I’ve noticed a few Chicago nametags floating around and I thought I’d start a thread concerning all things Chicago+Design+Engineering+Life related.
To start, who are the players?
I know of Motorola, Herbst LaZar Bell, Ideo, and Insight.
After adding to that list, who are the artists+souls+names behind the logos? How is Chicago playing into the Global creativity scene? How does it compare to the New Yorks, Milans, Portlands, and Palo Altos of the world?
As you’d expect, Chicago is no-nonsense, down to business town with a solid manufacturing base to afford a healthy design community. You’re not going to find many boutique firms with unproven methodologies and cute names like you might on the other coasts.
IIT Institute of Design has been very influential in bringing more science to design, but there aren’t any decent undergrad programs in the area. A lot of the “big names” in Chicago design are connected in some way to IIT/ID.
IDEO keeps to themselves, but there is a nice downtown community that involves the studios, HLB, Ignite, Insight, TEAMS, Design-Engine, Radius etc.
Chicago is also known as a Freelancers town. A great place to start up your own thing.
What helps the ID community here is that there seems to be a lot more open interaction between the Chicago design firms, and less fear of competition.
Our office, for instance has met up with most other firms for social events, and we often see them at IDSA functions too. The Chicago Chapter is also very active, and has about 15 events a year each pulling 20-60 people.
designengine.com is also based in Chicago, and also acts as a hub for the Chicago design scene (you’ll always see Bart Brejcha at the openings for new trendy bars).
i never thought i’d live in chicago… coming from cincinnati. i figured i’d end up on one of the coasts, after interning there exclusively… maybe someday i will find my way back the the atlantic or pacific. but for the moment chicago has been a fun place to live and work.
and yes ideo does keep to themselves… but thats mostly because their office is up in evanston and they are a bit of a different firm from the others in the city. although gravity tank has a pretty impressive ground swell of work at the moment.
the one constant in chicago as compared to other cities in the US is that the IDSA chapter totally blows and its really not worth participating in unless you are unfullfilled with your day job and wish to have a pissing contest with your equally unfullfilled peers and piss on college kids at portfolio reviews.
i was at their recent “mentor” thing and they turned what could have been a fun event into “speed dating” for designers… total suck fest
paulH good point on the socializing between firms… a total bonus. our firm has recently struck up a rivalry with the boys over at Motorola. We had a soccer match back and the fall and other competitions are in the works. Its been a ton of fun.
at their recent “mentor” thing and they turned what could have been a fun event into “speed dating”
I’m surprised you thought so badly of the IDSA mentor event. IMO Tim and Maria did a great job pairing off the Chicago design firms with students, an important mission.
And it also underlines my point -there were over 40 senior designers and management that donated their time that evening to help out the students, both at the evnt itself and thereafter. They weren’t there for the free beer or just for fun.
I hope this isn’t your only impression of the Chicago design scene, as there’s a lot more ‘fun’ events going on, you just have to participate. If it still blows, then create something yourself, there’s plenty of people that would support you here.
As you’d expect, Chicago is no-nonsense, down to business town with a solid manufacturing base to afford a healthy design community. You’re not going to find many boutique firms with unproven methodologies and cute names like you might on the other coasts.[/quote]
Would you score that on the pro or con side of the chart, and is it in flux as Chicago expands?
I remember a college professor of mine saying something to the effect of:
“They’re not as isolated as they think they are.” What’s the deal with IDEO? is it the best money can buy or is it mostly a name thing? How do they compare to other firms in terms of work produced, methodology, experience, and cost?
The Art Institute has a small exhibit dedicated to Design. An IDEO radio, and the enviro-tiles by Insight are featured.
Northwestern has a developing program. Just last year the FORD design center was completed, and I believe the IDEAS program is picking up steam. When I was there, IDEO designers would come and talk to us as freshman about better shopping carts and rethinking pop machines. It all struck me as a bit oversold at the time, like they’d say something common sensical like, “Don’t punch your users in the face when you talk to them.”, and then wait for sighs of insight followed by a standing ovation. Don’t get me wrong, they had a few good points that you probably wouldn’t come up with on your own, but for the most part it seemed like a lot of mantras, catch phrases, and flow charts. Never the less, having access to working designers/engineers early in a college education, and working on design projects as a freshmen contributed greatly to my motivation to complete the rest of an otherwise life-sapping, degree. I would expect to see some talented designers coming out of NU in the coming years. The biggest downside is visual arts. It’s nearly nonexistant, but there’s enough to get you by if you’re so inclined.
Are these open events, or are they invite only? Are the events meant to be fun or is it more of a networking thing? Does the Chicago design community represent a pretty diverse cross section of people, or is it mostly midwesterners?
Does the losing team have to buy the winning team beer?
Are these open events, or are they invite only? Are the events meant to be fun or is it more of a networking thing? Does the Chicago design community represent a pretty diverse cross section of people, or is it mostly Midwesterners?
The IDSA events themselves are open to non-IDSA members too. If you’re a member then you get the email announcements, newsletters, Innovation magazine etc, but as a non-member you can check out their calendar too on www.idsachicago.org.
The events range in scope and amount of ‘fun’, but they are usually socializing events, which I see as the biggest benefit. The ‘events’ range from pub crawls to a presentation by Syd Mead or Tucker Viemeister. Some work some don’t.
Chicago is of course not the only city to have such an active chapter; I’ve heard good things about the Minneapolis, Boston, New York, Calgary and Texas chapters too.
Just from what I’ve seen at my new job in the last month it looks like there’s a lot of design and engineering going on here in Chicago and the burbs…so its not so much Chicago as it is Chicagoland … I only went to some IDSA stuff while I was at school maybe I should check out the next event…