Case study

Exhibition designer — Dean Millar

Dean has recently started his career as an exhibition designer and is working on a project for a museum exhibition. Find out how he's taking on more responsibility while gaining valuable experience

How did you become an exhibition designer?

After graduating with a degree in interior and spatial design in 2016 from Edinburgh Napier University, I managed to secure a position with Edinburgh-based exhibition design company Studio MB, who work with museums and heritage destinations. I contacted the company directly, asking if they were hiring interns or had any positions that I could be considered for. I compiled a CV and short portfolio of my work for review.

What's a typical day like?

This depends on what's required of me to keep the project moving forward. Since starting at the company I've worked on a range of aspects throughout each project, including case layouts and how artefacts are organised within displays.

I use software such as Vectorworks and SketchUp to work on the 3D aspect of any project. 3D work includes anything from creating parts of the museum interior layout in the software, to testing layouts of plinths in 3D form.

Throughout the process I also work on creating interactive elements for the museum and working on detail drawings. Outside of museum work, I've had the opportunity to attend client meetings and go on site visits.

The design process is interesting to see and be a part of - working closely with graphic designers shows which direction the whole project is taking

What do you enjoy most about being an exhibition designer?

The design process is interesting to see and be part of. I enjoy working closely with graphic designers within the company, as seeing how graphics are being developed alongside the 3D design section of the project shows which direction the project is taking as a whole.

What are the challenges?

When I first started at the company I joined a project half way through its development, so getting up to speed with the project timeline and everybody's role was difficult to begin with, but gets much easier the more time you spend on it.

Other challenges lie within certain parts of the project that you don't get much experience of during university, including the detailing of projects and dealing with clients, but this is something that you learn on the job. The more time I spend on the project, the more responsibility I'm given and have more influence on decisions being made on things like selecting finishes and materials.

How is your degree relevant?

My degree taught me how to use the software I use to complete my job to a high standard. It also gave me the confidence to apply for graduate jobs and made clear what I had to do to work in the sector.

Any tips for getting into exhibition design?

  • Have an open mind when applying for positions.
  • Any experience in design is great experience.
  • There are lots of design graduates in the same position willing to do the work, so don't limit yourself to a certain sector of design.

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