Since the Great Fire paved the way for a city center to adapt a new grid street layout to today, Chicago is constantly growing and changing shape. And powerful design has been a driving force in its success—whether by juxtaposing the old with the new, between towering skyscrapers, a collection of buildings designed by pioneers of modern architecture such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright, and the city’s signature, beautifully aging red brick that stretches across neighborhoods; or by the emergence of the city’s growing tech and innovation culture that has placed us among the hottest startup centers. Not to mention setting the bar high for progressive urban living by immersing locals and out-of-towners in a world of art and design, by celebrating conceptual fashion creations or by building world-renowned brands and fascinating one-of-a-kind interior spaces.
Design has come to include all aspects of our lives: from the clothes we wear, to the products we consume, to the spaces we inhabit, to the brands we love. We devour it yet we rarely stop to think about the people who make it happen. Those behind the scenes, who drive the creation of form, function and beauty.
We honor them with this year’s Design 50 list.
Considering leadership, influence and vision as its principal measures, here’s those who lead Chicago’s design ecosystem into steady, collaborative growth, those who make a splash putting the city in the national and international spotlight and those, whose up-and-coming nature doesn’t compromise their big ventures, visions and ideas.
Here’s Design 50 2019 and, for the first time, the Newcity Design Hall of Fame—the cornerstones of Chicago design scene who’ve already made this list year in and year out, and without whom it could not stand. (Vasia Rigou)
Design 50 2019 is written by Vasia Rigou along with Nicholas Cecchi, Nancy Chen, Leah Gallant, Dustin Lowman, Krisann Rehbein, Yetta Starr, Cat Strain, Kaycie Surrell, Tanner Woodford and Michael Workman.
All photos by Nathan Keay with photo assistance by Lizzie Cook. Shot on location at Navy Pier’s Crystal Gardens.
The Hall of Fame
These folks, or the roles they inhabit, are so well-established and foundational to the design world of Chicago that they are always near the top of the list.
Founder, Dirk Denison Architects
Founder, Firebelly Design
CEO-Director, Design Jahn
Owner, JNL Graphic Design
Founder-Principal, John Ronan Architects
Founder-Creative Director, Kara Mann Design
EVP-Head of Design, Leo Burnett
Director, MAS Studio
Founder-Principal Designer, MINIMAL
Founder-Executive Director, Rebuild Foundation
Designer and Fashion Chair Professor, Fashion Design, School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Creative Director, Struggle Inc.
Founding Principal, Studio Gang
Founding Design Director, Thirst
Greek-born Vasia Rigou is a Chicago-based art critic and pop culture journalist, largely on the subjects of contemporary art, design, and fashion. She moved to Chicago in 2013 to study Arts Journalism at the School of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC,) where she was awarded the New Artist Society Merit Scholarship. She grew up to appreciate art after years of carefully planned, culture-filled travel itineraries and museum-hopping around Europe with her family. During this time, she received a bachelor’s in English Literature, in her native Athens; a master’s in Media, in Nottingham, UK; and studied foreign languages—English, German, and Spanish at the University of Salamanca, Spain. Her writing—reviewing museum exhibitions, gallery shows, art fairs, fashion shows, and music festivals among others—has been published nationally and internationally both in print and online. In 2017, she founded and now serves as editor-in-chief of Rainbowed.—an independently published website focused on the visual and performing arts, digital media, and popular culture. When she’s not writing about art or looking at art—wine in hand, she keeps up with Chicago’s creative entrepreneurial and startup community, makes lists for pretty much everything, drinks immense amounts of coffee and takes cross-country road trips every chance she gets.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rigouvasia.com