Architect and Educator, University of Illinois at Chicago, School of Architecture
Ania Jaworska, clinical assistant professor at UIC’s School of Architecture, is best known for producing furniture both simplified and overstated in the extreme, included in several exhibitions at Volume Gallery. Her work may well result in intentionally cartoonish exaggeration as sleek, plastic-polished style, but she has worked to expand her range across a variety of institutions and practices, ranging from her solo show at MCA in 2015 to to more recently designing a bookstore for the Graham Foundation.
Graphic Designer, Pitch Design Union
Working from her humble live/work HQ in Humboldt Park, Margot Harrington’s Pitch Design Union consistently punches above its weight class, whether producing the layout and design for Proximity magazine or being tapped by Studio Gang Architects for the layout of the exhibition catalog for their 2012 solo, “Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects” at SAIC. “I try to merge visual design, technology, contemporary art and social activism together,” says Harrington, who strives to continuously expand the inclusiveness at the foundation of her practice. “I want to see people continuing to listen to underserved communities while working to grow accessibility and inclusion. Diversity has been such a buzzword for the last couple years, people are coming to the realization that it can’t just be about the talk and there’s gotta be real action in order for change to happen.”
Furniture Designer and Owner, Plank
An unabashed optimist in the power of design to improve public life, Norman Teague fashions objects that shape our perceptions of public life in Chicago. Whether Teague is interrogating the intersection of art, design and fashion or collaborating with compatriots on urban and cultural issues, he is constantly looking for a point of entry to get into your head and share his world with you.
Urban Designer and Founder, Borderless
Paola Aguirre started Borderless Studio in 2016 as an extension of her self-initiated research under the moniker Borderless Workshop. Aguirre has boldly led this design consultancy to examine urban issues at a human level, enriching the planning and design of communities through an ecological and sociological perspective. Aguirre supplements and extends her professional practice into academia with teaching appointments at SAIC and a recently concluded stint at Washington University. Aguirre is not solely an academic, with projects in the works from Brownsville, Texas to Kansas City, St. Louis and Chicago.
Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero
Working backwards, as Petra Bachmaier has often described it, from dematerialization to a new interest in art as object, the duo she forms with partner Sean Gallero has transformed notions of public monument with their light art. “We hope to develop a collaborative connection both creatively and technically with people from different backgrounds and talents,” Bachmaier and Gallero explain. “We love it when problems or even concepts are solved together through feedback and input from various individuals all with distinct perspectives. This local support and collaboration not only propels our studio in Chicago but also creates a path toward a global engagement.”
Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi
Graphic Designers and Partners, Sonnenzimmer
“Disciplines easily cross-pollinate in Chicago,” say partners Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi and principals of the celebrated Sonnenzimmer design studio. “We’ve always viewed our ‘design’ work as part of our larger artistic practice and that notion seems rooted here historically. Whether through the experiments grafted onto the city at the New Bauhaus or more homegrown efforts through loose collectives like the Hairy Who,” says Butcher. “Merging art, publishing and design in Chicago is nothing new. We feel connected to that past,” they say adding, “In 2018, the battle is very different—static content versus motion. Though publication design and exhibitions are still our bread and butter, we feel the alluring pull of the moving image and I’m sure we’re not the only ones.”
Architect and Co-Founder, Norman Kelley
Thomas Kelley sees a critical role for Chicago: “I would hope that our work, along with the work of other architects, artists, graphic designers, musicians, dancers, chefs, activists and fabricators, casts light on Chicago’s renewed sense of cosmopolitanism. For too long, Chicago has been a city of singular figures across singular disciplines: Jeanne Gang is our architect, Theaster Gates is our artist. Of course, these figures are brilliant, but in addition to being celebrated they should serve as reminders that Chicago is a broad scene, evolving fast in ways that favor intellect, inclusivity, and most of all, diversity,” he says. “Too often, design is simply prescribed to meet the needs, or concerns, of its public and in doing so, suffers from a lack of imagination. In the coming years, Chicago’s design industry will need to invest in ideas that are not only attendant to its local audience, but also anticipatory of broader, even future, publics. That, coupled with a growing economy, should afford architects, and others, opportunities to build with their intellect and not their bottom line.”
Furniture Designer, Navillus Woodworks
Dan Sullivan’s Navillus Woodworks has served as the fabricator for a number of the prominent artist Edra Soto’s Rejas (she’s his wife and frequent collaborator), as well as for world-class installations for projects including the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the MCA, including Sullivan’s own Dock 6 Collective, which rolls out a massive, cutting-edge showcase of design work annually. “Our highest profile design-build commission to date, done in collaboration with several of my colleagues at Dock 6 Collective, Blue Star Properties and HBRA Architects, has been Revival Food Hall,” says Sullivan. “Much of the unifying character of the design employed repeated CNC carved patterns and unique finishes,” he says. “My hope is that there is a movement to begin teaching the trades in primary education again. I have noticed that many recent graduates of design and arts programs are increasingly familiar with 3D CAD modeling and CNC technologies. These powerful tools, now accessible to young designers and fabricators, should help push design to new places.”
Scott English and Victor LaPorte
Founders, Scott & Victor
“Scott & Victor became official in 2007 as a company of two, and we’ve kept it that way. Emphatically. It’s not that we dislike other people; we just like to do everything ourselves,” say the company’s founders. “Sometimes we collaborate with other people who have special skills or talent.” They’re talking about Mike McQuade who created the packaging for all-natural ingredients protein bar, RXBar, with them. “He is one of the most gifted graphic designers in the country,” they add. “He’s a company of one.” Their redesign of the RXBar packaging is credited with much of that Chicago company’s overnight success. (They were sold last year for 600 million dollars just five years after their founding.) After years of global advertising agency experience, English and LaPorte are convinced that smaller groups of concentrated talent generate bigger and better thinking. “We used to work at one of the biggest agencies, helping big brands become bigger,” they say. “Now we’re the smallest of small agencies helping small brands become known.”
Pete Oyler and Nora Mattingly
Object Designers, Assembly Design
They’ve been covered in a wide array of magazines, including Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30 for Art & Design.” Assembly’s Pete Oyler and Nora Mattingly are unfettered by traditional notions that designers might work under a signature style or material instead of creating works with a nod toward subtle and subversive utility that tasks you to expand your idea of function. Assembly represents a “coming together” for them, not just of their own distinct skills and backgrounds, but of materials, both traditional and experimental, and of like-minded collaborators. As relative newcomers to the city, Assembly is using the expansive opportunities offered by Chicago as it works to create a new line of offerings.
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