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An exhibit designer is someone 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, gallery, or 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.
Exhibit 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 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.
Exhibit 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.
Exhibit designers work either with clients directly, or with other team members. Therefore, excellent communication and listening skills are required; they 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, and lead designers within a group can also request that changes be made before the final product is released to the client. Exhibit designers must be able to work under pressure close to deadlines and have negotiation skills when working in a group environment.
Exhibit designers may work in a large team as employed by a company or a museum. Typically they will have their own desk to themselves, but may have to share a larger studio area with other designers. It is also possible for exhibit designers to freelance and therefore have their own studio.
Exhibit designers 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 the planning is done, and during construction and setup of the exhibition. They 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.
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.