Chicago is a great city for designers! Definitely a place where the art, culture, and schools are top-notch. Hey, it’s good enough for HOW Magazine to be having their next Conference here in 2005!
I’m a traditional graphic designer & I started my career almost 6 yrs ago. I went to school downtown (where 90% of the design schools are located) and landed my first job through the job board at school.
Currently, there are A TON of design jobs available in Chicago. Most of them are entry-level, which is good for your assignment. Not good for me, who just recently lost my first job out of college and now have 5+ yrs under my belt. I’ve been looking since June, and have only gotten one job offer (which was not worth taking). The freelance agencies are plentiful and they have great connections with the big companies. There are definitely more designers available than available jobs. But it’s probably like that in every other big city, right?
The design community is pretty good here as well. Honesly though…outside of design schools, the only way I really see the “design community” in Chicago is through the Associtions. I belong to AIGA, and the Chicago Chapter has events, parties, gallery openings, and much more…all the time! They’re excellent about that. Check out their website. http://www.aigachicago.org
What corportations are located in Chicago? There are alot! It’s a bit outdated, but here’s a website I found which might help you out. I doubt all of these corporations have design departments, but you could check. The ones I know that do for sure are: Hyatt Hotels, Northern Trust, Tribune Company (aka: Chicago Tribune newspaper), and Sears. I’ve seen design ads for these companies recently.
(Check BOTH Chicago & Greater Chicago links)
I’m not sure what part of the country you’re from, but the cost of living is pretty high in Chicago. It’s not as bad as CA or NY, but it’s definitely higher than say, Dallas or Denver. I would look into that. Check and see how much it’s gonna cost that recent college grad in your assignment to move here and find a decent place to live. (FYI - In a safe neighborhood, a small 1-bedroom apartment goes for about $1000/mo. The closer to downtown Chicago you want to live, the more costly it’ll be.)
Hope this helps you out a bit. Good luck with the project!!