Portfolio Pieces: A Snapshot of Graduate School

Megan Olver
A portfolio should represent growth, learning, experience and skills. I never thought I would be able to develop a portfolio of which I am so proud and eager to share. I feel that my coursework at UArts has given me the skills necessary to be an effective museum professional and I thank the professors who kept pushing me to do better and be better. The following is a snapshot of some of my favorite portfolio pieces from this time in graduate school.

My favorite project of all is probably the typeface project, the very first one assigned in Museum Graphics. This project has given me a greater appreciation for typeface, as well as using words as design elements. It was a very simple exercise but took multiple iterations and I think it came out beautifully. For me, it is a great representation of the start of my graphic design skill.

Clarendon Typeface Project: first project completed for Museum Graphics
When I started this program I thought using Paint and Word were the best ways to fix pictures and design cards. During the first semester I was introduced to the Adobe Creative Suite programs and the endless possibilities for designing museum work. Museum Graphics, taught by Stephanie Reyer, again taught me a great deal about conveying messages through publications, signs, websites and other marketing material. I feel that the final project for this class, a brochure for an online museum, displays my growth as a designer as well as my acceptance that criticism can be and should be constructive. 

One of the hardest lessons I learned in this class is to take criticism as a positive and use it to improve the design. I had never been in a class where critiques were so prevalent but at the end of the project, all the feedback and critiques really improved the designs. In addition this project taught me that multiple iterations of a project are necessary for the final iteration to be successful. I was accustomed to one version and that was it, but this class and project taught me the importance of continually reworking and recreating ideas until the final conveys the right message. The final product is, so far, my greatest accomplishment as a designer and communicator.

Front and Back of Brochure
Inside of Brochure

One project that directly relates to my growth as a museum communicator is the community engagement plan for the Heritage Society at Sam Houston Park. Developed in our Issues in Museums class this project had us develop a community outreach plan for a museum or heritage site. During this project I felt I was beginning to understand the role of a museum communicator. The skills we have been developing over the past year and a half will only be worthwhile if we utilize them to help museums connect with the public. Museums should be designed to fill a need within the community and the Operation Heritage engagement plan helped me explore the different ways museums can serve that community. These images are a few clips of the plan, which designed a new exhibit titled From Cowboys to Astronauts: African American Stories in Houston and an outreach component titled Recording Voices Oral History Project. A special event proposed in the plan is the African American Heritage Picnic.

Front cover of appeal packet 
My particular museum has a very strong African American community that was not engaged by the museum and comprised their smallest audience group. This plan taught me the value of communicating with the community and serving the needs of their audiences. In addition to the audience, this project helped me learn the importance of communicating effectively with funders and government representatives. During this process I felt as if I was really developing the skills of a museum communicator. 

Snapshot of inside appeal packet

Throughout this degree program I have learned so much about museums and the role I want to play in making them great public forums, accessible for all, and places for community engagement. In addition, I have learned that I can be a graphic designer and do not need to rely on Paint or Word for museum publications. I’m very excited to start the next chapter and apply these skills to a professional museum career.