I started at the Science Communication Lab in September of 2020. I had just turned 22, and celebrated my birthday in the comfort of my home with my roommates. I met my new boss, Michael, through zoom along with my future co-workers. The world almost felt like it was on pause. I learned very quickly that starting a new job during a pandemic is no easy feat. I am the type of person who likes to make people laugh and I found that connecting with new people though only a tiny box on my desktop screen was much more difficult than I had anticipated. Despite all this, my first two months at the SciComm Lab were unlike any other job I had ever had.
Bell Museum Project
My first real assignment was a group project with three other designers. We were tasked with creating COVID-19 Infographics for the Bell Museum on the St. Paul campus of the University. The four of us each ended up researching, writing copy, illustrating and animating for our own topic. This was a unique opportunity to create for a client who helps make the world a little bit better. It also allowed for our design skills to be a vehicle for museum attendees to learn new things. It was exciting to see how well these videos turned out in the end, and how many people would see them as they walked through the Bell Museum.
From this first project, I learned that the title of “graphic designer” means mostly one thing: visually expressing ideas or concepts. This idea plays well into Science Communication – Scientists are always trying to express their ideas to the public and often need someone adept at visual expression to help them. Designers and writers play an important role in this field as we are the bridge between scientists and the general public.
Just before this project was completed in December, I graduated from the University of Minnesota with my BFA in Graphic Design. I had been offered a position to work more hours with the Science Communication Lab, and was extremely grateful. I would help with more internal design projects and continue my journey in the Science Communication Lab.
Academic Posters Workshop
The next step in my journey was co-facilitating a workshop about academic posters to about 20 students. I used all the skills I had already learned from school and developed it into a brief summary of design components to help with poster creation. This was important to me because typically the communication of new ideas in the form of a poster isn’t as impactful as the researcher would have hoped. I worked with Caroline, a writer, to develop this educational material in a way that would help students with the overall presentation of their ideas to be the most impactful and effective to viewers.
Teaching is something that I think anyone who has extensive experience in a field can do, but not always do well. The main takeaway from this project was the importance of the audience. In design, writing, and science, how you present an idea depends on the audience. Connecting with your audience is how you can become a better teacher. Considering how you are going to present an idea that is not on the top of people’s minds is a tricky thing to do. You have to first express to them the importance of what you are about to teach them and show them examples. Learning is really about visualization of conceptualization.
Lake Itasca T-Shirt
The last important project for me was the Lake Itasca 2021 t-shirt about the caddisfly. I was excited to be able to illustrate the shirt as it was a skill I had begun to work on more in my own free time. It was different working with someone who had extensive research done on the subject, in this case the specific species, and how important it was for the species to look exactly as it was illustrated. Sometimes, creativity takes a different form in a project. Illustration style or color choice do not matter nearly as much as making the client happy.
From Now On
From my time at the Science Communication Lab, I have learned more about my goals for my future career. I have always known that helping others is something that drew me to design in the first place, and helping others communicate science helps more than just the scientists and writers of the world.