My project was designing the welcome sign for the DOT Garden. The process included a ton of research before any action was taken. I spend an entire afternoon looking at other people’s signs at the Natural History Museum with my mentor Noel. After our exploration, we had plenty of ideas and questions about signage materials. Noel had called the Graphics Department at the museum and asked if we could stop by and pick their brains. This was another aspect of research to see how professionals made their signs and how we could follow in their footsteps. The Graphics Department resides in a squat grey building across from the actual museum. Inside people were bustling with ideas and cleaning up for the end of the day. A woman with long gray hair showed Noel and I her portfolio, which included signage from the Albuquerque Biopark. This was amazing because we could see her sketches right next to her finished product. My favorite of her works was the seahorse she designed for the river of lights. In the sketch, it was just a simple drawing of a seahorse swimming. However the finished product was an illuminated and elegant seahorse made out of lights. Seeing this helped me realize how my own sketch would be turned into a tangible product.
The portfolio of signage in the Biopark
Photo by me
After talking about how design get turned into products, it was time to discuss materials. The graphics department was strewn with foam boards and sheets of metal. They certainly had a lot to say, but none of the materials they suggested met our two requirements: environmentally friendly and durable. From the graphics department, we learned the simple lesson that everything degrades. It turns out that there was no “perfect material” that we could use. It was up to us to decide what material would have the least environmental impact while lasting the longest and looking the best for the DOT Garden.
Different signage materials at the Graphics Department
photo by me
The weekend after meeting with the graphics department, I went to work my job as an assistant for an abstract painter named Kevin Tolman. That particular day, he had me repainting a weathered sign with his wife. This is not the type of work I typically do for Tolman, but it turned out to be quite valuable. The sign we were repainting was wooden. The paint had peeled off after being in the sun for a few decades, but the carving was still there. This sign was my inspiration for the DOT Garden sign material. Although the paint on the sign degraded, the color of the wood was beautiful. I loved the natural look of organic material. As for the durability, wood can be treated with finish. The process was quite extensive but after all of the searching and researching, we came up with a plan for our sign. Our goal was to make it elegant, simple, and organic. We decided it would be a wooden misshaped square with the words “Bienvenidos al Desert Oasis Teaching Garden” carved into its surface.