“Times are changing and people expect more than what they traditionally see. Artists and designers are more independent and taking more risks which means new things are being made outside the box—which I think is exciting,” says Anna Cerniglia, who founded Johalla Projects as a venue for emerging and mid-career artists. Executing large-scale art installations, staging murals, curating event programming, building private collections and shaping the atmospheres of locations through art acquisition and design, Cerniglia is always up to something—from art consulting to creative partnerships with institutions like the Chicago Athletic Association, Fashion Outlets of Chicago, Hoxton Hotel, Soho House Chicago, Pitchfork and Ace Hotel. “I’m working on a few projects where we are incorporating and featuring artists into new developments. I recently turned my space into an arts programming space for people in the creative industry to openly chat about their practice. One of the programs I’m excited about is a legality workshop with a copyright lawyer. Also I’m on a board for a new furniture fair happening during NeoCon, which will show off progressive, emerging designs,” she says. But through it all her mission remains laser-focused: to create collaborations that give artist platforms to live, exhibit and perform within and outside of traditional gallery contexts by converting unconventional spaces into alternative venues for exhibiting art throughout the city— from a storefront, to a building developments, to a mall.
Brandon Breaux describes his creative experience as comprised of painting, sculpture, web, video, print and interactive projects. Widely known as the artist behind all three of Chance the Rapper’s album covers, Breaux has an understanding of what inspires an audience and what moves the culture, as he puts it. His primary goal? To produce creative solutions, with authentic sensibility and an undeniable aesthetic. Mission accomplished.
The Normal Studio
“This idea that we are starting a new decade gives us permission to break with old ideas and experiment with new ones,” says Renata Graw. “I am excited to see how the year—and the decade ahead—pans out.” The founder of The Normal Studio, she also co-founded the award-winning Plural, served as vice-president of AIGA Chicago and taught graphic design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. But her multidisciplinary design practice has always been inclusive and collaborative. “There is one particular project I am working on that is super committed to inclusive design, and I think this is something we should all be striving for: to provide rich experiences to our fellow humans.”
Pitch Design Union
Sleek designs, crisp lines, bold colors. Margot Harrington’s Pitch Design Union takes a client’s graphic ideas, amps them up, and throws them back to the world in a way that won’t be overlooked. Recent projects include contributions to Bitch Magazine, and working with environmentally focused companies. The company understands branding and design is more than the initial impact. “I want to see people put their money where their mouth is,” Harrington says about upcoming design. “With the election this year, there’s a lot of talk around politics, and I’d love to see people thinking more critically about that and how their small choices can make big or small change.”
From its humble beginnings as a small showroom in the Merchandise Mart, custom furniture and home furnishings design company Holly Hunt has made leaps in the fifteen years that Joannah Kornak has been leading the team alongside Holly. Kornak’s oeuvre as an interior designer includes collaborations with Armani and Gucci and a sultry showhouse design for the Showtime series “Californication.” Of the design scene of the city, Kornak is optimistic. “We have great talent here and there are no limitations to the future of Chicago’s design landscape.”
Todd Heiser and Brian Vitale
Co-managing directors of Gensler’s Chicago office, Todd Heiser and Brian Vitale have made strides in the architecture industry. While both worked on the five-story neo-Gothic Gratz Center at Fourth Presbyterian Church off of the Magnificent Mile, their personal approaches are different. Todd’s leadership comes from experience in workplace strategies as Brian strives to “find the poetic in the everyday.” Together, their projects, and Gensler as a whole, represent a breadth of technique and possibility.
“The Someoddpilot team is in the midst of writing and designing our first studio monograph that draws out our history and progression from a two-person record label that started in 1999 to a design agency of thirty people” says founder Chris Eichenseer. But they haven’t forgotten their local roots. “Public Works, our experimental gallery space, is important to us and the local community as it is a hub for critical exchange, a space to engage with art outside of the traditional gallery experience, and, more than anything, it’s fun and accessible.” Of Chicago’s design future, Eichenseer, ever forward-thinking, says: “Digital experiences are becoming more and more seamless with our physical experiences. Digital is no longer considered an add-on to the physical engagement someone has with a brand but a requirement—every pop-up shop, retail location, and brand activation has some digital component that integrates with that moment. Digital has become a necessary conduit for people to interact with brands, and the quality of that experience is largely the deciding factor of whether or not a person has allegiance to the brand. It ultimately facilitates a greater experience than advertising; digital experiences are a doorway into participating with a brand but also a whole network within that brand that weaves aesthetic interest, moral interest and social interest,” he says. “As part of the Chicago design scene, we shape these types of experiences with the global clients we work with that will later inform the larger landscape of design.”
Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi
“We’re splitting our time, as usual, between self-initiated projects—books, exhibitions, performances—and commissioned work for clients—more books, music packaging, murals. We hope to keep muddying the waters between the art and design industries, finding self-realization in service, and service in self-realization,” says Nick Butcher, one part of the Sonnenzimmer duo. “We are working on a self-published and co-financed monograph of our work since 2006, via Kickstarter,” adds Nadine Nakanishi. The duo hope that Sonnenzimmer can help artists envision a working studio that takes confidence in self-identification and expression. “We all can find more freedom and solutions in bending back the confinements of commodification,” she says. “It took us being around a lot of different molds until we could find our own shape we wanted to make. We hope that by being in the art ecology of our city, not waiting for things to be handed to us, but by self-organization, service and vision, we can be a positive force for solutions in finding workplaces for people who need space in dreams, working with their hands, and being themselves.”
Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth
Parsons & Charlesworth
Tim Parsons and Jessica Charlesworth founded their art and design studio to explore how object design can play a greater cultural role in the exploration of subjects such as climate change, personal survival and happiness. Bringing together objects, exhibitions, texts and images, Parsons & Charlesworth became just that. “We’re hopeful that the landscape of design will continue to expand its borders and embrace a broader range of practices,” says Parsons, looking to Chicago’s design future. “We are working on a large-scale installation for the seventeenth Venice Architecture Biennale that opens in May 2020,” he says. “This extends our ‘Catalog for the Post-Human’ project—a satirical artwork that comments on the ethical implications of human enhancement in relation to the future of work.”
Norman Teague with Daniel Overbey and Kwabena Ankobiah
Norman Teague Design, UIC, blkHaUS
“Chicago’s design scene is on fire and the light of Chicago Architecture Biennial has added optics on the fact that design justices have a ton of changemakers from parts of the city that rarely gets light,” says Norman Teague, lead designer and founder of Norman Teague design studios, educator and co-founder of blkHaUS, a Chicago-based, socially focused design studio the name of which was inspired by the bauhaus. “Design is HOT and I think people are planning new things in new disciplines that require the hands and the mind. New value added to craft and respected maker positIons will pop up and stay up,” he says. “I see art and design as an essentIal piece in reviving our lack of equity, but also being the cultural hub that Chicago is known to be.” Known for using design as an agent for change and as a mechanism to uplift and transform marginal communities, Teague is excited for new and innovatIve spaces. “I’m excited about young leaders taking charge and using their talents for jusIce,” he says. Case in point: Teague works alongside Daniel Overbey and Kwabena Ankobiah—who he introduces as two brilliant and driven young designers of color. Overbey and Ankobiah are investIgatIng the ways in which they fit into the bigger scheme of design and how they can apply the skills taken from studying design at Columbia College Chicago and UIC, respectively. Reminiscent of their time together at the studio, “thinking and sketching and building and organizing together with beautIful outcomes,” Teague stresses the importance of striving to instigate greater inclusion of black and brown narratives in the history of design as well as to promote design’s relevance to contemporary communities of color in order to can thrive and be seated at the tables of power influencing contemporary urban and social design. “It’s awesome to think about work that respects the neighborhood I come from,” he says.
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