A random conversation with a stranger at a bus stop in New Zealand led to Lilli Collingwood packing her bags and heading to New York City to work for the Museum of Ice Cream.
The 22-year-old said the man at the bus stop mentioned that his daughter was a designer at the museum, which creates multi-sensorial installations around all things ice cream, and even includes a “sprinkle pool”.
“I thought it was a joke until I googled it and found they were looking for a graphic design intern, so I applied,” she said.
Ms Collingwood said she had no idea what she was in for.
“It was like Devil Wears Prada but pink – pink walls, couches and the doors,” she said.
“I actually got lost on my first day. The subway system was really hard to work out at first.
“Every staff member also has ice cream nicknames like Scream, Sweet and Vanilla.
“Mine is Sprinkles. My slack name and email address have my ice cream name showing instead of my actual name.”
The University of the Sunshine Coast design and communication graduate, whose favourite ice cream flavour was caramel, said the three-month internship led to a full-time job last year. Now she is the company’s lead graphic designer in its marketing team.
“I have a lot of creative freedom to test out new ideas,” she said.
“I’ve worked on campaign designs, newsletters, marketing activations, and I even designed a bright-pink ice cream truck in Times Square.”
Ms Collingwood has also brushed shoulders with celebrities, including Drew Barrymore, and has had her own GIF sticker design reposted on Instagram by Kim Kardashian.
But she said there were both ups and downs.
“I never really anticipated the amount of pressure I would feel or be under,” she said.
“It was a start-up and they’re learning processes and trying to manage different people and push boundaries with campaigns without having years and years of experience.
“I’ve gotten used to it but it was a shock at first. It’s just been an incredible journey.”
Ms Collingwood has continued to work throughout the pandemic from her apartment in Brooklyn.
“We have a smaller team so I’m one of the only designers left,” she said.
“It’s given me the opportunity to take the lead and direct more designs. It’s been a learning curve.”
Ms Collingwood said young designers such as herself should go for a job, no matter how scared they are.
“Get out of your comfort zone and be willing to say yes to any opportunities that come your way,” she said.
Jocelyn Garcia is a journalist at the Brisbane Times, covering breaking news.