We’re pleased to welcome Principal Creative Director Eileen Moore to Entro’s New York office. Eileen comes to us with unique and varied experience spanning across different fields, starting with ecology and culminating in experiential design for MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, and corporate client projects like Condé Nast. We wanted to learn more about how these different disciplines inform her work.
Your career history is fascinating – can you tell us about us about how you came to be a designer?
I’ve always been interested in both art and science, but when it came time to apply to university I decided to focus on the science, and I entered as a pre-med student. I found I was better suited (less math!) to the human side of things and decided to focus on applied science – environmental studies and human ecology.
After graduation, I worked with small communities in Brazil, where I helped the residents understand, adapt, and implement sustainable agricultural practices in a way that was relevant to them and improved their lives. It was some of the most difficult work I’ve ever done, but also some of the most rewarding.
There was very little money and few resources for these projects, and over time I became discouraged. Upon returning to the United States I focused on development work in the non profit sector which eventually led me to a position at The Museum of Modern Art.
While working at MoMA I was taking night courses in video editing and design. I would use the Macs in the Graphic Design Department to do my homework so I became a familiar face around the studio. Eventually I was offered a spot ‘upstairs’ as a junior designer and production assistant. I remember thinking, I can’t believe they pay people to do this – kerning, tracking – I was falling in love!
Over your 20 years of design experience, how has your background in science informed your work? Is there an overlap?
Aspects of ‘scientific rigor’ felt natural to me in the context of graphic design – the Swiss Guiding Principles, the ‘rules’, and the grids felt … satisfying.
And during my time in Brazil, I learned to grapple with complex and embedded social issues by having to communicate the hard science and negotiate solutions with community members, approaching the problem in a sensitive way. Communication is always an important part of design, but this experience helped me especially during my first year, when I was working with curators at the MoMA to develop exhibit graphics and interpretive content.
The curators took a detailed, technical approach to the interpretive content. I had to understand it, be part of the intellectual conversation and part of their process. It was like interpreting science. This is the unique part of design; there’s tremendous engagement with objects and the exhibit itself. It was a collaborative process, where the curator took a strong interest in how design communicated the exhibit: the narrative, the graphics, what it looked like, what it sounded like. As a designer, you always need to focus on the experience – when you return to the experience it feels right.
Right now I’m focused on helping newer, younger designers move into super creative positions. I want to use my experience to remove roadblocks for them – to provide solid direction while alleviating some of the pressure elements so they can do their best possible work. This too is similar to what I was doing in Brazil – providing the tools and information to help community members improve their lives; helping others be successful in doing what they want to do.
Could you describe your approach to design? What do you try to achieve in your projects?
I’m really interested in projects and places that create experiential value: museums, education, healthcare, public and civic spaces. I’m inspired by Entro’s engagement and commitment to sustaining this kind of client base and on a broader level, through placemaking and wayfinding. The value proposition for each of these projects is different, but their impact on people is always significant.
For example, the expansion of the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College (Snøhetta is the Design Architect), features a new entry sequence. This is a wonderful performing arts venue that serves several external audiences, while offering student services, dining, and a pathway to other parts of the campus. The design goal for the entry wayfinding is to speak to all of these users, the entire community. It’s vital that we create an open, welcoming space. I always find public facing projects that support diverse audiences the most interesting and challenging.
We’re also working on Inova, a large-scale healthcare complex with multiple services over multiple locations. We want to make patients and visitors feel welcome by designing an a comprehensive wayfinding and signage program that is clear and beautiful, without seeming exclusive. The program needs to stand on its own with a layer of warmth, drawing from the architecture. To make the program relevant, we need a lot of user knowledge, to put ourselves in their shoes; we’re not designing in a vacuum. How do we address clients seeking emergency services as well as those seeking more long term treatments like chemotherapy? We need to be sensitive and know what questions to ask to move forward and create a personalized experience.
Where do you think innovation in experiential design and wayfinding is headed in the future?
I think we need to work harder to solve for inclusivity and accessibility. Restrooms are a drop in our design bucket. In terms of architecture and signage, there is huge potential for inviting people into spaces they couldn’t otherwise enjoy, and do it in a beautiful way. It’s not enough to say ‘you are included over there’. It needs to be one story. Right where you are is as inclusive as possible. Signage is a component but every design element is part of the solution. Beautiful and relevant design should not be limited to certain types of people. Design should be personal, democratizing; it should always include the user. We should put as much effort into design solutions for public spaces, schools and health clinics, etc. as we do in non-public spaces.
Read Eileen's bio here.