Perspective: From Bangkok to Sydney; Interning at Nightjar

Woon Chatsrirung joined us over a period of three weeks to see behind the curtain at Nightjar, and hone her UX skills. She shares her learnings about the design practice, the importance of asking lots of questions, and the perils of dining out in Sydney.

2023.07.21 - News - Bonnie MacTavish

Hey Woon! Tell everyone a little bit about yourself and how you found yourself in Australia?

Hi! I’m Woon, an exchange student from Thailand majoring in visual communication design. For the past semester in Australia, I’ve been studying at The University of Sydney with a focus on visual arts, music, and technology. Believe it or not, the question ‘Why Australia?’ is the question I got asked the most during the whole five months I’ve been here. I would say it was the vibes Australia gives off: the laid-back chilling vibes, surfing culture, and a manageable weather for someone from a tropical country. Also getting to be in the world’s top 20 universities, that’s pretty insane!

Umbrellas and outdoor seating at the waterfrontInstagram @woonwewn

“Before I started doing internships, I was pretty indecisive as I have numerous interests and wasn’t sure which one would suit me the best.”

This is your seventh internship (impressive!), why do you seek them out and what makes them so valuable?

As someone who enjoys trying out different things and has millions of hobbies, I have various interests and passions within the creative field. These internships have been eye-opening experiences for me, allowing me to discover what truly ignites my passion and what I want to pursue in the future. Before I started doing internships, I was pretty indecisive as I have numerous interests and wasn’t sure which one would suit me the best. In order to answer this question, I’ve decided that there’s no better way than trying all of them out.

I started off with a sound production internship, then moved on to a UX/UI internship at Wongnai, the Thai version of Yelp. These were during my transfer from a computer science major to design major when I had a half year break. I used that time off on internships and I would say it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. With the skills I’ve gained from Wongnai, I was able to land an internship at a software production agency,Foxbith, as an UX/UI designer during my second semester in design school.

After a year in the school, I’m still very interested in multimedia design and interactive installations. During the summer break between my first and second year, I joined YIMSAMER, one of Thailand's leading multimedia design studios, as a creative and experience designer. While working there, I discovered that although I enjoyed seeing amazing artworks and installations, my real passion lies in solving UX problems. This realisation led me to pursue my fifth internship at Sand Studio & Co, another fast-growing digital design agency, where I decided to shift my focus primarily to UX, with some emphasis on UI.

Fast forward to the winter break before heading to Sydney, I decided to shake things up and try something different. I stepped away from the digital screen and joined Smallroom, one of the most well-known music labels in Thailand as a concert photographer.

Three men relaxing in the sun at a waterfront parkInstagram @woonwewn
Well that puts the rest of us to shame! What’s your biggest learning across these diverse experiences?

Working in real environments and on real client projects has helped me gain valuable insights and clarity. Apart from that, I learn best through hands-on experience and project-based work. Internships have provided me with a deeper understanding of the field and the practical skills used in the industry, not just theoretical knowledge I’ve learned in classes.

Once I have determined the industry I want to be in, I can explore different types of companies, such as startups with their own products or agencies, to find the best fit for my working style or best city to work in. As of now, I have come to the conclusion that working in an agency might suit me best. I am the type of person who thrives on learning about diverse projects and clients. To deliver a successful design project, it is essential to delve deep into the specific industry and fully understand its unique requirements, which allows us to create tailored solutions that meet their needs. I’m always keen to learn something new, and I believe that agency environments would throw exciting challenges in my way and allow me to become a better designer.

Woon at a high overlook of a Sydney beachInstagram @woonwewn

“It is very important to observe how professionals work, how they generate ideas, engage in discussions, manage their workflow, or even how they communicate with clients.”

How do you make sure you make the most of your internships?

In my opinion, one of the most significant aspects of an internship is the opportunity to observe and ask questions. It is very important to observe how professionals work, how they generate ideas, engage in discussions, manage their workflow, or even how they communicate with clients. Whenever something spikes my curiosity, I try to ask questions. This allows myself to delve deeper into the subject matter and gain valuable insights that can only be found from years of experience from professionals.

Woon working at Nightjar with Graeme the Griffon sleeping on her lap

What has been your favourite day at Nightjar?

I would say the very first day I started at Nightjar. It was a whirlwind of new experiences, from stepping into the new studio to meeting new people and diving into exciting projects. I had to absorb LOTS of information for two big projects with challenging requirements and problems to be solved that made my mind buzz at 150%. It was such a thrilling and challenging experience for me. Attending meetings without prior knowledge of the projects, scribbling down notes, and then piecing everything together by revisiting project documents and Figma files—it all led to those "OHHH omg I got it now" moments that made it all worthwhile.

During my time in Nightjar, I had the opportunity to work on a diverse range of projects spanning industries from tourism to healthcare and finance. It was a wild ride, but a very fun one. We encountered challenging UX problems, brainstorming what could be the best approach. For a healthcare client, we were figuring out how to integrate various practices within a single platform while allowing each one to shine in its own unique way. With the very specific requirements, it was a challenge to tackle. However, that is actually what makes UX design so captivating—being presented with different problems to solve and experiencing the satisfaction of arriving at the best possible solution after all the research, designs, and testing that we’ve been through.

Bonnie and Woon smiling together working through strategy

What was the most surprising thing you learned?

I find it truly fascinating how Nightjar, with its small team, manages to handle an overwhelming number of projects while consistently maintaining a high standard. From my very first day until now, I have been in awe of their ability to effectively juggle a large workload, even with back-to-back meetings throughout the day. It's impressive to witness how they prioritise and allocate their resources efficiently, ensuring that each project receives the attention it deserves. Nightjar's commitment to maintaining a high standard while handling a demanding workload is truly admirable and has been a source of inspiration for me throughout my time here.

Woon's notebook with notes and sketches on a table

There’s definitely never a dull moment at Nightjar! Thanks for stepping up and diving into the problems with such energy! Let’s talk about your favourite designers? What about them inspires you?

I have a few favourite designers and studios that I admire. When it comes to graphic design, one of the classics that stands out for me is Massimo Vignelli, known for his design of the iconic New York subway map. What captivates me about his work is his use of typography and his ability to transform a complex system into something that is easily comprehensible for everyone. He identified the pain points and effectively addressed them by recognizing that people simply wanted to navigate from point A to point B without being overwhelmed by other noises and details. Vignelli's approach of prioritising clarity and simplicity in design continues to inspire me, reminding me of the power of focusing on the user experience and meeting their needs effectively.

Another designer who truly inspires me is Sho Shibuya. As someone deeply fascinated by minimalism and its ability to push boundaries in storytelling, Sho is a very great example of this. One of his notable works involves covering New York Times headlines with minimal artwork, often featuring just a few elements or even a single large circle. It's incredible how he manages to convey powerful narratives about the world using such simplicity. Sho's skill in eliminating unnecessary elements while still effectively communicating the core idea and story is truly captivating. Sho Shibuya's work serves as a testament to the power of minimalism and its potential in storytelling.

The last one is a little different. Moment factory, a multimedia design studio that specializes in interactive installations and scenography. As someone with interest in the intersection of art and technology, I find their work very captivating and their ability to blend technology with art and design. They bring art into the 21st century by incorporating various technologies and software that allow viewers to engage and have fun with the artwork in new and exciting ways. Their innovative approach not only invites interaction but also pushes the boundaries of how technology can integrate with art, resulting in truly remarkable and immersive experiences.

Massimo Vignelli art New York subwayMassimo Vignelli's New York Subway
Very cool - you’ve mentioned teamLab too, who create similar experiences. There’s definitely something captivating about digital experiences that are realised in real life.
And speaking of real life, how are you enjoying life in Sydney? How is it different to back home in Thailand?

The past five months in Sydney have been absolutely amazing—I can honestly say they've been the best months of my life. It feels like I've been living with this "seize the day" mindset, trying out all sorts of things as if there's no tomorrow. I've joined different societies and made lots of friends, went for a surf in such cold water (and got cramps), gone on beautiful hikes in several national parks, or just had relaxed picnics at the Botanic Garden. Everything is so fresh and new here, but surprisingly, adjusting to a new country hasn't been a problem for me at all.

One thing that really hit me here is the difference in prices, especially when it comes to food. In Thailand, you can get a full meal of street food for $2, but in Sydney, it's a whole different story. In the beginning I felt a bit guilty about spending this much money on a meal, but after a while, I just got used to it and eat whatever I want (within a budget). The trick here is that you just have to stop converting the price to Thai Baht and everything will be fine. And well, let's just say that the result of that little food adventure was gaining around 10 kilograms in just five months. But hey, who can resist foods in Sydney, right?

Two young boys playing by the waterfrontInstagram @woonwewn

“Internships are the stepping stones that pave the way for our professional development and help us become the best versions of ourselves in the design world.”

Haha, well you only live once! What's something you'd like the design world to know about interns?

That’s actually a good question. In my opinion, an internship is one of the best opportunities we can have in our design careers. It goes beyond just learning about the industry we aspire to work in; it's also about discovering our true passions and finding out what we really want to do in the future. An internship can serve as a launchpad for our career, propelling us in the right direction, or it can save us from spending years pursuing something that may not align with our interests or goals. Internships provide us with a chance to learn, grow, and gain valuable hands-on experience that will shape us into great designers in the future. They are the stepping stones that pave the way for our professional development and help us become the best versions of ourselves in the design world.

Very well said! Thanks so much for spending your time with us Woon, we loved having you and are really happy we could be a stepping stone for you. Enjoy that Thai food back home!
Happy days - Bonnie and Woon

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