The following post was submitted by PGAV Destinations Summer 2016 Intern Sarah Aman, current MFA Candidate of Museum Exhibition Planning + Design at the University of the Arts.
My mom was worried when I first told her I wanted to be a graphic designer my senior year of high school. Coming from an engineering background, she wasn’t even exactly sure what a graphic designer did beyond making signs and posters. Nonetheless, she gamely helped me research schools and jobs that would get me where I wanted to be: working with zoos. I had spent my high school years as a teen volunteer at our local zoo, which reaffirmed my conviction that contributing to wildlife conservation was what I wanted to do. So I made a list of companies I liked that combined design and conservation, and PGAV Destinations happened to be on that list.
Six years, one graphic design BFA, and one-half of an exhibition design MFA later I found myself talking to John Kasman, Vice President at PGAV. There wasn’t an exhibition design internship explicitly listed on their website, but I had sent my resume anyway on the off-chance they’d be interested in extending the opportunity. As it turned out they were, and I embarked on a twelve-week whirlwind internship in the heart of St. Louis!
I felt like a part of the team from day one. I was able to jump into projects right away and put a variety of skills to use: sketching, digital rendering, exhibit design, graphic design, research, writing, brainstorming, 3D modeling, and even a bit of model-making. I learned very quickly that job titles are fluid and the opportunity for growth is abundant. If you want to try something new, just ask! Across the board, PGAV employees are passionate and curious, essential qualities for a career in destination design. I had the opportunity to speak and work with incredibly talented architects, zoological designers, exhibition designers, landscape architects, interior designers, and visualization designers, all excited to share what they do.
The materials I produced on the job were used in client presentations and team resources, and it was exciting to be able to contribute to active projects. There’s no sending interns to fetch coffee or make copies here! From happy hours to surprise dinosaurs, there is never a dull moment in the office, and there always seems to be a new project in the works. The twelve weeks I spent here allowed me to build on skills I learned in my first year as an exhibition design student and develop some new ones, providing valuable experience that influenced my creative process and helped me grow as a designer.
And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll find myself back in St. Louis, and my mom can rest easy knowing that you can in fact make a career out of an art degree!