For Kelly Phan ’22, designing the Class of 2021 exhibition book was a lesson in balance and insight

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Friday, May 14th, 2021

If compiling a nearly 140-page book encompassing works from 58 artists, writings from College administration, and input from several editors, while working to specifications set up by senior faculty and staff and a professional printer, sounds like a massive undertaking …
Kelly Phan would probably agree.
While working on her other classes as well, the junior Graphic Design major tackled the project — the exhibition book for the Class of 2021 Senior Exhibition — as the Gallery’s first-ever Gallery Design Intern. The semester-long assignment has resulted in a beautifully designed exhibition publication that documents the senior exhibition artworks.
In partnership with the Graphic Design Department, Director of Exhibitions Alana Coates led Phan’s project as site supervisor, and Prof. Maria Cummings-Miller served as Graphic Design faculty leadership. Working in concert with senior faculty, each senior, the five co-curators of the exhibit, and the communications department, Kelly Phan ’22 successfully completed a beautifully designed exhibition publication that documents the artworks within the senior exhibition as a 138-page book.
It was, she says, an opportunity to learn “more about myself and my capabilities under heavy pressure,” and a chance to gain insight on how projects work, deadlines, and client expectations.
What was the most rewarding part of this experience? 
KP: The most rewarding part was definitely being able to send off the final PDF to the printer and letting out a breath of fresh air. I think I especially enjoyed seeing the satisfied reaction from everyone that was there to guide me through the entire process. Thanks to Alana, Maria, and Mimi Sigworth and Deann “Dee” Spitler over at (the Lancaster-based H&G Group, which printed the exhibition catalog). It made the experience worth it in the end. For my first publication, it wasn’t too shabby.
What was the most challenging aspect of this internship?
KP: The most challenging aspect would have to be balancing this internship with my schoolwork. At times, I felt like my head was just barely above waters and consisted of late nights and early mornings. This project was a huge chunk of my time during this semester.
View the Kelly Phan-designed exhibition catalog online here.
What are some things you learned that you may not have knowledge of prior? 
KP: I became more in in tune with a lot of the Adobe applications, especially InDesign. It allowed me to become more comfortable and knowledgeable about the program. I got a taste of what it’s like to work with clients, and the experience was something I’ll remember in the future. Personally, I also learned more about myself and my capabilities under heavy pressure.
How does it feel to make an assignment that is being used in a real-world context? 
KP: I feel a sense of accomplishment but, not going to lie, it’s a little bit scary. This was my first “actual” project that would be handed out to hundreds of people and they’re all seeing the hours and hours of work I put into the book. 
You had some challenges at the design pitch stage that you overcame beautifully — can you tell us a little more about that experience? 
KP: Where to begin with that. I have to say that the beginning stages of the design pitch was a huge hurdle I felt I had to face. I think I went back and did sketches/mockups about three or four times because no one came to an agreement. It just took a bunch of trial and error to finally decide and stick to one concept and color theme. It was a rough start but it was a learning experience and I am glad that everyone was happy with the chosen cover in the end.
The editing process was a little intense. Can you tell us how you kept it all organized and yourself calm and professional?
KP: Master pages in InDesign are a LIFESAVER. I utilized this more than anything. It was as simple as dropping in text and changing a few things around on pages. The 100-plus pages were intense but pretty straightforward using the master pages tool. I have my professor Maria to thank because, at times, I felt like I was constantly emailing her back and forth about her thoughts and tweaks. I am grateful for all of the communications editors that caught minor edits in the book that I may have overlooked, as well.
Sincerely Yours branding by Kelly Phan '22, Graphic Design

“Sincerely Yours,” branding by Kelly Phan ’22, Graphic Design.

Would you recommend this internship to a classmate in the future? 
KP: I definitely do recommend this internship to any classmate that wants to do it. It is fast-paced, and deadlines are crucial, but it’s an excellent portfolio- and resume-builder. The one thing that I will say is that, you have to be on top of your classes, as well as this project. There has to be a balance in order for it to work. 
What are your goals for your senior year?
KP: As a senior, I hope to further advance my knowledge and skills with my designs. I think I want to enjoy my senior year. Junior year was tough and I want to be able to take a breather and cruise along for the senior year experience. I am most excited for my classes this upcoming fall semester, and seeing what I do for the senior thesis.
What are your goals for after graduation? 
KP: I am really interested in the packaging design world and UI/UX web design. I would love to see where my designs take me and where I will end up.
How do you think this internship better prepared you for your goals? 
KP: This internship really provided me a foot into the real world. It gave me an insight on how projects worked, deadlines, and clients’ expectations. I will be able to take that knowledge and implement it towards my future projects. I was pleased that after completing this internship, I was introduced to another publication project. 
Photo of Kelly Phan by Aidan Thackray ’22, Illustration