Best Industrial Design firms- Chicago

I am trying to find out what Industrial Design firms in Chicago are doing the best/most innovative work. It’s not always the most well-known names. And, do you think that the design community there as a whole can hold a candle to those in San Francisco with firms like One and Co, Astro, and Lunar or Boston with firms like Design Continuum and Eleven?


I’m thinking River west district has some interesting designers. I’ll try to post the names tommorow. I’m thinking of the area off the Chicago brown line stop, directly south of the stop; furniture design, object design, book design, some amazing work.

Didn’t Motorola open up a swanky new high-profile very visible fishbowl for their designers right on the Lake downtown, across from the museum?

The museum of New England and the barren valley compared to Chicago?

Not swanky, not high-profile, not on the lake, not across from the museum, but yes.

I’ll take Chicago over New England any day. New Englanders are so set in your ways that Starbucks had to buy Connection Connection before you guys would try their joe. Many are still drinking Dunkin Donut coffee in protest.

Oh yeah and when did you guys get your first Target?

Lets face it New England is the last market to get anything because you folks are so set in your traditional ways. Chicago is much more trendy. Better place for a designer IMO.

There’s plenty of firms/companies doing plenty of good work. What kind of information are you looking for?

Chicago is not yet the center for design but it will be soon. All the pieces are there… waiting.

yeah… Chicago has a pretty swell design scene… but when will the f#$%#g spring start? It’s freezing!

In my opinion, comparing it to SF and Boston-area firms, Chicago is much more of a “meat and potatoes” design community. I can’t think of any firms in Chicago that are as progressive as FuseProject, New Deal, One & Co., etc. Chicago just doesn’t have the access to the types of clients like you have in the smartypants New England area or in the cutting-edge SF area. It’s not a bad thing - just different. I tend to think of Chicago as a little more “down to earth” in its approach than SF or Boston.

I do think a lot of it has to do with the clients near the cities and how adventurous they want to be with design. The midwestern companies definitely have more conservative attitudes toward design than your SF or Boston-area high-fashion or high-tech firms.

And I agree with the previous post - where the hell is spring? I think Chicago is the greatest city in the world, but we definitely get the shaft on weather… BAD!

completely useless discussion based on sweeping generalizations and limited personal experiences. as absurd and/or valid as designers are gay.

…i’ve worked with id firms west, east and inbetween…the best of the lot are in Chicago…hard working, easy to work with and they care about the client more than the moma…

I agree with this statement-- it’s all fairly “meat and potatoes”. But that said…

Why does geography matter so much? In a global economy, why do design firms tend to stick to local clients? And furthermore, what would it take to make Chicago’s ID community more progressive and experimental? Like someone posted above-- all the pieces are there-- what can we do to make it coalesce?!

I kind of think it’s the other way around - companies tending to stick to local firms. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions, but it seems to be more common than not. Some companies simply want to be able to meet face to face and have a close physical connection to a firm they’re investing so much $ in to develop their products.

That said, I’m in Chicago but have clients all over the place, including New England and California. Some companies are more open to long-distance things than others. I also think it depends on the types of projects they farm out. My long-distance projects tend to be very “front-end” oriented - lots of concept sketching, etc. as opposed to full-development programs.

On a corporate level, things are very global. Using pieces and components for getting product to market is standard business. I am not sure why design is thought to be about geographical location.

On a side note I think it is pretty funny that we all say that we all say that Chicago design is pretty “meat and potatoes.” When I was first interviewing for positions here I went to several firms were trying to explain this concept to me. I am not sure if we as Chicago designers should advertise our mediocrity or “old school” ways of design. It just leaves a funny taste in my mouth. I certainly do not aspire to that.

…and after reading my last post this Chicago designer cannot seem to put a solid sentence together… must be the long weekend coming.

HLB has offices in Chicago, Boston area and southern CA. I don’t think location matters.

As do Insight (Boston/Chicago/Raliegh) and IDEO (everywhere), but each individual studio definitely has a culture that reflects the surrounding community.

We created some eating utensils for eating in zero gravity. Uses NO2 and … it’s not whippets but it’s darn innovative. Our client is slated for appearance OPRAH and Jay Leno.

Other than that and bags for Depot we have a great view of CHCIAGO :wink:

I think this is dead on from my experience also. I do think it’s interesting though that NE is a little more progressive and willing to take risks with techniques and processes in design and arts but culturally it’s overly traditional, borderline closed off and inbred. But in Chicago, it’s the opposite, design is more traditional with techniques and process, but culturally it’s a much more progressive and open place. Does anyone else see that also?