Chicago’s Summer of Design

A massive exhibition and a new permanent design museum put the past, present, and future of the city’s design community in focus.

While Chicago’s entertainment and cultural scene normally hits critical mass during the summer months, the unprecedented number of design shows and exhibitions opening after Memorial Day in 2014 demand a calendar unto itself. The CHGO DSGN show at the Cultural Center (a sprawling collection of more than 200 works curated by Rick Valicenti), the opening of a permanent home for the Chicago Design Museum on June 12, and This is Chicago, an AIGA-organized poster show featuring the work of local 100 designers, all join tent-pole summer events such as the NeoCon international design expo, Guerilla Truck Show outdoor exhbition, and the Expo Chicago art fair to create a season showcasing the energy and ideas coursing through the city.

"CHGO DSGN is an exhibition that is inspired by the ideas of our times; it represents a cross section of what I believe is going on in design right now,” says Valicenti, founder and design director at Thirst/3st. The show’s exacting and eclectic selection represents the established and up-and-coming across disciplines, while providing space for an array of experimental and theoretical proposals. From the DIVVY graphic identity by IDEO and Firebelly and the open-sourced icon site The Noun Project, to Martin Kastner’s delicate utensils for the Michelin-starred restaurant Alinea and graphic designer Cody Hudson’s incense-burning ceramic skull, the show features a breadth of innovation and experimentation.

“The designers in this collection are people who are creating their own rules; they're not painting by numbers,” Valicenti says. “They challenge the status quo of design—their passion for their craft, and their willingness and desire to invigorate design, is exciting and infectious.”

On June 12, 2014, the Chicago Design Museum sets down permanent roots in Block 37 in the city’s downtown Loop district, after two summers of successful pop-up exhibitions featuring Marian Bantjes, Ed Fella, Debbie Millman, and Wolfgang Weingart. Supporters of the new institution’s Kickstarter campaign, running through May 2, can pick up an array of limited-editition posters, as well as a poster series based on the famous Container Corporation of America's Great Ideas of Western Man series for their donations. When the doors open at the new address, museumgoers will be greeted by Starts/Speculations: Graphic Design in Chicago Past and Future, an exhibit exploring the evolution of communication.

“The city of broad shoulders has always aspired toward big plans,” says Matthew Terdich, the museum’s exhibition director. “The last century of graphic design in Chicago has celebrated this notion through projects and initiatives that introduced new ideas and methods, served as catalysts, or united our community. To honor this spirit, we've invited a selection of Chicago designers to envision ways in which technology will transform our notions of communication in the next century and beyond. This exhibition celebrates our beginnings, and carefully imagines our next movements.”

The same week the design museum opens, the Chicago chapter of AIGA continues its centennial programming, part of the nationwide celebration of the organization’s 100th birthday, with This is Chicago, a poster show presenting 100 designers’ visual responses to a simple question: "What does design in Chicago mean to you?" Featured artists include Kyle Roomba Fletcher, Elaine Fong, Tim O'Hara, Dawn Hancock, Alisa Wolfson and Jeremiah Chiu. It’s clear after this summer of programs and exhibits, few people will have a short answer to that question.

 

CHGO DSGN opens at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington Street) on May 30 and runs through November 2. The Chicago Design Museum opens at its new permanent space at Block 37 (108 N. State Street) on June 12. the AIGA exhibition This is Chicago opens June 12 at Venue One (1044 W. Randolph).

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