A couple weeks ago, I volunteered with Design Museum Portland for the first time, and I already can't wait for their next volunteer opportunity.
Although titled as a Museum, the Design Museum doesn't have a physical space. Instead, they host events all over the city, each with a design focus. From talks and movie screenings to studio tours and print exhibitions, there is something for every kind of designer.
I helped out with at the Sign Painters Screening, a screening of a documentary focused on sign painters. It was really interesting, describing the rise and fall and now rise again of the industry. Signs for every shop and every thing used to be hand lettered and painted by a professional sign painter. When vinyl printing came about, however, signs could be printed fast and cheap and the sign painters lost a lot of business. Recently, the hand made has regained a lot of its appeal. Once again, companies look to the sign painters to add that hand made, long lasting touch to the front of their shops.
It was really interesting to see what a fine art sign painting is. It takes tons of practice to get all your lines perfectly straight before you can even think about the multitude of font and lettering options. Now I want to spend all my time practicing until I can make perfectly straight and even letters with a brush. Its like making a career off of calligraphy.
After the movie, four Portland sign painters took the stage for a question and answer session. They ranged in experience and age, making it even more interesting to see how different generations have dealt with the trials of the job. They all agreed on one thing, though - If you have enough desire and drive to do what you love, you can make it work. Even if the industry is shrinking, find your niche and find people interested, and you will become indispensable. A great lesson for any career.
As a volunteer, I helped with setting up, checking people in, signing people up for memberships, offering Design Museum info, and cleaning up afterwords. I met a bunch of great people already involved with the Design Museum, as well as people just there for the movie. It was a really fun experience, and I'm happy such an organization exists to further design learning and involvement as well as to create a place where designers can come together as a community. Its something I'm super excited to be involved with.