"We're scrapping unpaid internships"


"We're scrapping unpaid internships"

Opinion: Dezeen editor-in-chief Marcus Fairs explains why we're responding to our critics and introducing paid editorial internships: "Interns will get a contract and be paid above the minimum wage".

Let’s talk about interns. We’ve run an unpaid internship programme since I launched Dezeen as a one-man bedroom start-up in 2006. People started offering to help me out in order to get some experience of online publishing and to have something to put on their CVs. Win-win.

Over the years we’ve honed the programme into what we felt was a responsible, benign package for people who want to break into journalism. Naturally, it helps us too.

It went largely unremarked until this month, when Twitter users pounced on an unpaid editorial internship advert we placed on our own recruitment site, Dezeen Jobs. Comments included “Exploitation!” “Show some leadership!” and “#unfuckinglievable” [sic].  “It's not an internship,” wrote another, “it's a 'wealth creation programme'.”

I don’t agree with a lot of this rhetoric, which, incidentally, seems to mostly come from UK architecture students, professionals and journalists who were already angry about the number of unpaid architecture internships advertised on Dezeen Jobs. But the point of this column is primarily to address criticisms of our own internship programme.

In the past I’ve defended ours as being one of the better editorial programmes out there: over four (recently increased to six) weeks, we devote a lot of time to training and explaining how online journalism works. It’s a pretty standard route into the media, as a quick trawl around websites of other publications in our sector reveals. I ran a similar scheme at icon magazine, where I was editor from 2003 to 2006.

Everyone now employed on the Dezeen editorial team has done at least one unpaid internship, some of them with us but others elsewhere. When I was trying to get into journalism in the nineties I did “work experience”, which was much the same thing.

So working for nothing to learn the ropes is nothing new and a glance at Dezeen Jobs and other similar sites suggests that if anything, such positions are increasing in many creative sectors.

However I always felt slightly uneasy about the unpaid aspect of our internships and we have discussed this regularly in the office. Whatever the moral arguments, you can’t argue with the logic that, for the intern, getting paid is better than not getting paid.

But the flood of applicants, the overwhelming positive feedback we got from past interns and the fact that other publishing companies were doing the same made it seem okay. We never saw it as “exploitation” or free labour but rather a mutually beneficial hybrid of work and training.

Most importantly, it was legal: our internships have been conducted in accordance with the Department of Work and Pensions’ guidance on volunteers. (The term “intern” has no legal status in the UK and seems to have drifted over from the USA over the last 15 years, replacing the dowdy “work experience” tag, which now only legally applies to people under the age of 16).

But as a company and an employer we don’t want ours to be "one of the better programmes". We want it to be really good; as good as we can make it; the best, if possible. We want to constantly improve everything we do. We're no longer a shoestring operation struggling to make ends meet. We recognise that because of our profile and audience, people look to us to set an example.

Since the tweets began to appear last week we’ve discussed this endlessly in the office and researched the alternatives. We’ve asked all our interns from the past year for feedback on how we could improve the experience. Interestingly, getting paid was only their third most-cited suggestion. The thing they wanted most of all was to get more bylines on stories (not having to answer the phone was the second most requested change).

There is also a general consensus among our past interns that a month is about the limit for an unpaid stint. But in order to train people to the point where they can write stories, we need them to stay longer.

So we're scrapping unpaid internships and we’re introducing a new, paid, three-month editorial internship programme. Interns will get a contract and be paid above the minimum wage. By the end of the period they should have a bunch of published stories to show future employers as well as a rounded knowledge of all aspects of online journalism.

It’s important to note that while this change has been triggered by criticisms on Twitter, we are making them for business reasons rather than ethical ones. We believe that the new programme will lead to better-motivated people doing higher-quality work. That’s good for everyone.

One thing we are not going to do however is act as police officer for the global architecture and design professions. Circumstances vary according to discipline and country and we don’t think we should be telling companies how to run their businesses. There are plenty of other individuals and organisations better placed to do that.

This is a tough time to be running any company and with a chronic over-supply of architecture and design graduates willing to take unpaid internships, I can understand the appeal to both parties. There are clearly some companies that take advantage of interns but I don’t think we are the right people to point the finger. We would prefer to lead by example.

So we have no plans to ban internship adverts from Dezeen Jobs, as some people are demanding, so long as the posts advertised are legal and meet the requirements of any relevant professional bodies. We have added a new paragraph to our terms and conditions to ensure advertisers are aware of this. We will take action to remove a job ad if there’s a clear breach but this will be based on legal, rather than moral, arguments.

If people suspect firms of breaking the law or a professional code they should report them to the relevant authorities. And if anyone wants to do a paid internship with us, get in touch.

Update 01/06/2013: Since this article was published we have amended our policy and no longer allow companies to advertise unpaid internships on www.dezeenjobs.com. Read more stories about internships here.

  • zohtmuz

    I think you should also ban advertising unpaid internships in your Jobs section as well! Dezeen, can you confirm you will do this?

    • Matthew

      I second this suggestion.

      • beatrice

        I third that. One time you advertised a Job of the week, which was an unpaid internship. That isn’t a job.

  • hannah

    Let’s put it this way. Only RICH kids can afford unpaid internships. It is upsetting because it keeps young people who depend on an income out of the creative industry unless they are heartbreakingly determined and work 24/7. This includes fashion design, architecture but also charity and nonprofit organisations.

  • Hi Dezeen team,

    You picked the right topic. As a design entrepreneur and employer of creatives I know exactly what you mean. Although we never offered unpaid internships it is nearly impossible to deal with the hundreds of internship applications per month in a reasonable way.

    We decided to pay a little internship compensation and offer a free room in our company flat. This is a great incentive, which makes the experience in our creative teams even more worthy because of the family feeling and the fast social integration into a foreign surrounding. It is not all about the pay.

    But besides this, it is not easy to fulfill the expectations of interns who are trying to recommend themselves for later employment. Currently I feel it’s a waste of creative talent that we should start to find solutions for.

    • John

      I think that is great Markus! If you can afford to own a company flat it seems you could afford to pay a nominal fee for an intern that you will no doubt be charging out at the rate of a full-time employee.

    • Rupert

      Are you kidding? This is slavery! You can’t just say that you can offer a bed and a little pocket money and not call it slavery! I think you should just announce bankruptcy and start working for someone else. This is ridiculous and unjustifiable when you compare what you offer to what a paid job offers.

  • Konrad

    Great, Dezeen! It is nice to hear that you show a good example!

  • alex

    This is the best post ever. It’s about time people stop working for free or even feeling the need to be exploited! Good for you Dezeen. Bravo. You made me bubbly inside. ;)

  • brononamous

    Can’t agree more. Stop advertising unpaid internships.

    • Hayden

      Unfortunately it won’t eliminate the problem. One recent posting read like an advert for a TEAM of people with at least five years experience each. Show me the intern with:

      » experience in high-end furniture design
      » advanced knowledge of sub-divisional polygonal modelling
      » advanced knowledge of NURBS modelling

      Oh and vehicle design experience a bonus – just thrown in like I would a few chocolate bars at the supermarket! Perhaps Dezeen needs to curate and reject ad’s as they do comments.

      • brononamous

        As long as they are paying someone do to whatever that job is it’s fine. Not paying someone to do work they would normally pay someone to is just ridiculous and frankly morally wrong.

  • Edek

    Disgraceful. As leader you should be able to recognise an individuals potential at the interview process then train them accordingly for full time work at Dezeen. Not to leave them in limbo whether or not to commit with the probable outcome of unemployment a month later, with just a few lines added to the CV to show.

    Furthermore Dezeen are not in the rightful position to offer internships in the first place. I saw an article on dildos last week. it’s not like a ‘design’ internship at a top ‘design’ practice. You write about design and should know whether or not a person is capable of this and if so offer them the position.

    Of course past interns are going to be positive about the experience you are their reference they have no choice in the matter. You appear to be a wealthy man so to say it is a tough time to be running a business demonstrates little compassion towards the intern who will be on the dole in a months time when your jetting off to some fashion event in St. Tropez taking photographs of tramps as you pass. https://twitter.com/marcusfairs/status/2987267340

  • Dave S.

    Kudos, Dezeen. I sincerely hope that more businesses in the design industry follow your lead. It is high time that the creatives built a positive culture with expectations for reasonable remuneration for their services.

    Design culture too often expects extra hours for no pay; it’s ridiculous, and unnecessary. Telling interns that they’re lucky even to have unpaid work simply contributes to this vicious cycle. I hope the big offices are listening.

  • Colonel Pancake

    If this sense of nobility could trickle down to the peasantry of the article comments, I’ll gladly opine on 3D printing for shillings and crumpets.

  • Michael

    Actually, there has been an interesting phenomena with design companies using internships to offset economic issues. Students receive loans and are financially able to do an internship that replaces the paid position of a recently laid off employee.

    Many of my peers leaving school shared stories about how they received projects to work on without mentorship or guidance, while being asked to put in equivalent hours as salaried employees. You could see how this is easily abused.

    I’m not accusing Dezeen of this practice, but I do applaud any company that respects the input from interns and rewards them for their efforts through fair pay. Thanks for supporting this!

  • zohtmuz

    Dezeen have clearly been doing unpaid internships previously and ‘because everyone did them’ has never made this right. The fact that the second thing interns wish for was not to answer the phones proves that they were being used as free labour to do jobs that otherwise paid employees would be doing!

    The only way for you to truly set an example in the eradication of internships is to also ban the advertising of them from your website!

  • Lorenz Krisai

    Good post. To everyone demanding job offers taken down, or attacking Dezeen, here’s a thought: if there is an agreement between two parties such as intern/employer, there is no need to intervene. For anybody.

    If you don’t want to do an unpaid internship, don’t do it. There are plenty of firms in our field, who offer paid internships. Maybe some of them might not have as much fame attached to their brand, but nonetheless: nobody forces you to do an unpaid internship.

    Don’t blame Dezeen for offering you information, blame yourself for doing an unpaid internship if you don’t want to do it. It’s up to each and every one to decide for themselves whether an unpaid internship makes sense for them. Don’t tell people how they should run their business, it usually does not help anybody.

    • lauviv

      You have obviously not had to look for work in the last twelve months. For a lot of new graduates, this is their only way of getting their foot in the door and gaining experience, so they can put it towards attaining paid employment.

      I’m not saying its right to take advantage of unpaid interns, but a lot of them (including myself) don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing positions. People are there for the sheer desperation of wanting to kick-start a career they’ve already worked so hard towards, only to be faced by the lack of job opportunities upon graduation.

      • Pete

        What about people who can’t afford to work for free and who (possibly) worked harder than you, are more talented than you and more deserving than you?

  • Hi Dezeen, I would like to applaud you for this decision. Personally and professionally, I do not agree with unpaid internships. I think you’re asking someone to do work, and you should rightly compensate them. Though you’re not going as far as some people would like (banning all ads for unpaid positions), I think your decision was at least reasoned, thoughtful, and in accordance with relevant laws.

    Cheers, Jarrod

    PS It’s a small point, and you can feel free to ignore this, but grammatically speaking, I think it’s correct to say, “one of the BEST editorial programmes.” One thing is *better* than one other thing. Out of a group of more than two, though, one of them is one of the *best*.

  • Smitty

    Unpaid internships only allow trust fund kids to apply to some of the most desirable firms to get on your CV. After graduating with a Masters degree in architecture, I applied to some of the best and most progressive firms in NYC. I interviewed at several and was offered jobs at my top two choices. These were unpaid positions, even while holding a graduate degree with prior work experience.

    I was crushed that I had to turn down such amazing opportunities because I simply could not afford the jobs. Take on another side job that pays? No chance when you are expected to work about 80 hour weeks. What really killed me was that even though I was qualified to be hired by these top notch firms, I wasn’t rich enough to work there.

    Just because you have lots of money and don’t need a paycheck doesn’t mean you are the best qualified for any position. Currently with my own architecture firm, I have student interns, that I pay very well, but have high expectations. I believe that excellent work and high talent deserve to be compensated, not just by allowing them to put my firm name on their CV.

    • Hayden

      Balls and integrity. I’d buy you a beer.

      • Panofsky

        Hardly integrity.

  • Sweet, John

    As well, I think this was really great topic to highlight. Unpaid internships are tacky especially in creative industry. I do understand really well both parties but if I were an employer I would not have courage to ask someone to work free for me, not even a bit.

    As I believe, a lot of talented people get unpaid internships through Dezeen website. I understand that the site’s primary purpose is not being a recruiting agency, but I think a good way not to “prevent” or but at least do yours bit would be to raise the price of announces of unpaid internships with at least x5 depending from the length of an internship, and not to profit from it.

    After all this money is not much, but at least it´s something. This money should belong to the intern. I believe this way the employer will receive really qualified intern through the website and the employer needs to consider if they really need one.

  • MaJ

    Great move.

    I have trouble understanding this statement: “we are making them for business reasons rather than ethical ones”. What is so wrong with ethics? There should be no embarrassment in making ethical decisions, or decisions that fuse business and ethical considerations.

    In fact this will open your internship program to talented candidates from all income backgrounds – that’s what paid internships do. And that’s a great thing. Bravo.

    • Karl

      Maj – it’s not so much that making ethical decisions is bad, it’s just that to call this an ethical decision implies that Dezeen’s previous practices were UNethical. This is a business decision because otherwise those people on Twitter that first criticised them would start to claim that they only did it to avoid PR problems and that at base they are still a selfish organisation. Rule #1 of a Twitter storm: save face.

  • Ridiculous

    I will not applaud you Dezeen as in my opinion this should not have been happening in the first place! You are simply correcting an exploitative practice and trying to post-justify it.

    As an architecture student I refused to work in architecture firms as an intern exactly for this reason. When I entered the workforce in a firm after graduation, I was being paid worse than I had been in a part time retail job for two years until my architect salary caught up.

    It is very simple – no matter how junior an intern is or how much they lack skills, they are still giving you their TIME and effort! The fact that you are teaching them something goes without saying, the onus is on business owners to cultivate the careers of those they employ.

    This ridiculous culture is the reason why designers are paid so poorly by clients. If we took the same approach as any other industry who hires and pays interns (law, medicine etc) we wouldn’t be in this mess.

  • Andi

    Zaha are you reading this?

    • Kevin

      Zaha pays her interns.

    • NFI

      To my knowledge Zaha doesn’t take unpaid interns, certainly not once they have completed their degree/masters.

    • Tellsitlikeitis

      Zaha pays all interns. Why do you love libel so much?

  • Most professions that favour unpaid internships (yes, there are many) are engrossed with bad management and bad business decisions, but they have a great public image attracting those that can afford it. Architecture without doubt falls within this category as does any new startup – Dezeen isn’t that old.

    If the business as a whole isn’t making money, then the people working in that business can’t be paid. Nobody ever did an unpaid internship at a top management consulting firm like McKinsey (there, internships pay more than many senior level architects).

    For me, the moaning about unpaid internships shows a lack of understanding of how organisations work. If you moan at bad business management, the source of the problem, which in turn would mean unpaid internships wouldn’t happen, then we might get somewhere. Looking at a firm like SHoP, they have five partners, one trained in business as well, and would never do an unpaid internship. Having worked at several top firms and having friends in nearly all the other top firms, I can say the general level of management is absolutely awful.

    Hello Health, which is a great company that helps doctors manage their business better has a produced a great idea for the health industry and a funny video to go with it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embed

    My question to Dezeen is, could you have afforded to pay interns over the last few years? But I think I already know the answer. Many firms go through the early years unpaid and flip to the other side when they figure out what they are doing later on. We shouldn’t knock this practice, but figure out what could change to a better system. I think design needs a Hello Design.

    • If money didn’t matter to you, how many people would take an unpaid internship? Seth Godin gives some questions below:

      Do they pay other people who do this work?

      Do their competitors?

      Do I care about their mission?

      Can they afford to do this professionally?

      Will I get noticed by the right people, people who will help me spread the word to the point where I can get hired to do this professionally?

      What’s the risk to me, my internal monologue, and my reputation if I do this work?

  • Dali

    It’s pretty audacious and offensive to try and turn this situation into positive spin. All the unpaid internships ever entered into have meant that opportunities in the creative industries are weighted in favour of the wealthy.

    Both the employers and employees (for want of better words) are complicit. It is surely not the healthiest of situations where people making important design decisions have such limited life experience.

    At least, though, you’re “no longer a shoestring operation struggling to make ends meet”. Well played.

  • I have a huge experience in the topic. I am not an architect but a journalist and I can say that when I first moved to London with my masters degree in journalism I was offered several great internships, but all of them unpaid.

    They needed me there from 9am to 6pm writing and editing articles without getting anything in return. They told me that in order to get published you need to work hard, which is true, but how can you be great at what you are doing when the only thing in your mind is “how am I going to pay my bills and rent?”

    Let’s not fool ourselves – those big companies CAN afford to pay at least a minimum wage! It is a shame that they want to exploit young people like that.

  • @mike_horswill

    It’s good to see that you have responded to the opinions of some people. I applaud you taking this step and building a paid internship program. It is also interesting to note that while they may still be happening elsewhere (I know it’s endemic in journalism, design and architecture) and will continue to happen as some of your job posts suggest, you are at least leading by example. Well done.

  • smack

    Hey Dezeen, your attempt at performing an informal study and then interpreting its results are depressing and wrong.

    You ask your former interns (all of whom would have been unpaid) about things they would have liked to have changed in their internship with Dezeen. You then comment with “surprise” that only the top third result was “paid internship”.

    The problem is that you’ve ignored the inherent bias in your sample: they were all unpaid interns.

    A group of unpaid interns, it can be easily argued, must have certain traits in common – some of which, specifically, could have an influence on their answers to your survey. Specifically, of course, I’m talking about some level of financial freedom that would allow them to take on an unpaid internship.

    I know as a student appoaching the job market firmly in the middle class that I likely wouldn’t be able to afford it myself – not when the opportunity exists elsewhere for a paying job. I also know that, as I do, a good number of my classmates also rely on their internships to actually pay for their school terms.

    If you had asked any of us in such a situation to provide an answer, perhaps we would have been more likely to have said “hourly rate”, or whatever. Of course, you wouldn’t ask us, because we didn’t work for you.

    But you do have to consider that an unpaid internship is a sort of hurdle for people of a certain financial situation to clear. So, in asking only the people who had ALREADY cleared that hurdle, of course you’re going to get a response where “paid internship” is third most common – you’re really only asking the people who didn’t need money to take the job, which, like it or not, is a very real situation.

    So you inadvertently “selected” respondents to your survey that naturally gave your final conclusions a noted bias in the direction of past practices.

    I hope you can understand why this would be, and why it was hardly proof of what you thought it was.

    • Crack

      You’re misreading the whole situation. I bet the bottom dollar of any poor freshly minted but ambitious, excited, creative individual is they want the EXPERIENCE.

      Fortunately, I’m not at that point of my career, but I’d eat noodles and abstain from all of my numerous vices for the length of the internship IF it meant I could get into the place of choice.

      • smack

        Ok so it is you who has misread my point and you have done so in the following way:

        I would like to point out that, whether or not you meant to imply otherwise, it is not true that the only place it is possible to obtain experience, or good experience, is at an unpaid position. There isn’t a dichotomy of money and experience here.

        I would further question the relevance of your pseudoanecdote/supposition in response to my argument. You almost propose a sort of “no true scotsman” definition of a theoretical “ambitious, excited, creative individual”, who would never go for money vs experience (again, a false dichotomy but whatever) which I would advise you against because that’s a bad direction to steer an argument.

        Nonetheless if you’re choosing to say that any true ambitious, excited, creative individual would rather go for experience than money (I wouldn’t disagree that this is often true) then you’re still ignoring the fact that some interns, regardless of whether or not they want experience or how badly they so desire it, CANNOT AFFORD IT.

        And if you think this is simply a matter of “tightening your belt” or “only eating noodles” then I’m sorry but you’re being a little ignorant of the situation many people might actually find themselves in. Simply put, an unpaid internship is literally unattainable for some segment of the population, in a way that can exist wholly independently of skill or expertise as a designer.


        My initial assertion was that there would exist a body of potential interns unable to afford Dezeen’s unpaid internship who would thus have been overlooked in the informal study they conducted, therefore skewing the position of “paid wage” in the final results due to the preponderance of those who could otherwise afford the internship and therefore would not have such money issues, which would in the end misrepresent the actual desire for a paid wage among a LARGER population of interns (based on the hardly questionable assertion on my part that there are simply students who could not afford such a position) and you responded by claiming “no but if the good ones wanted to do it really badly they’d manage somehow” which aside from being pretty unfounded is also kinda skirting the issue I presented overall.

        As before I hope you can see where you’ve gone wrong here.

      • smack

        I mean this is entirely ignoring the way your assertion ignores the potential issue of supporting a system that at its core is based around the under- if not de-valuation of design work coming from an intern. But that’s an extremely tricky matter and is hardly necessary in this particular thread of discussion.

        • Crack

          Dude, I hear you and I’m with you all the way. Where I come from (NZ) there is no such thing as an intern scheme for design/arch grads, in a labour market significantly worse than the UK’s. I know first hand it’s not a matter of ‘belt tightening’ or ‘noodle eating’.

          My point, which I didn’t perhaps communicate clearly enough (i’m full pseudoephedrine killing the flu) was: the most valued component of the internship should be the *experience* itself. Even if an internship paid min-wage CAPITAL shouldn’t be the applicants motivating factor. Never did I say, nor do I agree that it should not be paid.

  • andrew

    Please get a backbone and stop profiting off of advertising unpaid internships. Your readership obviously wants you to do that. This article comes across as very arrogant.

    • BriH

      I fail to see how cutting your revenue sources will enable you to pay interns. It is a receipe for bankrupcy and helps no-one. I think that leading by example is a positive step and hope that practitioners of not paying interns will be shamed into following suit (although I very much doubt thay all will). I think Dezeen is to be applauded for at least making a start.

  • A good decision, now let’s move on.

  • Good Morning Dezeen:

    Exploitation is in the eye of the beholder, to put it tritely. Those who cry “Foul!”, must examine their own motivations. Exploitation infers that their opportunity to choose was taken from them. They are free to choose and if they don’t like the conditions, they can choose not to accept them and move on.

    I’m afraid that I’m of the old school, and like everyone else of my generation, struggled in my creative pursuits. The work was effortless, because I loved, and continue to love, what I do. A rare thing. However, in recent years, I’ve run across a generation that is in love with the “idea” of being a designer, rather than being in love with the work. They want the notoriety and attention that comes with the title, rather than pursuing the work with such rigour, that the pursuit defines them. These persons have an inflated sense of self-entitlement and are willing to go to the extremes of whining and manipulation to get what they want, at the expense of others… hmm, exploitative? These are also persons who possess no creativity, whatsoever, and rely solely on shock value to gain attention.

    Having said that: there is a small handful from this very generation who have demonstrated to me a remarkable creativity and skill that belies their experience. These are brilliant young minds, and I do my best to assist them in their pursuits, but they earned it. That which drives them to pursue this occupation they do so, willingly, with great sacrifice to their ability to generate a modest income and maintain relationships. I’m watching, with fascination, the gradual emergence of such persons within our community, Vancouver, Canada. These persons have not asked, nor have they demanded, of anyone to provide them with opportunities. They manufactured their own, and aggressively pursued them, without hesitation. These are the persons that must be encouraged, rewarded, and yes, be cut a break in order for them to advance.

    Having said that: a truly magnanimous gesture on your part, Dezeen. I don’t pretend to understand your situation that brought you to your decision, I can only remark that your interns’ progress and performance must be measured. They still must “earn” it.

  • Stephen

    Any other field where a person is expected to be at work for set amount of time is doing a ‘job’ – gaining experience or not.

    It’s very tiring that many businesses, especially those in architecture, say that bright, hard working graduates simply aren’t worth the minimum wage and try to pass off cheap labour under the title ‘internship’.

    • As my point above, many professional fields have unpaid internships.

  • Nice Post.

  • Maya

    Hi all! It’s a lovely snowy morning here in a country where the unemployed rate has reached 21,9%. In the last 4 years no faculty graduate was able to get a job or even a free internship – you know why? Even a free internship for the intern is not ‘free’ for the employer.

    Also, there’s an interesting pattern of ‘keeping it in the family’ so even if there is an opening, there’s always someone’s aunt hopping out from the bushes to take the place.

    I applaud the paid internship move made by Dezeen on a human, ethical level. However I would support it if it was still free, this time on an employer level, making a rational, above all legal, business decision.

    No one is forcing anyone to work for free! Employers are giving an opportunity to whomever is interested to learn about the business, and ‘interns’ should be grateful to have that opportunity. Because where I’m from, no one will employ you without the experience, and they will not pay you to get that experience, that’s for sure!

    I mean, how many students are working day-out to be able to finish college?! Surely a month or two more is not making a life-changing difference? Or on the other hand it is making a difference. You’ll have something priceless to show in your CV: your wirking experience!

    I swear to God, there wouldn’t be so many comments and twitter posts if people would have the drive to make a better use of their spare time, or their life for that matter. And sometimes it’s good to have a look around. In 100% cases you’ll see that there are worst things in life!

  • According to the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions, unpaid interns working under the “Volunteer” guidelines can claim benefits while doing so.

    This would seem to get round the criticism that unpaid internships favour the better-off, but does anyone have experience of this? Is it easy to get approval from the Job Centre?




  • Laura

    Previous unpaid intern here! Can I just say that I am DEFINITELY not ‘rich enough to afford working for free’, but Dezeen covered my travel expenses (I don’t live in London, I’m from up North) and a hearty lunch, which came to a considerable sum, and which I would have been spending most of my wage on had they been paying me.

    I learned a hell of a lot, and answering the phone was daunting but a necessary skill for anyone to learn! I didn’t feel like a skivvy – I got published, for goodness sake.

    In principle, I don’t agree with working for free, but there’s no need to specifically attack Dezeen. They’re changing the way they do things, end of.

  • sofia

    We are now living in a culture where it is normal for qualified professionals to go into a job interview and be offered very little or no pay at all. This needs to change. If a company can afford to pay their interns they should, so working for free just to get experience is no longer an acceptable practice.

  • Jakub

    Step in the right direction.

  • Marcel

    If you work for free you don’t take yourself seriously. But if there are still people offering themselves to be exploited, the vicious circle will never break. It works eventually both ways.

    And yes folding paper, making coffee, ordering paper also costs money. So architects, designers, journalists, etc. don’t be such a fool and appreciate your own qualities.

  • FBR

    I just find the tone of this article extremely arrogant. Why just don’t tell that you made a mistake?

  • sor perdida

    No ‘win-win’ to me. Had I known this blog runs on unpaid submissive wimps, I would have never bothered to pay any attention to it.

    It is true however that designers or architects, wretched intellectual slaves who stoop at their master’s crotch in exchange for a bagel or a Chinese takeaway, may actually be performing their vocation by practicing the oldest job in the world. I regard this successful US export called ‘unpaid internship’ as a modern paradigm of both human abjection and self-loathing altogether – a curious locus where run-of-the-mill individuals can get busy, sip a tea, and exist.

  • Number Two

    Unpaid internships minimise and humiliate our professions.

    Unpaid internships are the cause of extremely low entry level salaries in the design field, and way under the average salaries for experienced designers (compared to other professions).

    In this unpaid internship business (modern slavery) Europe is way worse than the US. In California an intern can make more than a mid-level designer in Europe.

  • Danielle

    Unpaid internships are not ideal for anyone. Everyone wants and needs to get paid. But at the same time, an unpaid internship is better then no internship.

    As an architecture graduate currently doing an unpaid internship in graphic design (not my chosen field) I am grateful that I have it, because it’s something on my CV and it’s less time spent at home being miserable, depressed and unemployed! I have learnt a lot and am diversifying my design skills.

    By fighting against unpaid internships, you are scaring away those who offer them and minimising opportunities for people who desperately seek them.

  • Ives

    It shouldn't take bad press on the web to come up with this solution. What disappoints me most is not that you didn't pay your interns, but that you lack rigidity in your ethics.

    • Kumlins Bones

      Seconded. Seems that most of the truimphant blowing of the Dezeen horns always seems to stem from the provocations of third parties. Was Dezeen not involved in the hot topic of royalties, unpaid internships and whatnot during that daft Twitter campaign Milan Uncut? Would the site have continued the non-paid placements if it were not for the concerns of others? Perhaps if enough people ask for you to stop selling abysmal watches, would that work too?

  • Rebekka

    I am always shocked that people actually stick up for internships on the grounds of ‘great experience’ and a ‘foot in the door’ which are terms that suggest that not only is one’s other experience, intelligence, talent and qualification but you also have to “work” for free! Since when is being a qualified designer not sufficient qualification to do a job of a designer?

    Internships get filled and exist in the UK as there is NO alternative as very few studios/companies will touch you (give you an interview for a junior post) without over one years experience. So where does that experience come from? Unpaid (or minimum wage) internships that get oneself into further debt as there is no alternative.
    Work is work and work should legally be paid. Period.

  • Caroline

    I think people seriously need to stop attacking Dezeen. And someone mentioned that this blog doesn’t pay anyone?! F*ck me mate, there are thousands of blogs out there that people pay to have and it’s not their job to run, Dezeen is fairly new and one of the ways it probably started was from a group of people who weren’t paid in the first place!

    I don’t like the sound of an unpaid internship as much as the next student but when I’ve spoken to people that have been doing well, read about journalists and designers I admired, they happily did an unpaid internship because it meant work, connections and even the extreme high chance of being published. Our society is so money focused that it’s losing sight of the value of every thing else.

    As an architecture student, the only reason I object to unpaid architect interns is because of the rule the RIBA has instated themselves. I haven’t finished my first part but an unpaid internship is something I would apply for and I’m from a working class background. These internships just filter those who are really willing to work hard from the ones that wish to be paid even if they goof off. Nothing is out of reach if you work hard enough.

  • Lydia

    I do understand the argument that you train the interns and maybe you are the best, BEST trainers in the world, but unfortunately I should have rich parents to be trained by you, if I won’t get paid. I don’t care about the money as such, one just needs it to survive!