An exhibit designer is a person who creates displays and fixtures for large exhibitions, shows, businesses, museums, libraries, and galleries. They are specially trained in the art of layout and design and may work exclusively for a museum or gallery or in a private firm.
Designers are responsible for an exhibit from start to finish, and will work closely with many people, including the client, other team members, contractors, and suppliers. The end result is a beautiful exhibit at a venue for all to enjoy.
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Designers spend a lot of time preparing their visions and ideas. They present their ideas as sketches, plans, or models generated on the computer or by hand. Each of these designs is tailored to specific information, such as theme, size limit, audience, purpose, cost, and so on. This information is collected either personally in a discussion with the client or through company and corporate research. Designers will then discuss their plans with their clients or company, and begin creating a prototype. The client can then request necessary changes until the final model is produced and approved.
Designers may also be responsible for ordering supplies necessary and even managing the construction of any displays needed for the exhibit. They make sure that all supplies ordered are suitable for the exhibit and, more importantly, within the budget of the project. Designers often work together with contractors and other technical staff, especially during the construction stages of the project. Occasionally, construction will be at the venue itself, usually at museums or galleries, but for the most part construction will occur in the studio. The final step for a designer is delivery to the venue, which is arranged either by the designer or the client.
Designers must have a love for art and be able to produce creative and original work. It is important to have an eye for small details such as color, shape, and light. Designers must also keep up to date with current design trends. Designers will then recommend these trends to their clients, or sometimes a client will request a specific style and the designer must be familiar with it. A designer should have technical skills in working with modeling programs on the computer. Alternatively, a designer can also draft and draw technical plans to reflect their ideas, although doing so is often a much slower route.
Designers work either with clients directly to obtain information, or with other team members. Therefore, excellent communication skills are required. Designers must be able to handle criticism well and have a positive attitude towards making changes. Clients will ask for many adjustments and changes before they are satisfied. Lead designers within a group can also request that changes be made before the final product is released to the client. Designers must be able to work under pressure close to deadlines and have negotiation skills when working in a group environment. For designers working in a group, teamwork is essential in order to organize necessary tasks and allot the appropriate amount of time to ensure that the project will be finished before the deadline.
Entering this field typically requires post-secondary education. A bachelor’s degree in an area such as interior design, three-dimensional design, or exhibition design is usually satisfactory. Marketing and communications classes can also be helpful, especially for interactions with clients, or for those who seek to become lead designers within their company. Business administration is also an option to pursue for designers who would like to open their own design firm. All of these areas can be studied at most accredited four-year universities as well as specialized art schools found all over the world. Candidates with a strong art or design background and a solid portfolio can also enter this field provided that they have experience working with others and with clients.
Designers may work in a large team as employed by a company or a museum. Typically designers will have their own desk to themselves but may have to share a larger studio area with other designers. It is possible for designers to freelance and therefore have their own studio.
Designers will also work closely with clients, usually meeting them in meeting rooms or at their own offices. There is also a lot of work at the site itself, especially after planning and during construction and setup of the exhibition.
Designers work typical office hours but may find the need to schedule meetings on the weekend or to finish up last-minute work at the site. Travel can be frequent, especially with firms that have a large range of clients. Designers will also need to travel to the exhibition itself.
The average salary of a designer is around $48,000. This amount can vary based on experience and position. Lead and senior designers typically make more than the average. Salary may also vary based on whether the designer is employed at a firm, a museum, or is working freelance.