From the Designers’ Diary
By Joseph McKee (they/them), Graphic Designer and UNM Class of 2022, graduating with a BA in Art History.
As the Graphic Design Assistant for the UNM Art Museum in Spring 2022, Joseph McKee (they/them) designed a general visitor brochure and text panel for Tracing Inner Worlds. Since 2019, Joseph has worked as a graphic designer with organizations such as the Daily Lobo, ARTS Unexpected, and Conceptions Southwest, alongside commissioned freelance work. Joseph’s personal work explores digital compositional disruption, queer identity, and the manipulation of digital body – you can explore their full portfolio at josephmckee.xyz.
Joseph’s project during the Spring 2022 semester fulfilled their practicum requirement to earn a Minor in Museum Studies. UNM’s Museum Studies program provides students with an academic foundation and practical training in the fundamentals of museology, emphasizing on mentoring and applied learning through a combination of academic instruction, supervised internships, and participation in professional work settings. Joseph’s work illustrates the talent of our creative student community and demonstrates the exciting opportunities that UNMAM offers.
I wanted to complete my Museum Studies practicum at the University of New Mexico Art Museum as the museum’s mission and collection aligned with my interests. I feel strongly about providing educational resources to explore art, artists, and art’s contextual history. In my past experiences with UNMAM, I thoroughly enjoyed the museum’s stance as an opponent to traditional brick-and-mortar type educational institutions. Having the opportunity to work at the museum and get behind the scenes was very exciting.
I began my internship the first week of February. Before my start date I met with both Manager of Communications & Audience Engagement Devin Geraci and Museum Director Arif Khan. I explained my interests in graphic design and showed them my portfolio of work and my work experience. Together we created a project that I would work on throughout the Spring 2022 semester, to produce a general UNMAM brochure from conception to publication. The UNM Art Museum has never had a printed brochure for visitors, so this was a very exciting project for me to take on.
I first approached the project by researching contemporary design trends within larger art museum institutions from across the globe. I created a desktop folder and Pinterest board to store my ideas and potential design elements that I would like to incorporate within the brochure. I also studied the UNMAM style guidebook, which listed the specific fonts, colors, logos, and other design elements reflecting the museum’s brand and how to use them within marketing material for the museum.
My process started with a reflection on my own experience with the museum. I chose the size and shape of the brochure intentionally to break the traditional thin vertical trifold brochure. I aimed to create a brochure that would emphasize images of the museum and encourage viewers to remember the museum. Ultimately, I intended the brochure to take up space and create a moment where visitors would actively engage with the brochure without leaving it aside.
The brochure went through several drafts and variations, reviewed at each stage by Arif and Devin. Revisions focused on body text, arrangement of elements, and larger concepts like how visitors would read through the brochure, what information they wanted to learn, how the images and body text paired with each other, and the overall message presented to visitors.
Throughout this process, the brochure took several variations – each leading to the final version. By the first week of March, I had a solid draft of the layout of the brochure. The next step was focused on editing content, selecting images, and finalizing the museum map. I approached this stage of development by reviewing the UNMAM style guidebook again and reviewing my selection of inspirational images. I did more in-depth research into the styles of way-finder symbols and maps used by larger museum institutions. This research was invaluable as it aided in the refinement and clarity of the UNMAM map and way-finder symbols I created.
The final draft of the UNMAM brochure opens with a strong cover photo of a student looking at Visionary Modern, immediately emphasizing the museum’s mission as an educational institution. When the viewer opens the brochure, they are greeted with a welcome statement by UNMAM Director Arif Khan on the left page, detailing the museum’s current aims and direction of the future. On the opposite page are the museum map and way-finder symbols. The map shows available resources, as well as how to navigate the museum and access each space. When the viewer opens the right page further, there are two panels titled ‘About’ and ‘Resources.’ Viewers learn more about the museum as they travel through the text and engage physically with the brochure. Viewers learn about the mission of the museum, its collection, and what artists are featured in the collection. They also learn about the museum’s print study room, group tours, and the UNMAM Student Advisory Board.
The second project I completed while at UNMAM was an introduction panel for Tracing Inner Worlds, a response to Mysterious Inner Worlds by students in Intro to Photography classes at UNM. I created the panel with a very short turnaround of two days, as unexpected circumstances required me to take over the visual direction of the panel. I worked with Steven Hurley, the museum’s Coordinator of Exhibitions, to design the size and placement of the panel. I mimicked the design elements of Mysterious Inner Worlds while creating the introduction panel for the student exhibition. It was very important to me that the two exhibits were in conversation with each other graphically – so that, while the student exhibition in the Upper Gallery would not be a direct copy of the exhibit in the Main Gallery, it would carry over larger thematic design elements. I emphasized this through the creation of a unique logo that appeared at the top of the introduction panel. As the Intro to Photography students responded to the work of Anila Quayyum Agha, I responded to both of their works through the disruption and re-organization of Agha’s most notable work in the exhibit, Intersections (2014), in the creation of the logo, and layout of the introduction panel.
Interested in collaborating with UNMAM on a class project or degree requirement? Contact Devin Geraci at email@example.com to share your ideas!