Debi van Zyl


Collaborative, curious. Provocative and playful. Design & illustration for.


Debi van Zyl

pronounced fun sale

van Zyl is an Afrikaans surname. It derives
from the Dutch surname Van Zijl, meaning
"from Zijl" where Zijl is an archaic term for
a waterway.

Born in London, raised in South Africa,
Canada, and the United States.

Knitter and textile enthusiast. Maker of
curious creatures and beasts. Collector
of seed pods, found objects, and other
wonderful bits and bobs.

Working on museum exhibitions scratches many itches for me, combining my overall sense of curiosity about the world, wanting to foster the same for visitors, as well as surprise them with new ways of seeing. Exhibition design was a natural progression from my work in architecture as my interest in spatial storytelling, graphics, and typography continued to grow.

Now with over fifteen years of professional museum design experience, my studio works with a range of cultural institutions, from large internationally recognized museums to smaller local venues and conservancies. Regardless of scale, I approach each project as a collaboration—my work flow and design process allows for feedback and client engagement.

From concept to installation, my hands-on design and fabrication approach trickles down through all aspects of studio work: from hand-stitching type for a title wall, to creating scale models and mock-ups, to working with craftsmen and fabricators on unique builds. I also design and coordinate the production of books, catalogues, brochures, and environmental signage for museums and universities.

I received my M.Arch. in Architecture from Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) in 2002 and hold a B.A. in Urban Studies from Vassar College (1998).

Who I've Worked With

Autry Museum of the American West
Briscoe Western Art Museum
Chinese American Museum, Los Angeles
Getty Conservation Institute
Getty Research Institute
J. Paul Getty Museum
Huntington Library

Italian Cultural Institute
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, Los Angeles
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
USC Pacific Asia Museum
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum
Skirball Cultural Center
University Museums, Iowa State University

What I Can Offer

Book Design
Construction Documents
Furniture Design and Detailing
Installation Coordination
Object Mounts Consultation

Exhibit Layout and Design
Interpretive Planning
Project Management
Print Design and Production
A/V Coordination