In February, I interviewed for Mather & Co, for their 3D Junior Designer position. At that time, I could only hope that they would like me and that I would get the job. It was only days later I found out that they did, and I had got the job – it was the best call I have ever had!
After packing up my life in Lincoln and making a home in Manchester, I started my new job. It was such a relief that the team were all so friendly, as I was nervous and questioning whether I knew enough to do this. I began by learning about the industry they work in, the design process Mather & Co practices, and what software they used. There was definitely a lot to learn, but I found I was not completely in the dark. Despite not having used some of the programmes before, I was able to pick up new things quickly and develop my skills confidently. In just two months, I have already learned so much in such a short time and it has made me feel right for this role, and confident to begin my first project.
After the first week, it was time to jump into an exhibition project to show off what I had learned from my degree and the skills I had been trained in. The project was the next instalment of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust’s regional exhibition. The temporary exhibition had already travelled to two venues: Norwich Cathedral and Cartwright Hall in Bradford. My job was to take the exhibition out of Cartwright Hall, and move it to two further venues, Gunnersbury Park in London and Cliffe Castle in Keighley, while redesigning the layout and content to suit the new venue and region.
I have learnt a great deal during this project development, particularly how to design for a wide range of disabilities. Mather & Co’s recent National Paralympic Heritage Centre at Stoke Mandeville Stadium has gained a reputation as ‘the most accessible exhibition available in the UK’. The exhibition provided braille, BSL and audio description, as well as ensuring all layouts were wheelchair accessible and all texts were at the correct reading size and height. These features have continued in all the regional exhibitions and were a completely new design consideration for me to explore. This is definitely the most valuable thing I have learned from this project, and one I hope to implement as frequently as possible in other projects.
One of my favourite parts of this project, and part of the job in general, is researching and telling the story. This is the very reason I wanted to work in exhibition design. It is sometimes hard to explain what exhibition design is, but usually how I explain it is that we are storytellers. We learn and understand the story our client wants to tell, and then represent it in engaging and immersive environments for different audiences. This includes designing the layouts, displays, content and interpretation. For this particular project, I had the honour of studying the history of the Paralympics, from the determined work and values of its father, Professor Sir Ludwig Guttmann, to the most recent Paralympians who have worked so hard to make their mark in history. It was especially great that we were able to connect this exhibition to a range of different local sports groups that encourage people with disabilities to take up a sport and live their lives as normal as possible. It is such an important story to tell. I can only hope that we have been able to give the story the representation it deserves.
The final part of the exhibition journey was the installation. Over the space of 11 days, I have travelled from Bradford to London and on to Keighley. With three install teams and a project manager by my side, the exhibitions have both been completely built and are now open to visitors at both venues. I can honestly say I know that design inside and out and I am so proud to have been trusted to deliver them and call them my first. It has been stressful (of course!) but fun and I have learned so much.
I think over the past three months, the most important things I have learned are the values of Mather & Co. Walking into that studio for the first time, I knew with time I would feel comfortable with this group of people to enjoy my job and do my work to the best of my abilities. That happened a lot quicker than I expected because Mather & Co see value in enjoying each other’s company, having a positive work environment and finding value and pleasure in every project we work on. They take time to select projects that they know the designers will suit and understand the value of building client relationships, as it makes it easier to make the client’s vision our own when we know everything about them. We design for people, and we are good at that because we are treated like people. We work with each other as a team and delve into one another’s projects to give our thoughts and ideas.
I am excited and proud to be able to continue my journey with Mather & Co, and I cannot wait to grow with them. I am looking forward to all the other projects I will take on, all the subjects I will study and all the stories I will tell.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me and worked with me on this journey. Here’s to my first project, and to many more.