Designer Camille Hay (2016) recently made the transition into museum and exhibition design. We asked her to fill us in on the move and what she’s done and learned since graduating.
Q: Congratulations, you recently accepted a position at Gallagher & Associates. How did this opportunity present itself?
After a year at my previous firm I started looking for new opportunities that would push my career in the direction I was looking to go. I wasn’t really finding what I was looking for on job boards so I started reaching out to firms and studios that we’re doing exciting work in the DC area. I emailed Gallagher and told them I was interested in their work and I was invited to come interview. I was lucky enough to have contacted them while they were actually towards the end of their process of interviewing candidates so the timing really worked out perfectly.
Q: This sounds like an exciting move; what are you most looking forward to?
I’m looking forward to working on projects that have a wide audience and learning about the different aspects of the museums I’m working with. During my interview, the studio director described designing for a museum like a film. You have your scripts and scenes and there’s the plot and characters and themes throughout. As someone who enjoys film, I thought it was an interesting analogy and it made me even more excited about the position than I already was. I’m really enjoying immersing myself in the museum and learning about the different artifacts and stories being told and seeing how I can use my design sensibilities to help tell a story.
Q: What have your first few weeks at Gallagher been like?
My time at Gallagher has been really exciting and busy! I’m currently working on graphics for the new International Spy Museum in Washington DC. I spent my first few days learning more about the museum, the different exhibits, reading scripts and really immersing myself in the spy world and learning the design language that will be successful for this particular project. They even gave me a bunch of spy movies and tv shows to watch. It’s been an interesting transition since I’ve mostly done print design so I’m having to think and visualize my designs on a larger scale than before. I’ve been assigned a few tasks, some small and some quite large. So it’s been a lot of researching, sketching and exploring different design concepts and reviewing.
Q: When did you become interested in exhibition design?
My interest in exhibition design began my last semester of college. I’ve always loved typography and organizing large amounts of content and working at a museum seemed like doing that at the grandest scale. In my last semester, I emailed the graphic designer at CAMH inquiring about an internship and while they didn’t have any internship opportunities she did invite me to visit her studio and we talked about design and museums and our mutual love of print design. She introduced me to a lot of different design studios and was really helpful in my application process. I ended up interning at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum the summer after I graduated so that was a great introduction to exhibition design. I was able to sit in on the design charettes for the redesign of different exhibitions within the museum so it was really interesting to see all of the new emerging technology and how you go about designing for a broad audience as well as keeping the design timeless.
Q: You spent a year at ZGF Architects. What was that like?
It was a really great learning experience and introduction into the professional workforce. I worked in the marketing department designing presentations, proposals, brochures and other internal and external marketing collateral as well as helping out with small environmental design projects as needed. It was a very deadline oriented position so it gave me a lot of project and time management skills as well as working with printers and getting files ready for production. I came in knowing nothing about marketing or architecture so I really enjoyed the process of going after a project and learning about the story the architects were trying to tell. It was a really great opportunity to surround myself with smart and passionate people and learn about architecture, interior design, and environmental design.
Q: As a designer, what’s what are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about creating work that engages with the public and has some sort of effect on the audience, enhancing their experience or teaching them something. I think part of what drew me to designing for museums was my lack of interest in designing for a product. In school, I always loved the research aspect of projects, learning about the content and developing a story and helping shape people’s experiences.
Q: Looking back at your time at SHSU, what aspects of the program have been most beneficial to your current success?
I think the wide variety of work I was able to produce at SHSU and developing a style of my own has contributed to my success. I designed everything from logos and branding, to editorials, packaging and digital projects. When interviewing, I had a lot of really interesting projects to choose from so I was able to really mold my portfolio around what story I was trying to tell about myself and my skills and interests. I had great professors who had a clear understanding of the type of work I was capable of producing and they really helped guide me in terms of developing my style and understanding the kind of work I wanted to do. Having the opportunity to attend student design conferences and visit different design studios was also very helpful in seeing other students work as well as learning about the different opportunities out there.
Q: What advice would you give to the current design students at SHSU.
I’d tell design students that it’s never too early to start thinking about the type of work you want to do when you leave school. Applying to internships, attending conferences and AIGA events and even just emailing designers that are doing fun and exciting work can be really helpful in figuring out the path you want to take as a designer. Also, when working on projects, especially when you reach your last few semesters, it’s important to think about how the project contributes to your overall portfolio. In my last semester of school I had a clear idea of the type of design I was interested in and where I saw my career going so I built my portfolio around that with a focus on film and art. When applying for internships, I looked at places that were doing the work I wanted to do. I wasn’t so much worried about the location or how large the application pool was or how unqualified I was. Whether applying for a job or just cold emailing a design firm I always kept in mind that the worst thing they could say was no.