Summer Internship IA Collaborative 2019

3 Questions with IA Collaborative’s Summer Interns

Our Interns Share What It’s Like to Work at a the Intersection of Design and Business

IA Collaborative invited a multi-disciplinary class of interns to learn from and collaborate across multiple projects this summer. From conducting immersive research to design the future of cycling to testing physical prototypes using augmented reality, the IA interns spent the summer exploring the intersection of design and business innovation.

At the end of their internship, we posed three questions to understand how their experiences at IA Collaborative are shaping their perspectives on design and their future careers.

Meet the Interns

IA Collaborative Summer Interns
IA Collaborative’s 2019 Summer Intern Class. From left to right: Yujin Lee, Cristina Tarriba Villa, Jenni Lee, Rachel Huvard, Nathan Pilkenton, and Karan Jain.

Name: Youjin Lee
Title: Interaction Design Intern
Before the IA Internship, I… graduated from a Designation bootcamp. I previously worked as a paralegal.

Name: Cristina Tarriba Villa
Title: Research and Design Strategy intern
Before the IA Internship, I… was pursuing a master’s degree in design at the IIT Institute of Design. I have one year left.

Name: Jenni Lee
Title: Graphic Design Intern
Before the IA Internship, I… was finishing up my sophomore year at Carnegie Mellon University. I’m a design major with a concentration in communication design and a minor in human-computer interaction.

Name: Rachel Huvard
Title: Research & Design Strategy Intern 
Before the IA Internship, I… was working towards my Master of Design at IIT’s Institute of Design.

Name: Nathan Pilkenton
Title: Business Strategy Intern
Before the IA Internship, I… was enjoying my first year of business school at Columbia University in New York!

Name: Karan Jain 
Title: Research & Design Strategy Intern 
Before the IA Internship, I… was pursuing my master’s in industrial design at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Question #1: What made you want to work at IA?

Karan Jain: The diverse variety of projects that IA takes on was very appealing. I knew I would get to learn a lot and work with talented interdisciplinary teams.

I wanted to learn from a company that believes in the power of human-centered design and approaches design with rigor and structure.

  • Cristina Tarriba Villa, Research & Design Strategy Intern

Cristina Tarriba Villa: I wanted to work at IA because it is one of the best independent innovation and design consultancies. I wanted to learn from a company that believes in the power of human-centered design and approaches design with rigor and structure.

Rachel Huvard: The cross-disciplinary team structure, the “whatever it takes to get it done” culture, and the breadth of client projects.

Cristina Tarriba Villa records a research participant’s interaction with a prototype digital interface to identify innovation opportunities for an international energy business.

Question #2: What inspires you most in the design and innovation space?

Youjin Lee: It’s inspiring to think about design’s application in healthcare and education, because it has the potential to affect so many people.

Nathan Pilkenton: After some exposure to the concept at IA, I’m really inspired by the idea of using behavioral economics to encourage people to make decisions and take actions that actually improve their lives. This concept has been explored and implemented in some small-scale cases, but I think there is so much more potential to imbue our designs with this kind of thinking in business.

Karan Jain (right) and Design Director John Foust collaborate on AR technology, integrating into research.

Karan Jain: My design philosophy is, “Design is an opportunity to root fiction in truth.” I believe that humans are gifted with imagination to think beyond the possible and design provides a medium to root this thinking in evidence, enabling us to turn our ideal world into a reality. This process of turning a vision into reality is what inspires me the most in the innovation space. 

Cristina Tarriba Villa: Being able to surround myself with people that are driven to transform the world around us. I love working with people from different backgrounds and disciplines. Amazing work can be achieved when multidisciplinary teams – like the ones at IA – come together to approach problems with a defined process, while simultaneously considering ideas that will challenge the status quo. 

Question #3: What’s the most important thing you learned during your time interning at IA Collaborative?

Karan Jain: Collaboration. I learned how to take a pause from the work I had been heavily involved in and ask the team for quick feedback. This has definitely made me a more effective worker and allowed me to produce better results. 

It’s not, ‘how can we get these people to want to use the product we’ve designed?’ It’s, ‘how can we design our product or service so that people want to use it?’

  • Nathan Pilkenton, Business Strategy Intern

Nathan Pilkenton: So much about the importance of designing for the user. In my past life, I would often be trying to implement new processes or tools within a company. We thought about our end users, but not usually through a design thinking lens. Going forward, I’ve learned that it’s not, ‘how can we get these people to want to use the product we’ve designed?’ It’s, ‘how can we design our product or service so that people want to use it?'”

Nathan Pilkenton (middle) out in the field on research for a project to design the future of cycling.

Jenni Lee: How to communicate your design choices through the lens of business strategy.

Rachel Huvard: A person’s title doesn’t have to define or limit engagement with a project. I loved seeing how people at IA are able to step into a huge range of roles depending on project needs and their own strengths and interests.

Over the past few months, the IA Collaborative interns have gone on research, designed interactive workshops, helped create key assets for clients, and immersed themselves in the our interdisciplinary, creative, and business-minded culture. We can’t wait to see their careers continue to flourish as they apply human-centered design to business innovation.

If you’re interested in working at a consultancy that lives at the center of design and business strategy, learn more about our open positions here.


Working at the Forefront of Design: Insights from IA’s 2018 Summer Interns

Insights from IA Collaborative’s 2018 Summer Interns

Every summer, IA Collaborative invites a class of multidisplinary interns to join the ranks of, collaborate with, and learn from the design consultancy’s diverse talent. Below, two of those interns, Divya Iyengar and Jack Gerber shared their unique perspectives on the experience.

Divya Iyengar: Design Researcher in Training

After graduating from the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, Divya found herself working at a software engineering firm, where she grew into a product management role. Her interest in developing an understanding and advocating for design lead her to the IIT Institute of Design graduate program, where she studies design research and strategy.

During her time as a Design Research & Strategy Intern at IA Collaborative, Divya developed an understanding of the strategic design process, working on a client project that exposed her to research planning, synthesis and video storytelling. She also used her research background and completed benchmarking activities to uncover unexpected innovation opportunities for clients.

When asked how the internship affected her outlook on her profession, Divya discussed the importance of understanding not only her own discipline, but also how it relates to and empowers human-centered design more broadly. “I was drawn to the fact that IA works on projects that require end-to-end execution, as I wanted to experience different aspects of the design process all the way from ideation to implementation,” she said.

IA was the consultancy I wanted to work with because of their innovative approach to research…I (also) wanted to experience different aspects of the design process all the way from idea to implementation.

– Divya Iyengar, Research & Design Strategy Intern

Jack Gerber (center, left) and Divya Iyengar (far right) celebrate their final day of their IA internship program with fellow interns.

Jack Gerber: Exploring Design’s Impact on Business Growth

After earning a history major at the University of Colorado, Jack began his career teaching philosophy and social studies to high school and middle school students. He transitioned into a management consulting role where his innate curiosity and creative problem-solving skills resonated most. He learned how to apply creativity to business and became fascinated with design thinking. In 2018, Jack enrolled in the Chicago Institute of Design’s dual MBA program to earn his Master’s in both business and design.

As a Business Growth Intern, Jack worked with IA teams to identify and propose design solutions to address the complex, and sometimes ambiguous, business needs of potential clients – as well as to evaluate and optimize internal processes.

“One of the most important things I learned at IA was to have a bias towards action,” Jack said. During his internship, he learned that projects move very quickly at IA Collaborative, and often the key to success is in a team’s ability to prototype, learn and iterate in real-time throughout the project.

“If I had to describe IA in three words, I’d say they’re collaborative, fast-paced and supportive. I was able to work with and learn from a lot of different people with unique backgrounds to accomplish my projects. Not only that, but everyone was willing to sit down for coffee and discuss my program or their expertise. Everyone wanted to help, and I was able to learn so much in just eight weeks,” Jack said.

One of the most important things I learned…was to have a bias towards action. I was able to learn so much in just eight weeks.

– Jack Gerber, Business Growth Intern


Although their roles and projects differed, both Divya and Jack said IA Collaborative helped evolve how they think about design and hope to better integrate design thinking practices into their future endeavors. If you’re interested in learning more about career opportunities at IA Collaborative, check out our open positions here.