Third year Interior and Spatial Design student Iona Jost shares her experience of her time on placement at Falcon’s Treehouse in Orlando, Florida.

During my time third year at university, I was given the opportunity to undertake a placement year working in the industry. I am currently undertaking my work placement at Falcon’s Treehouse – the design division of Falcon’s Creative group – in Orlando, Florida. Falcons is a company that designs and masterplans theme parks, attractions and themed immersive experiences with a portfolio of recognisable clients including Kennedy Space Centre, Busch Gardens and National Geographic.

As a junior designer, I work on so many different projects doing anything from CAD drawings to 3D models to concept development and ride track layouts. The variety of projects helps me to develop my skillset, with some tasks focusing on technical skills with less scope for creativity, whereas other tasks allow for much more creativity. 

Working at Falcon’s is an incredible learning experience. It’s inspiring to be getting mentored by some of the best in the industry. Not only do I get to work with designers but also so many talented artists, animators, engineers and many more creative skill sets that I’ve never had the chance to work with before. As well as learning technical skills and developing my knowledge as a designer, I get to learn how to become a better storyteller and understand what it takes to create an unforgettable experience. It’s an amazing privilege to be part of a team that designs immersive experiences which encourage people to have fun and make memories that will stay with them. As well as this, working at Falcons has allowed me to become a member of the TEA (Themed Entertainment Association), they offer all sorts of opportunities such as networking events and behind the scenes previews of brand new rides and attractions. I’ve been making the most of this membership and it’s been so much fun.Image of Iona

I had a lot of self-doubt when I first started because I felt like I didn’t really know what I was doing, having some creative freedom felt overwhelming and I feared I  wouldn’t meet expectations but over time my confidence has grown. I’ve grown so much as a designer both in confidence and skills and I’m thankful for all the time and patience that my colleagues have dedicated to achieve this. It’s an intense industry, but it’s a very rewarding experience when I look back at all the work I have done and see the progress I have made, it makes the high pressure worth it.

One of the biggest challenges I face is to remember to not put so much pressure on myself to ensure that my work is perfect. I am here to learn and mistakes can be a good thing. I also have to remind myself that I’m not going to be good at everything and that it would take a lot of trial and error to figure out exactly what I wanted to do. Adjusting and adapting to working in a new environment that is completely different from university forced me to ask for help and accept that it was necessary to become a better designer.

I would absolutely recommend doing a placement. A placement is the best way to get your foot in the door, you make so many connections which will benefit you in the future. It helps you discover what your likes and dislikes are about the profession. It’s also very beneficial because there are so many things that just aren’t possible to learn at university due to time restraints and the fact that you can’t replicate a professional office/studio environment. Being in a workplace all day surrounded by people there to help you means you learn things incredibly quickly.

In another sense placements can be very culturally beneficial. I am lucky enough to get to work out here in Florida where I’ve had to learn to adapt to the local climate and American way of life. It’s been so much fun living and working abroad and would definitely recommend the experience to other students.
At the moment I’m staying longer at Falcon’s Creative Group before coming back for my honours year, I’m having a lot of fun and making the most out of living in the theme park capital. One day in the future I’d like to help bring more immersive experiences and theme parks to Scotland, I would love to see our incredible history and folk stories be brought to life through some immersive and creative storytelling.

I’d love to thank all the tutors and lecturers in the Interior and Spatial design course, I don’t think I would have gotten here if it weren’t for their passion and dedication to teaching the course.