Chicago Design Milestones 1920–2019
Public Viewing Hours:
Chicago Design Milestones 1920–2019
Public Viewing Hours:
Chicago Design Milestones is a media installation that brings to life the evolution of Chicago design by examining and showcasing the historic characteristics of design works from 1920 to 2019. The project extracted material directly from the robust collection featured in the Chicago Design Archive (CDA) which highlights over 3,200 pieces of work from over 1,100 designers and 400 firms. CDA, UIC School of Design & Electronic Visualization Laboratory, and Columbia College of Chicago collaborated together on this project as their goal was to spotlight the role of Chicago as a major national design center through the 150 Media Stream’s unique display structure and technology.
Interview with team members from Chicago Design Archive, UIC and Columbia College of Chicago
For those who are not familiar with the Chicago Design Archive, can you talk about the organization and the scope of its collection?
The Chicago Design Archive (CDA) was founded in 2003 to collect important, award winning or recognized design work, to share the history of design in Chicago, to represent a broad and deep range of design approaches, methods, trends and movements, and to document the evolution of design disciplines in Chicago. In 2018 the scope of the collection was broadened from graphic design and experiential design to include product design. The collection is entirely digital and has a regional, national and international audience through the website. The audience includes professional designers, design educators, artists, historians, students and others. Researchers and conference lecturers often come to the CDA for resources.
Could you explain the process of curating images from CDA’s vast collections for this project and animating them?
The process of curating images for Chicago Design Milestones, from the Chicago Design Archive’s vast collection, was scientific in that observation was key—untold hours of patient looking. Year by year, decade by decade, each image was scoured until 100 years of images passed in front of our eyes. There wasn’t an agenda when we first started looking, no plan of what to find, no expectations. We wanted the images to speak to us, to tell us what was significant—and they did! In each decade, they showed us what colors they liked, what shapes they preferred, and very interestingly what stories they held. Some of the images told us more than others. They were the ones that were singled out as possibilities. From this pool, images were selected based on their potential for animation and their inherent magnetism to engage, inform, and spark the curiosity of any passerby.
There are distinct characteristics for each design era. What are the challenges and intriguing aspects of incorporating the work from both historical and contemporary designers into the unique structure of the 150 Media Stream and interpreting them into time-based art?
Each design decade emphasizes different concepts and methods. The underlying research analysis made it possible to see how the understanding of a particular concept evolved over time in social, cultural, political, economic and environmental contexts. The time-based animation highlights the advancement of these concepts and their interrelated evolutions. It presents an opportunity to review the development of Chicago design history as a series of chronological decades and connects them into a cohesive visualization.
The biggest challenge was to communicate the unique “story” of each decade, only being able to select a limited number of milestone works to portray each period. There is an amazing diversity of works created by Chicago designers during each decade, and it was difficult to narrow down our selection to only several examples. Another challenge was to mediate both digital and analog imagery into a consistent high-resolution presentation while maintaining the distinctive characteristics of the specific period of time in which each design work was created.
The verticality of the LED blade pattern and the massive horizontality of the 150 feet span are opposing but interesting dynamics of the structure. They are constructs we made sure to utilize, ensuring that particular images animate to traverse the unique terrain.
The works from CDA’s collection has been shown historically in different contexts and medium, whether in art or commercial settings and print or digital. What do you hope to communicate by transforming these works into public art via contemporary screen-display technology? How do you think the audience (public and tenants) for the 150 Media Stream will respond to these works?
The installation unveils the use of methods and incremental advancements of technologies by designers over the 20–21st centuries. Tools and processes are an inherent part of design. However, working specifically with technological advancements can be seen as synonymous with studying ourselves. The unique resolution of the 150 Media Stream display serves as a giant microscope to reveal the details of selected historical works which otherwise would likely be missed in small print. The breadth of creative works by Chicago designers shown in the time-based visualization illustrates the perpetual advancement of design, a field that ever extends.
We hope to engage onlookers and inspire them with the city’s creative history. We hope they will delight and marvel in what they see. Maybe they will feel a sense of nostalgia, a feeling of pride about our city, or gain a stronger appreciation for our history and creativity.
Learn more about Chicago Design Archive here
Daria Tsoupikova (UIC)
Sharon Oiga (UIC, CDA)
Guy Villa Jr (CCC)
Jack Weiss (CDA)
Cheri Gearhart (CDA)
Wayne Stuetzer (CDA)
Krystofer Kim (NASA)
Ali Khan (UIC)
Grant funding support:
Chicago Design Archive
Columbia College Chicago
UIC College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts
Helen Nicole Kostis
Marlena Novak and Jay Alan Yim