Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tea Time?

I don't make tea.

I said this to a friend over coffee. After almost projecting her frothy latte all over my face, she looked at me in shock. Tea making is a right of passage all designers must go through in order to be accepted within a design agency, she claimed. I don't think so.

Tea making is demeaning. It is a process by which you are saying to everyone in that studio (who doesn't already know it) that you are the newbie; you're the student, the learner; you're time isn't worth the same as theirs. You are marking yourself as their slave. This is dramatic, but I find the fact that interns have to work long hours at half minimum wage, just to get by after slaving away at University for four solid and painful years is demeaning enough. They should be making me tea.

I have made a conscious effort not to make tea and sometimes I do worry that it will cost me a permanent job. Tea offering is a way of offering friendship. By declining others (I couldn't possibly accept with no intention of returning the favour) and not setting foot near the studio kitchen for the entirerity of my stint at design agencies, I am preventing the start of conversations, of potential friendships and future employment.

I will not succumb, though. I am stubborn and I insist that it will be my talents as a designer that will win me a job. I will bowl over creative directors with my innovative ideas, rather than my satisfying brew. Unless I am wrong and that tea is the only way to a design studio's heart. If you can guarantee me a job for a cup of tea, then call me Polly. How do you like it, again?


  1. At my last internship, I got one of them to make me tea a few times and it was bloody terrible. So I just started making my own tea. I don't really like making tea for other people anyway, but people I'm trying to impress? My life is full of enough stress without having to remember which tea has more sugar.

  2. Making the tea is part of life in the UK. It happens in all jobs, not just the design industry. It's a social convention. I know if I was hiring I'd rather take on someone who doesn't mind making the odd cuppa who was maybe a bit rough around the edges, over a 'brilliant' designer with a chip on their shoulder. Ultimately people hire people, and it doesn't matter how many illustrator shortcuts you know – if you're hard to get along with and don't participate in the culture of your workplace you're not going to get hired.

  3. I'm a senior, and everyone in our studio, from the directors down, makes tea, because it's a leveller, and it shows everyone considers themselves a social equal.

    Also because we're not stuck up, spoilt little brats with a hugely overblown sense of entitlement, like you.

  4. I'm a graduate searching for design internship. I've read all your entries. I feel your frustration, I really do. But in all honesty, I would much rather make tea, bacon-sandwiches, whatever the order of the day is but be given the chance to peek over their shoulders.

    The real demeaning blow IMO - and I do experience it - is to spend weeks upon weeks painstakingly personalising every CV/Cover letter, polishing portfolio, approaching studios by phone but only to culminate in deafening silence.

    I would happily be a slave flipping cheesie-toasties.