Designing the DOT Garden Sign: Graphics

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.

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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.

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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.

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4 thoughts on “Designing the DOT Garden Sign: Graphics

  1. I really found your process of deciding how to make the sign very interesting! It is obvious that you put a lot of work into this project and coordinated it along with the goals of the Desert Oasis Teaching Garden. I think it would be really helpful if you put in more about what made you choose the sign over all your research at the Natural History Museum, since you do say,”I loved the natural look of organic material”. You could talk more about how it is fundamentally more important that the sign be environmentally sustainable and the necessity to work within the confines of what is organic. How did you decide on what to write on the sign? I like the idea of incorporating Spanish into it. Why did you decide to do this?

    • Thanks for your comment!
      I chose to take on this project because of my personal interest in design and graphics. I really like the idea of using my skills in the real world. Mrs Beamish, Noel and I came up with the words for the sign all together. We chose to write the welcome in spanish to address the presence of spanish speakers in our community. We wanted the sign to represent everything that the DOT garden was about, including sustainability, community and growth. This explains the importance of the sign being made of environmentally friendly material. Unfortunately, cost, durability, and sustainability do not always interact well and we had to settle for a material that wasn’t as environmentally friendly as we wanted.

  2. It’s really interesting to hear about the different things you encountered on your trip, but I would like to know more about the different options that were presented to you. What materials were suggested, and what were their flaws and strengths?

    You say that “wood can be treated with finish,” but have you looked more into that? I would think that the chemicals in the finish could possibly harm the plants, as nothing lasts forever, but perhaps you know more on the subject.

    I would also suggest that you put your pictures on a separate line in the text, so that your sentences aren’t interrupted!

  3. Hey Averill, I enjoyed reading your post. I think your formatting may have been thrown off in the transition from the edit page to the actual page as your pictures cut sentences off midway and your captions are jumbled in with your text, making the post difficult to read. I learned that posts are presented differently on the actual blog page than how they are on the edit page. In the beginning of your post you excitedly refer to the grey-haired woman’s portfolio: “This was amazing because we could see her sketches right next to her finished product.” I really like how you included a picture of her portfolio right after so we could see just what it was that you were excited about. On a side note, I would really like to know the woman’s name if you had the chance to ask. Finally, I think it was great you included that you found inspiration for you sign not at The Natural History Museum, but at your job. Good post!

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