Reflections from a 2 time Amazon UX Intern

Designing in a team is miles different than designing alone


Christian Leong

3 years ago | 4 min read

Nearly two and a half months ago, I wished my coworkers goodbye and concluded the second of my two UX internships at Amazon. Today, I’d like to share a bit about my experience interning there and why I won’t soon forget it.

When I remember my experience, I immediately think of the novelty of it all — the work, the city, the people.

The next thing that comes to mind is Amazon’s design culture. This was my first professional experience working at a company with an established design culture. It was so much different than any personal or school project that I had been involved in.

Designing in a team is miles different than designing alone

I distinctly remember the onboarding experience during my first Amazon go-around. After rushing over from New Hire Orientation, I found myself sitting at lunch with my manager for the first time. Over Korean bowls and local food trucks, I remember telling her of how I was known as the human garbage can back home.

Back in the office, I met my mentor, who I’d eventually share heavy metal conversations with, and the coworkers who still continue to guide me to this day. During both my internships, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with not only some of the best designers, but also some of the most enjoyable people out there.

New to my knowledge, was the design that’s possible from a collaboration of designers, rather than a team of one. In many past projects I’ve worked on as a student designer, the teams were often built with only a singular designer, maybe two developers, and usually a single project manager.

While this format works for the agile development process, I learned that it shortchanges the UX process immensely. By only having one designer on the team, iteration is a foreign concept, because there isn’t anyone else on the team to critique your work from a design perspective.

This stage of critiquing and then iterating the design with my team was perhaps the stage that I spent a majority of my time on during both of my internships. During these weeks iteration, the team and I continuously cycled through designs and slowly crept towards an improved solution to the problem.

This was the stage when I finally got to apply that buzzword, product thinking, that got skipped over so many times when I was designing on my own.

In essence, I believe that this is where the barometer of a strong UX designer lies — can they incrementally move a product’s design towards its ultimate goals for its users? Can they effectively start with a user-based hypothesis, transform that into design, and continuously edit that design until they have 1500 artboards and a complete story of how they arrived there? Finally, can they effectively reason why one design direction better achieves their user’s goals rather than another? For aspiring designers, if this work sounds enjoyable to you, I’d encourage you to look at a career in UX design.

Communication is as important as actual design chops

Amazon is a giant of a company, and for the first 2 weeks, a bulk of my time was simply learning the meanings of every acronym used in context by the team.

This need for clear and direct communication was a theme throughout the two summers, as I had managers/mentors report from Italy, Korea, France and Virginia Beach during different points of my internships.

One of my favorite stories around the theme of communication happened during my first internship. I had been trying to track down my product manager wanting to update him with my design progress.

During this particular day, getting in touch was difficult, as he was very busy finalizing a document. After some attempts at work to reach him, I turned off my computer and left for the day.

On the way to my apartment, I spotted someone who looked like him. Hoping it was him, I called out… And he turned around! In that moment, we were finally able to discuss my designs, and further realized that we actually lived in the same building!

Tracking down these collaborators was necessary and turned out to be a very important step to the success of my projects during both summers.

At Amazon, knowledge is so spread that you never knew who could be of help, or who could offer information that might help the progress of your project.

Amazon Design Values

At Amazon, the most important design consideration is whether the designer obsessed over the customer or not. The way I see it, this line of thinking aligns perfectly with UX design’s mission as a whole — user centered design.

In practice, I found the most design success when I advocated for our users in the terms of human problems, motivations, and qualifications that defined them.

By participating in weekly design critiques and learning to relate user expressions to tangible design, I feel like I was not only able to find success as an Amazonian, but also as a UX professional.

Final thoughts

I hope that this post was enjoyable and has illuminated a little of what it’s like to intern at an established design company like Amazon.

Throughout the two summers I interned there, I’ve learned so much more about the professional UX process than I’ve been through scrounging online or by doing personal projects, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity.

In conclusion, so much of UX Design revolves around being a design leader and championing experiences that you believe will be most successful (backed by research of course!).

This was my biggest takeaway that yes, while you’re putting pixels into an experience, you’re more so communicating with other design leaders to accurately access user goals to arrange those pixels into desired experiences.


Created by

Christian Leong







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