Wednesday, August 7, 2013

826DC: Museum of Unnatural History

I am in the Junior year of my Illustration and Graphic Design studies.  I am both a transfer student and a double-major. During the fall of 2012 and into the first few weeks of 2013, I worked at 826DC, a branch of the nonprofit 826 National Organization which provides private tutoring, workshops, and field trips to at-risk students in the community. Each branch of 826, of which there are eight throughout the country, has a themed storefront. These stores sell a variety of whimsical products, and the proceeds are funneled back into the respective volunteer centers to buy school supplies, printer ink, computer maintenance, and the like. 826DC's themed storefront is the Museum of Unnatural History.

In the Spring of 2012, my Design Coalition class took a field trip to 826DC to explore a potential partnership for our class's final project. The field trip inspired our final group project but did not lead to a partnership. Nevertheless. I was keenly interested in working with 826DC in some design-related capacity. When I first walked into the Museum of Unnatural History, I was awestruck. I knew from that moment I wanted to know the story behind the organization and get involved if I could. When Dillon Babington, the volunteer coordinator at 826DC, told the class that there were opportunities for design internships, I jumped at the chance to work there.

I worked in the museum itself, coming up with ideas for new products and the packaging to go along with them. Some such products were: Bigfoot's Toe Cheese, Dehydrated Water, Bat Vision Goggles, Vampire Bat Venom, and Precambrian Jellyfish Juice. The Jellyfish Juice design is going to be printed and featured in the storefront very soon, and while my internship at 826DC is technically 'finished,' I am still going to be working with the organization in the future to help put some of the rest of these designs in the store. In addition to product design, I designed the plaques for the 826DC donor wall and the layout for the placement of the plaques. I also redesigned the storefront window display and some of the other displays throughout the museum. I performed many other smaller design tasks and projects.


Interning at 826DC was a fantastic experience, and I look forward to continuing my work there. Because of this internship, I had the opportunity to meet and interview the esteemed writer and 826 founder, Dave Eggers -- something I never would have envisioned happening otherwise. I created work that I am quite proud of and believe that once all of my designs are finalized and up in the store, they will make excellent portfolio pieces. I became better at networking, and I learned quite a lot about functioning within the constraints of a nonprofit organization. I can truly see myself working for a company like 826DC as a career. This experience has given me such a fondness for product and packaging design which I would love to continue to do!