Feeling groovy? You will be if you visit the newly renovated store at the National Mall entrance to the museum. Its new look is a tribute to the recent past, specifically the popular culture of the 1950s-1980s, and it should not be missed. Actually, it is almost impossible to miss. Its bright pop-art colors really do “pop” off the walls. The glitter and sparkle of the disco ball catches your eye and draws you in. Once you walk in you are treated to a water dispenser that looks like a juke box and a tote bag shaped like a boom box.
Who had the day-glo vision that transformed the store? Rebecca Pomarzynski, Graphic Designer for Smithsonian Enterprises. Becky is not just a designer, she is the entire department. She is responsible for the retail store design of the Smithsonian's 31 stores (in 15 locations), and the promotional and graphic materials in them. She has the challenge of being able to satisfy buyers and curators and still develop a look that will appeal to visitors.
Becky works quietly but has a big impact. I have worked at the Smithsonian for over 10 years, and only once during that time have I been in a meeting where someone presented a new idea that was unanimously approved on the spot. The whole room (and it was a big room filled with a cross section of Smithsonian staff from all the museums) was in shock—at how much we liked what we saw and how much we all agreed about it.
What was it? It was Becky’s design for the graphic identity (i.e., logo) for the “Lincoln at the Smithsonian” bicentennial collaboration. Becky stood up before this crowd and succinctly presented her idea for an image that would tie together a myriad of programs and exhibits, and even merchandise for the stores. All present agreed it was just what we needed, and we were done.
It’s not always that easy, but Becky enjoys the challenges of her position. She likes working in different formats and with diverse subjects. Dinosaurs one day, fine art the next. A simple sign here, a major remodel there. Her favorite project? Of course, the new Mall store at the National Museum of American History.
Kathy Sklar is the business program manager at the National Museum of American History.