For my informational interview, I met with Beth Galiardi, an administrative manager at Pacific Studio in Ballard. Pacific Studio is a nationally recognized exhibit design and fabrication studio, who “partners with designers, architects, museums, parks, visitor centers, universities, and sports venues to execute dimensional built environments that inspire interaction, elevate education, and shape curiosity and investigation in public spaces everywhere.” I was drawn to Pacific Studio because it seemed to have the full package – it’s not just about the visual design, rather it encompasses almost every part of exhibit and experience formation from start to finish. Their website boasts countless services: design, graphics, illustration, prototyping, building, hand painting, murals, conservation display cases, shop drawings, museum dioramas, artifact replicas and mounts, custom metal fabrication, water and light interactives, woodworking, sculpting, and mechanical/electromechanical interactives.
When I first entered Pacific Studio, I was surprised at its appearance. It looked a whole lot like my dad’s mechanical contracting shop, which countered my expectation of design workplaces. However, as mentioned before, Pacific Studio doesn’t just employ designers who sit at their computers all day. And because of the studio’s all-encompassing nature, I learned a great deal about the totality of the exhibit formation process. What really shocked me was the extremely high number of people from different fields who were involved: designers, illustrators, detailers, woodworkers, metalworkers, electricians, accessibility experts, general contractors, state agencies, AV designers, integrators, salespeople, project managers, estimators, and all kinds of clients. And this list is by no means exhaustive! Oftentimes, when in a museum or retail space for example, I look at the exhibit/experience simply as something designed by designers because design is what I know. But after meeting with Beth, I realized how many people, how much time, how much thought, how much work, and how much money really goes into creating these interactive, educational, and experiential spaces. It’s such a unique form of design in this way, so hands on, so involved, and so different than something like print design or branding. It’s a beautiful thing, people from all fields and all walks of life coming together under the umbrella of “exhibit and experience design.”
What I also appreciated from my meeting with Beth is the importance that Pacific Studio (along with other exhibit design and fabrication studios) places on storytelling. Even if they’re creating something for a retail space or a sports venue – spaces that oftentimes get ignored, because those who walk through them (interactors, for lack of a better word) aren’t expecting or looking for experiences as they might be in a museum – they care deeply about creating an engaging and immersive story for the interactors. That story could be for the purpose of educating, furthering a brand or anywhere in between, but everything from the exhibit’s design to its installation is focused on the best way to tell that story.