Have you ever walked around the Home section of Urban Outfitters and wondered how all of that furniture came to be?
Cameron is the Urban Outfitters Home Design intern. We talked about the design process from spec to finalization, the projects she’s worked on thus far, and the importance of authenticity in the workplace.
Can you describe your internship position and some of the day-to-day tasks that you perform on the job?
I’m on the Furniture, Lighting, and Storage team with two guys, and we work closely with the kitchen, tableware, table, and decorative/tech accessories people. I’m currently making construction documents for items that my team has designed so that they can go into production. All last week, I was working on designing a product from a brief that they had given me. I’ve designed a couple of things, and I’m working on getting the technical specs on them just right.
What’s a brief, and how does your design process work?
A brief is a spec that tells you what the vision for a project is and what void they’re looking to fill — for example, if they’re looking to do something for the boho or modern line and they want a shelving unit that is leaning or mounted to the wall or floating — they give you these guidelines, and you have to design something for that. Sometimes the spec includes a price point.
The beginning of the design process involves going over concepts and looking at the color and concept packets, then ideating and coming up with actual designs for our collections. Once the designs are done, we go back and forth with production to see what is realistic to produce, then we produce samples, and so forth until the entire process is done.
What have you designed so far, and which one is your favorite?
I’ve given a few opinions about the next season’s pool floats — that’s a really big thing. Urban is all about novelty and they’re always trying to figure out what the next big thing is. In terms of actual designing, I’ve done a couple of variations of a door portal. Traditionally it would be made with bamboo or beads, but my brief specified that I use iridescent sequins. Some of them already existed, but I got to design some to be cut, too. That was another part of going back and forth with production, to see if factories could do something like that and what the added cost would be, which was really cool to see first hand. We’ll see how that goes soon.
Do you use a sketchbook or software for your designs?
I use both! I probably carry five notebooks with me at all times. [Laughs] My team gave me a huge sketchbook on the first day, so I’ve been using that for my sketches. I’m also used to using an industry standard program called SOLIDWORKS for furniture design. In the past, I’ve found that sketching something out, and then mocking up your design on the computer forces you to improve. On the computer, you figure out how things will technically work.
Did you work at any of the Urban stores before coming here?
This internship is the first time I’ve worked with the company. I definitely shop there very frequently, though!
What’s your favorite part about working at the Home Office?
So far, my team is really cool. We all have the same goal of bringing our customers novel products and novel experiences. We all have great personalities — great people to work with. I also love all the inspiration I see around me; I’m doing something different every day, even if it’s really technical. There’s always something interesting going on.
Is there anything from Urban that you’ve bought recently or that you’ve had your eye on?
One of the guys I work with designs the tech accessories, and I really want to buy a pair of the headphones that he’s designing for next season. There’s also this really cool T-shirt and sweatshirt from Urban and a straw handbag from Free People that I like.
How would you describe your personal style/aesthetic?
One of my roommates actually called me “Austin chic” because I was wearing a bandana and a T-shirt the other day! I’m from around Austin, Texas, and I still find inspiration in southwest and west Texas vibes. I like glitter and pink, but also rugged tomboyish-type looks. Denim’s probably my favorite material.
What are some of your favorite spots in Philly?
Fishtown is really cool, I went there for a few hours one night. I’d like to explore more around there.
Did you attend Interview Day?
I didn’t come to Interview Day. Two years ago I met some recruiters, and I got their contact information. They weren’t hiring at the time, and they’d already chosen interns for that summer. I stayed in contact with them, I was like constantly asking my sister what I should do — she was an intern, and now she’s designing at Free People in LA — so I was going back and forth with her, and I kept following up with my recruiter, who put me in contact with someone else, who put me in contact with another person. It was a lot of playing the waiting game. I had my first interview with my current manager this past winter, and then another with the woman in charge of our creative direction. Both interviews were really great. The next call I got from my recruiter was to tell me that I’d gotten the internship, which was a nice surprise!
Did you have a strong online presence (such as an Instagram or personal website) that caught their attention?
I had my website, which was really good for them to go on and look at in terms of my process, skills, and portfolio. I also sent them samples of my work — I think it was a mixture of my online presence and constant communication.
Do you have any advice for someone who would want to be an intern at Urban Outfitters?
Definitely just be yourself. Everyone has a really great personality because they’re not afraid to be authentic. You can learn any technical skill, but it’s really great and important to work around great and creative people you could vibe with. ♚