When you visit the Zoo, it is very easy to identify a member of our staff. The Houston Zoo employees (and volunteers!) make ourselves as visible as possible so that guests can recognize us. This allows us to be accessible to our wonderful guests, and provide the best experience possible.
What you may not know is that behind the scenes, we have many employees and volunteers who work extremely hard to help the Zoo improve day by day. Recently, I got to sit down with Kirsten Ufer, the Creative Director for the Houston Zoo, and learn all about her incredible work at the Zoo.
Kirsten, what the heck does a Creative Director do?
Basically, what I do as Creative Director is to oversee the graphic design and photography departments. We help communicate messages visually – whether it is through designing a logo, a brochure, a sign, etc… Much like a trained chef has the ability to make food look more appetizing by the way it is presented, we put all the pieces together to make a message more compelling through our design.
What’s the most fun part of your job?
The animals! It’s amazing to be right here with the animals and get to design things that pertain to them, as well as conservation efforts. This is definitely a unique setting for anyone!
It sounds like you’ve had some interesting projects. Do you have a favorite?
There are so many projects that have been amazing to be a part of, it’s hard to choose just one – so I have narrowed it down to three.
1. The first of my favorites is a poster/educational packet that went out to 3rd graders around the Houston Area, dealing with conservation efforts in water and wetland areas.
It was fun to collaborate with both the Education and Conservation departments to create a piece that would go outside of the Zoo to impact children in the greater Houston Area – and teach them how they can be a part of conservation efforts at home.
2. Another favorite project to be a part of was the redesign of the food kiosk in the Children’s Zoo. The kiosk was in very bad shape and was drab and just wasn’t bringing in a lot of sales, so the Zoo wanted to give it a “face-lift.” Since it’s located in the Children’s Zoo, I really wanted to give it a fun-zany “Nickelodeon” feel – and incorporate kids – and make it look like they were having fun and enjoying the food. So fortunately for me, the Zoo was open to incorporating my crazy design – and as a result food sales have increased!
3. My third favorite is a new interactive sign for the Sea Lion area. Our department was challenged with the task of creating an interactive sign to explain the impact that pollution has on marine life. One of our very own sea lions, Astro, was greatly affected by marine debris, as he was found entangled in it, leaving a scar where it wrapped around his neck. So the issue is near and dear to us, and an important conservation message for us to get across. So our two designers, Tricia Logston and Megan Conkin, and I collaborated on this design, and Megan put it all together in this beautiful drawing. We are still in the development phases and hope to have the sign complete and installed within the year.
What sort of challenges do you face in your department?
Our constant challenge is to make sure we are effectively communicating the Zoo’s message in a fresh, innovative way, while also upholding high standards of past successes.
A challenge for our photographer would be trying to capture a person’s ideas for a photo and being able to capture them in a photograph with the animals who sometimes have their own agenda .
Would our guests recognize anything that you and your team have worked on around the Zoo?
We have designed everything from the visitor guides and signage to banners and kiosk posters to the kiosks themselves – so the visitors are really inundated with our work from the moment they enter Zoo grounds!
Thanks Kirsten! Stay tuned for more from our amazing staff!
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