Saturday, July 9, 2011

HOW Design Conference Part 2: Studio Tours

Before the speaker sessions of the HOW Design Conference really got going, I took a studio tour of six different design spaces around the city of Chicago. It was fast paced, as we only had about 15 minutes at each studio, but it was so interesting to see how and where other designers work. Unfortunately, I did not get photos in all of the spaces, but hopefully this will give you a sense of the variety of places that I saw.

Our first stop was at The Post Family, a screen printing/letterpress/design collective. Comprised of a group of 7 friends, most of whom have full time jobs, they use their space as a workspace and gallery and their work revolves around the ideas of collaboration and community. I love that they actively choose to spend their free time together making work and helping/inspiring one another even after they have been at their jobs all day. It must be exhausting, but so rewarding to be making all of that personal work!

Next, it was on to the Threadless t-shirt company, which was I very excited to see! I am a big fan of their shirts, and their business model is just so interesting. They don't actually design any of their shirts in house, all of the designs come from the general public. People vote on submitted designs and the ones that win get printed (and then the person who made the design gets paid). Their space is AMAZING. Each division of the company got to design their own workspace, so every floor looks different and everything was so colorful and vibrant. A great workspace, for sure! Plus they have two Airstreams, a mode of transportation that I dream about often.

Stop #3 was at Design Kitchen, an ad agency/user experience company. Their studio name came from how people always tend to gather in the kitchen at parties.

Then it was on to 15 Letters, a small interactive studio. They make interactive user experiences for museums, like the image below which they did for Walmart. Yes, Walmart has a museum and the studio built an interactive kiosk/table for them. They showed us this progressive map of the growth of Walmart stores and by the end the world is filled with yellow dots, it's truly terrifying. But the device they built to house this map is amazing, and they are a tiny studio of like 5-10 people!

Stop #5 was at Avenue, a branding agency. They help companies launch new products and websites. Most of their focus is on business strategy and brand identity, from motion graphics to packaging for a retail environment.

The last stop was at Grip Design, an agency that has worked with clients such as Bluefly and Rockport Publishers. They do a lot of packaging design and one of their founders, Kevin McConkey, spoke later in the weekend. He was hilarious, full of energy and very inspiring!

A full afternoon of driving around Chicago, taking in lots of different design work and studio spaces, it was tiring for sure! I love to see the behind the scenes, where the ideas come from, so it was definitely a worth while adventure.

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