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  • Writer's pictureCatie Joyce Bulay

Behind the Scenes: Meet Our Graphic Designer

Meet our new graphic designer, Sarah Zwier. Trained as a graphic designer, Sarah has spent her career designing for museums, educational institutions, and non-profit organization. She’ll be collaborating with our exhibits designer on our new space all the way from her home in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She recently took the time to tell us a little more about herself.

Thank you Sarah, we look forward to working with you!

Children’s Discovery Museum: How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?

Sarah: I love this question because I’m constantly trying to explain my job to my four-year-old. I recently started my own business, but before that I worked at a science museum. It was easier to explain my job in terms of where I worked, but it’s a little trickier now that I’m a work-from-home freelance designer.

I’d tell a five-year-old that my job is to combine colors, shapes, words, patterns, and pictures in ways that help share information with other people. I can help make learning fun, beautiful, silly, or serious all depending on how I combine those different design elements.

CDM: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Sarah: So many things, but being an artist was constantly at the top of my list. I loved to draw, paint, color and take pictures, and I had teachers and friends who told me I was good at it. (Very important to get that encouragement from grown-ups.) At various times I also wanted to be an architect, interior designer, archaeologist, and a hardware store owner!

CDM: How did you get interested in graphic design?

Sarah: I’ve always been interested in graphic design without even realizing what it was. In elementary and high school, I’d volunteer to make the group science fair board poster rather than do the actual science experiment, or I’d spend more time making sure my research paper looked good typed up on the computer and not enough time citing my sources. I have vivid memories of thinking that if I just make the thing look good, more people will understand it.

Then, as an art major my freshman year of college I walked into the Graphic Design 101 computer lab and everything clicked into place. Type, colors, images, organization, and creating systems for sharing information! It was all there. I couldn’t believe my luck. I still can’t.

CDM: Can you tell us about how you got started and your background?

Sarah: Once I set out on a path of graphic design, I was pretty insatiable and pursued as many opportunities as I could. I spent one of my college semesters living in Chicago and working at the Field Museum (the big natural history museum there), which was a big transition from the small rural farm I grew up on.

Do you remember when I said that as a kid I wanted to be an artist, architect, and an archaeologist? Well, at the Field Museum all my interests and passions collided in the form of working in the exhibit design department as a graphic designer. I worked with a team of brilliant, creative, and energetic folks who created all the exhibits on display for visitors to walk through and enjoy. This was where I learned how to create graphic design for three-dimensional spaces, called environmental graphic design.

After college graduation I landed a full-time job back at the Field Museum working on various exhibits and graphic design projects. Five years later I relocated to the Twin Cities for a job at the Science Museum of Minnesota where I worked as an exhibit graphic designer and exhibit designer for 10 years before moving on to start my own business.

CDM: What’s your favorite thing about what you do?

Sarah: Museums are such treasures to communities, kids, and families and I love being involved in the work of making education fun and informal. I love asking questions, discovering new things, and sharing that with other people. My absolute favorite thing is when I hear someone experience something I designed and then call out to their friend or grown-up to “come look at this!” Gives me goosebumps every time.

A recent project of Sarah's for the Bell Museum in Saint Paul for their seasonal maker space.

CDM: What will you be doing for the children’s museum?

Sarah: My role for the Children’s Discovery Museum is to work with Rusty Lamer (the exhibit designer) to help create the look and feel for the exhibit experiences. Specifically, I’ll be involved with anything that is two-dimensional like signage, illustrations, and environmental graphic elements. If you go into one of the new exhibit areas and you see some signs or illustrative elements, I will have been the one to determine what that panel or image looks like.

Where did you grow up?

Sarah: I grew up on a farm in rural Iowa where we raised hogs and grew crops like corn and soybeans. My summers were spent doing chores, feeding various barn animals and pets, and pulling weeds. SO MANY WEEDS. I loved growing up on a farm and I now love living in a city.

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