also responsible for managing the stock of brochures in the showroom, as well as helping to manage the stock and allocation of press and marketing gifts to clients.

What was the most important thing you learned during your internship?

Being thrown in at the deep end is a great way to learn new skills you never knew existed, and to face your fears. I learnt how important it is to trust in your own abilities. The internship was also a great opportunity to meet a variety of different people in fields all over the industry.

Do you have any advice for other students looking to do internships?

The best bit of advice I can give to other students looking for internships is to go out there and really pursue it. Nothing in life is going to get handed to you - it is up to you to create your own future.

Companies respect persistence, so give them a polite call if they don’t get back to you after a week or so, and make sure they received your application. Never give up, because everything happens for a reason. When you get to the interview stages; be interesting, and be interested. Be yourself, because it’s not just your skills they are looking for - they want to see if your personality fits the company.

What kind of skills learnt during your degree were most useful at Vitra?

BA (Hons) Interior Decoration, Design & Styling requires you to develop floor plans, visuals and schedules, as well as requiring you to regularly present your ideas professionally to your peers, so all these skills were really useful during my internship.

When I was working on the designjunction VIP & Press lounge and Talks Broadcast Suite & Speaker Lounge, I had to pitch my schemes to the UK Managing Director, UK Interior Designer and the Marketing Team and my concept was authorised. I then had to work with the rest of the team regarding product loans and product placement. I was really proud of this work, because Nora Fehlbaum (Vitra CEO) and the HQ team flew over from Basel to see the space I had created at Southbank.

What kind of support did you get from your tutors, and how did it help with your internship?

Whilst I lived in London, my tutors were always available via email if I wanted any advice, and it was great to be able to keep them updated with what I was doing. Ally Turner and Cathryn Bishop gave me such fantastic support before my interviews, and they really boosted my confidence.

The best bit of advice I can give to other students looking for internships is to go out there and really pursue it. Nothing in life is going to get handed to you - it is up to you to create your own future.

- Kate Bond, BA (Hons) Interior Decoration, Design & Styling

What’s the best bit of advice you have been given you so far during the course?

My tutors have taught me to treat my university work as if it was created for a real client in the industry. By learning to develop work to a high professional standard whilst I’m studying, it has not only boosted my portfolio, but this approach also means that it won’t be a shock to move from studying into the industry itself.

You’re in your final year of your degree at the moment - what’s going to happen next for you?

My plan next is to keep networking, following up with the contacts I made through my time at Vitra. In the next five years time I hope to be a mid-weight Interior Designer in London, working for a high-end luxury residential company.