Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago

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By Patrick Sisson / Published by Dwell
New Zealand’s Studio Magazine goes behind the doors of Windy City design firms to see how the city's creatives work.

"There’s no doubt we’re voyeuristic and a little nosy," says Zoe Ikin, one of the editors and founders of Studio Magazine, a publication based in Auckand, New Zealand, that profiles creative workspaces and studios around the world. "We love to see what everyone else is doing."

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 1 of 23 - The very fitting cover of the Chicago Issue of Studio Magazine, featuring a ketchup-free Chicago dog. The Auckland, New Zealand-based publication profiles creative workspaces around the world.

The very fitting cover of the Chicago Issue of Studio Magazine, featuring a ketchup-free Chicago dog. The Auckland, New Zealand-based publication profiles creative workspaces around the world.

When Ikin was given an opportunity to be a visiting design researcher in Chicago for the branding firm VSA Partners last summer, she decided to take advantage of her stay and devote issue #4 to the city’s creative community, collecting photos and interviews from offices such as Pitchfork Media and print and design studio Sonnenzimmer. While working "from the bottom of the Earth" with collaborators Clem Devine and Sam Trustrum, her fiance, on previous issues, they’d never had the chance to focus on a single location. This gave them a chance to shine a light on where the "incredibly enthusiastic and supportive" local design community works.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 2 of 23 - A map of the firms profiled in Studio Issue #4. The magazine was started by Zoe Ikin, who spent time in Chicago during production of this issue, and her collaborators Clem Devine and Sam Trustrum, her fiance.

A map of the firms profiled in Studio Issue #4. The magazine was started by Zoe Ikin, who spent time in Chicago during production of this issue, and her collaborators Clem Devine and Sam Trustrum, her fiance.

"Creative people are an international breed," she says. "There’s an appreciation for modest spaces. Chicago had all of these great industrial offices—there was no shortage of light, lofty spaces to visit."

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 3 of 23 - Studio Magazine Issue #4,  interior of VSA Partners, where editor and co-founder Zoe Ikin spent three months as a design researcher last summer.

Studio Magazine Issue #4, interior of VSA Partners, where editor and co-founder Zoe Ikin spent three months as a design researcher last summer.

Ikin, who normally works as a designer at Alt Group, noticed plenty of trends in office layout—the emphasis on smaller rooms for collaboration at IDEO, or the flexible desk arrangements at Basecamp (formerly 37signals), fitting for a company that champions remote working. But one thing she says that’s been a constant throughout her work on studio is not to judge an office by its layout.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 4 of 23 - Studio Magazine Issue #4. "There’s no doubt we’re voyeuristic and a little nosy," says Ikin. "We love to see what everyone else is doing."

Studio Magazine Issue #4. "There’s no doubt we’re voyeuristic and a little nosy," says Ikin. "We love to see what everyone else is doing."

"The best work is coming from non-showy spaces," she says.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 5 of 23 - The conference room at Basecamp, which designs the project management software of the same name.

The conference room at Basecamp, which designs the project management software of the same name.

Pictures of Studio Magazine courtesy of Mark Smalling, VSA Partners

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 6 of 23 - Inside the basecamp office; Ikin was struck by the flexible workspaces in this design, fitting for a company that champions remote working.

Inside the basecamp office; Ikin was struck by the flexible workspaces in this design, fitting for a company that champions remote working.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 7 of 23 - A worktable at Basecamp's Chicago office. The company recently changed its name from 37signals; CEO Jason Fried wanted to focus more on the core product.

A worktable at Basecamp's Chicago office. The company recently changed its name from 37signals; CEO Jason Fried wanted to focus more on the core product.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 8 of 23 -

Front desk of the Chicago office of IDEO, the international design and innovation consulting firm. "Chicago had all of these great industrial offices—there was no shortage of light, lofty spaces to visit,” says Ikin.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 9 of 23 - Rooftop space at IDEO Chicago. The company's West Loop office, including this impressive deck for outdoor collaboration and entertaining, was built by architectural firm Perkins+Will in 2009.

Rooftop space at IDEO Chicago. The company's West Loop office, including this impressive deck for outdoor collaboration and entertaining, was built by architectural firm Perkins+Will in 2009.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 10 of 23 - Legacy Frameworks, purveyors of hand-made bicycles. Ikin says that during her brief time in Chicago, she was impressed by the city's "incredibly enthusiastic and supportive" local design community.

Legacy Frameworks, purveyors of hand-made bicycles. Ikin says that during her brief time in Chicago, she was impressed by the city's "incredibly enthusiastic and supportive" local design community.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 11 of 23 - Legacy Frameworks. While working "from the bottom of the Earth" on previous issues, according to Ikin, the Studio team had never had the chance to focus on a single location before.

Legacy Frameworks. While working "from the bottom of the Earth" on previous issues, according to Ikin, the Studio team had never had the chance to focus on a single location before.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 12 of 23 - The exterior of Pitchfork Media's offices. The respected music publication moved its editorial office to Brooklyn, but still has businesses offices in Chicago.

The exterior of Pitchfork Media's offices. The respected music publication moved its editorial office to Brooklyn, but still has businesses offices in Chicago.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 13 of 23 - Pitchfork Media's design and development teams work out of the Chicago office.

Pitchfork Media's design and development teams work out of the Chicago office.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 14 of 23 - The interior of Pitchfork Media, located in the city's Logan Square neighborhood.

The interior of Pitchfork Media, located in the city's Logan Square neighborhood.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 15 of 23 -

The office of Plural Design, home of designers Jeremiah Chiu and Renata Graw. “Creative people are an international breed,” says Ikin. “There’s an appreciation for modest spaces."

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 16 of 23 - Plural Design co-founders Jeremiah Chiu and Renata Graw met in 2006 while studying graphic design at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Plural Design co-founders Jeremiah Chiu and Renata Graw met in 2006 while studying graphic design at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 17 of 23 - Plural Design has worked with an array of local clients, including the Lyric Opera, Chicago Architecture Foundation, DePaul Art Museum and the Whistler bar.

Plural Design has worked with an array of local clients, including the Lyric Opera, Chicago Architecture Foundation, DePaul Art Museum and the Whistler bar.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 18 of 23 - Entrance to the Post Family workspace, the design collective's home on Hubbard street in the West Town neighborhood.

Entrance to the Post Family workspace, the design collective's home on Hubbard street in the West Town neighborhood.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 19 of 23 - The Post Family is a seven-member design collective that built its own gallery, letterpress, and screenprinting studio.

The Post Family is a seven-member design collective that built its own gallery, letterpress, and screenprinting studio.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 20 of 23 - The Post Family has engaged in a variety of design and printing projects, and will be curating a series of events at the Comfort Station space in Logan Square this March.

The Post Family has engaged in a variety of design and printing projects, and will be curating a series of events at the Comfort Station space in Logan Square this March.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 21 of 23 - Entrance to the VSA Partners office in Chicago. The branding firm was founded in 1982 by Robert Vogele and works with companies such as IBM and Harley-Davidson.

Entrance to the VSA Partners office in Chicago. The branding firm was founded in 1982 by Robert Vogele and works with companies such as IBM and Harley-Davidson.

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 22 of 23 - VSA Partners' office. Ikin noted plenty of trends in office layout during her time in Chicago, including the emphasis on smaller rooms for collaboration

VSA Partners' office. Ikin noted plenty of trends in office layout during her time in Chicago, including the emphasis on smaller rooms for collaboration

Innovative Workspaces Across Chicago - Photo 23 of 23 - VSA Partners's office. Ikin says the firm chose the space and let designers organically figure out the layout and workflow.

VSA Partners's office. Ikin says the firm chose the space and let designers organically figure out the layout and workflow.