Strength in Numbers
Touting a model of collaborative creativity, five young Chicagoans share talent and resources to promote the work of female designers.
Design, like music composition or the scientific method, can be lonely, insular work. Which is precisely why, in January 2010, five Chicago creatives met for brunch and decided to combine forces. “More brains are better than one, especially when you need to come up with singular ideas,” says art director Elaine Chernov, one of the twenty-something females who moonlight as Quite Strong when not working day jobs either as freelancers, in graduate school, or at some of the Windy City’s biggest design agencies.
As the group refined their purpose, the name went from flip to significant. First came a Logan Square studio, then in August, their website, a joint effort, was up, sporting the pointed tagline “Creatives of the female variety.” The following October, they started a monthly meet-up for like-minded design types. Then, as Jana Kinsman recollects, “It blew up. We began as a group who respected each other and wanted to do creative things, then started getting attention and became a community resource.”
Quite Strong has grown their gig in substance and spirit offline as well, starting with a slew of pro bono projects, from branding and web development for nonprofit legal action group Out for Justice to mentoring students and other design professionals through the local chapter of AIGA. They curated an exhibition for Chicago’s Twelve Galleries Project in January, showing the work of fine artists next to designers from their Lust List. And in April they pulled off their most notable effort to date, a sold-out daylong seminar in conjunction with Columbia College called Moxie Conference (MoxieCon).
How to top that? “We’re trying to figure it out ourselves,” says Walker. First up will be a change of venue. The women gave up their Wicker Park storefront in May in favor of rotating monthly pop-up events. “We’re together all the time, be it in person or online, so collaborating is now virtual and second nature,” she says. So is the most salient lesson they’ve learned, power in numbers: “When all five of us stand together,” explains Sisson, “people pay more attention to us.”