Since 2003, the Chicago Design Archive has been the premiere and permanent online record featuring Chicago-related experiential design, graphic design, and product design created from the 1920s to the present. It is a collection of historically important design as well as a living, growing record of the vibrant Chicago design scene.
The mission of the CDA is to preserve significant works of the past, to augment the collection with vital new works, and to showcase the best of Chicago design through publication, exhibition, and other programming.
The Chicago Design Archive began as a collection of nearly 900 slides of exemplary work produced between 1920 and 2002. That collection, shown at the Society of Typographic Arts’ seventy-fifth anniversary celebration, has grown through contributions of personal collections, selections by the CDA board and curators, and by juries of the STA-sponsored annual Archive competitions.
Currently, over 3,250 examples of work by 1,109 designers at 429 design firms along with their clients can be found.
Board of Directors
- Nina Clements
- Alicja Zelazko
Chicago has a long and colorful tradition of graphic design dating from the nineteenth century. Chicago’s impact as a center of architecture, advertising, printing, and publishing is directly attributable to its place at the center of the nation’s water and rail systems. Sears, Roebuck and Company’s first catalog, published in 1896, featured over 500 printed pages of merchandise. Companies like Container Corporation of America and its president, Walter Paepcke, embraced good design. Paepcke went on to help organize the first International Design Conference at Aspen, aided by a number of Chicagoans.
The Society of Typographic Arts and the Twenty-seven Chicago Designers, two internationally renowned design organizations, were started in Chicago in 1927 and 1936 respectively. In 1937 the New Bauhaus was established in Chicago under the leadership of Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, continuing today as the Institute of Design. Type designers Frederic Goudy, Oswald Cooper and R. Hunter Middleton practiced their craft in Chicago. The emergence of Playboy and Chicago magazines in the 1950s demonstrated that Chicago was a force in publishing and a dynamic graphic design community.
In 1978, STA hosted the Icograda Congress that was attended by over seven hundred designers from twenty-seven nations. In the 1980s and 90s the STA100 show (later the ACD100 show), a national juried graphic design competition, was produced in Chicago. Today Chicago remains an active design community hosting two professional design organizations: STA and the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Chicago Chapter.
Fifty Years of Graphic Design in Chicago 1927–1977 The STA’s fiftieth anniversary show featured members’ work through 1977 selected by a jury that included Jacqueline Casey, John Massey, Mort Goldsholl, Arthur Paul, R. Hunter Middleton, and Bill Bonnell.
Fifty Years of Chicago Graphic Design (1941–1991) An eight-screen, 640-slide program, produced by Bart Crosby for the 1991 American Institute of Graphic Arts National Conference in Chicago, featured a broad overview of outstanding work by Chicago designers.
Seventy-five Years of Graphic Design in Chicago (1927–2002) presented images selected from the archives of the Chicago Historical Society, University of Illinois at Chicago Special Collections Department, Northwestern University’s McCormick Library of Special Collections, The Society of Typographic Arts, American Center for Design, and private collectors. In addition, the show included a collection of recent work by a number of contemporary Chicago designers juried by Joseph Essex, Rick Valicenti, and Jack Weiss. STA members Dawn Peccatiello, Wayne Stuetzer, and Jack Weiss produced the program.
Our sincere thanks to: Paul Gehl and the Newberry Library for making the material for “Chicago Graphic Designers” available to the Chicago Design Archive; Ronald Cohen and Stephen G. McShane, the authors of “Moonlight in Duneland”, for permission to reproduce posters designed for Chicago’s South Shore Line; Patrick Coyne, editor of Communication Arts, for permission to display CA’s feature articles on Chicago designers. Print has become a new contributor to this Archive as has The Chicago Film Archives with its collection of films by Chicago designers.
The Chicago Design Archive acknowledges Dawn Peccatiello, Wayne Stuetzer and Jack Weiss who had the vision and energy to document and preserve the images contained in the three productions shown only once—October 17, 2002—on the occasion of The Society of Typographic Arts’s 75th anniversary celebration. During the following year Wayne and Jack catalogued the nearly one thousand images that had been collected then edited to establish the base archive. Jack created the database from a variety of sources and interviews.
We also acknowledge Ron Kovach who insisted that the work had to be seen by a wider audience and conceived the inaugural website. The current version of the Chicago Design Archive site was designed by Raphael Del Rio and developed by Mathematic Arts. Through their efforts a worldwide audience can view this collection of Chicago design. Bart Blankenburg is the webmaster.
This Archive would not have been possible without the hundreds of hours contributed generously by these individuals. We also wish to thank the Chicago Historical Society and UIC Special Collections for their support and images.
The Society of Typographic Arts board is to be commended for its commitment to this project during its first decade.