Bemidji State University
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Bemidji State University: Transforming students into extraordinary exhibit and experience designers

Spectacular art and contemporary products deserve the right introduction. Spaces do them justice by communicating a message, engaging and compelling audiences in meaningful, memorable ways. Think of a broadcast studio at the Olympics, a kiosk at the World Cup, a multimillion-dollar exhibit at an auto show, a display for Sea World, a museum exhibition, a concert stage, or even an Airbnb space — exhibit and experience designers are the hands, minds and souls behind them. Designers are at the forefront of styling these experiences and ensuring they spark lasting impressions.

When it comes to developing such experts, no institution does it better than Bemidji State University (BSU) in northern Minnesota. Its exhibit design undergraduate degree is just as robust as it is distinctive (U.S. universities typically offer it as a supplementary course).

Bemidji State University

Source: Bemidji State University

Every aspiring innovator, creative or leader is welcome to join the programme — especially those keen on learning the fundamentals of graphic design, interior design, model design, studio arts, engineering technology, sustainability or project management.

At the same time, learners gain an understanding of their future visitors’ physical, emotional and intellectual needs. With these competencies, they are primed to create human-centred, branded experiences that are accessible, educational and fun enough to leave guests wanting more.

Opportunities prepare them to enter the in-demand field of exhibit design with the confidence to stand out. BSU has forged more than enough industry links to go around, translating into permanent experiential projects like theme parks, retail stores, corporate lobbies and public squares. Experiential exhibit projects often include trade exhibits, museum exhibits, corporate events, brand experiences, pop-ups and more.

Industry connections provide learners with travel experiences throughout the U.S. and across the globe as well. For example, Bemidji State’s exhibit design students have travelled to bustling cities such as Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas.

Internationally, they have explored Düsseldorf, Germany — a trip graduate Lauren Bruggeman describes as “one of the best experiences” of her life. “It got me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to try new things,” she says. Bruggeman attended EuroShop with a number of other BSU students.

Becca Nelson, whose childhood passion for arts and crafts quickly evolved into an interest in interior design, found the excursion to be equally enriching. “It was one of the coolest experiences that I have had so far, and it just made me so excited to become a part of the industry,” she said.

Today, the natural-born artist is thriving as a professional, much like the BSU exhibit design graduates before her. Both Bruggeman and Nelson are working at Hamilton — a full-service event marketing agency — as junior designers.

To ensure similar outcomes for its current students, BSU transported its exhibit design class to Las Vegas this past semester to attend the annual Exhibitorlive Trade Expo. There, students had the opportunity to host a BSU booth at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre, the fifth largest convention centre in the nation with 2.1 million gross square feet of meeting and exhibit space. At the same time, students were encouraged to explore the show floor and gain key insights from industry professionals while showcasing their portfolios. Through effective networking, many were able to land job or internship opportunities.

Experiences like these ensure BSU students get a clearer, more complete picture of the exhibit design field, ultimately blurring the lines between academia and industry.

By joining the Design Guild club, they are able to fill their schedules with even more real-world, industry experiences. While spring is reserved for the Exhibitor trade expo in Vegas, the group spends the rest of the year visiting various design firms. Each experience works wonders when it comes to enhancing the resumés and illuminating the portfolios of budding designers — both are perfected well before students graduate into the world of work.

Student collections are reviewed every spring by The TAD School — BSU’s School of Technology, Art and Design. During their portfolio review, students present their work to industry professionals and the public. The process helps learners get accustomed to sharing the rationale behind their vision and learning from constructive criticism.

The TAD School isn’t just known for providing early exposure, it’s renowned for housing an expansive lineup of knowledgeable faculty as well, each of whom are respected within the industry. Pair their support with cutting-edge technology, great laboratory spaces, and small class sizes, and students have an extraordinary education that turns them into award-winning graduates.

So what are you waiting for? If you like architecture, interior design, industrial design or graphic design, and relish the idea of bringing these different disciplines together with face-to-face marketing and events, then Exhibit Design is for you. Learn more about Exhibit Design at The TAD School here.

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