Exploring Chicago’s Design Scene

The Best of Design in Chicago

Whether you’re a current design student or recent graduate, new to the city, or looking to make a career change, this event is a great way to get acquainted with the Chicago design scene.

Experience the Merchandise Mart showrooms through visually appealing photography and stories. Learn about new trends, curated product stories, and the latest voices in design.

The City’s Design System

The City’s Design System provides open access to all the visual components that make up the City’s brand. It also puts a great emphasis on accessibility so that residents of all abilities can more easily understand and engage with City content.

This system is expected to save the City a significant amount of money in marketing and technology costs. It is the latest example of Chicago’s commitment to innovative, equitable and cost saving public services.

The Design Office is currently working with other departments in the City to help them incorporate user-centered design practices into their work processes. This includes advising on UX projects and providing support for ongoing user research initiatives. It has also championed accessibility in digital City products through efforts like redesigning the 311 portal. It is our goal to listen, amplify and design with the community to build better City experiences for all. We are proud to partner with organizations and individuals who share this vision of civic innovation.

The Merchandise Mart

For nearly a century, access to the Merchandise Mart’s design-forward showrooms has been strictly limited to members of the trade. But last year the Mart tweaked its policy, allowing the general public into its Design Centers—where decorator fabrics, finishes and fine furnishings are sold.

The Mart was built by Marshall Field & Co in 1930 to consolidate the company’s wholesale activities into one national center, and to beautify Chicago’s riverfront in the process. Its Art Deco style reflects the optimism of that era, with its recessed vertical windows to emphasize height and regular, mechanical patterns to glorify industry.

Today the Mart isn’t so much about merchandise as it is about business, housing companies like Motorola Mobility, Yelp and 1871, and a host of other cutting-edge tech innovators. But a few steps beyond its main public spaces, the building’s storied history lives on: a door in one basement leads to a steel ladder down into subterranean freight tunnels.

The University of Illinois at Chicago

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public research university of growing national and international prominence. Its 16 colleges include the renowned health sciences and business schools, and it offers bachelor’s degrees in 86 fields, master’s degrees in 111, and doctoral degrees in 66 areas of study. It also houses one of the nation’s most diverse student populations, and it’s a leader in student support programs and community engagement.

Its state-of-the-art facilities provide students with the tools they need to excel, including the only high-bay structural lab in northern Illinois and a new Engineering Innovation Building for interdisciplinary exploration. Additionally, it’s located in the heart of a world-class city that provides students with endless opportunities to pursue their passions and make an impact on the world around them. This institution is a great option for those looking to get the most out of their college experience, and it’s worth considering for your next step.

The Chicago Design Archive

The Chicago Design Archive is the premier and permanent online record featuring Chicago-related experiential, graphic, and product design created since 1920. The archive is constantly growing through contributions from designers, clients and students. It also features the results of annual archival competitions sponsored by the STA.

The CDA’s earliest collection began as a slideshow shown at the Society of Typographic Arts’ seventy-fifth anniversary celebration in 2002. The program was curated by Dawn Peccatiello, Wayne Stuetzer and Jack Weiss and featured images from the archives of the Chicago Historical Society, the University of Illinois at Chicago Special Collections Department, Northwestern’s McCormick Library of Special Collections and private collectors.

The collection also contains material from the Chicago School of Design including Tibor Kalman’s commercial work and ephemera, Gordon Martin’s posters, and issues of Colors Magazine. The collection also includes lectures, curriculum descriptions, academic papers, and correspondence.

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