Design Museum

Block Thirty Seven, 3rd floor
108 N. State Street
Chicago, IL 60602
Tues-Sat, 12-7p

The Good City: What Can We Do For Chicago?


Please join us on the evening of July 14th for a panel discussion that brings together four design practitioners to respond to the current exhibition “The State of Detroit” and to suggest ways that it might stimulate activities in Chicago to improve urban life. Purchase a ticket to the event.

In 2014 a one day conference on the Citizen’s Plan for Chicago was held at the SAIC Sullivan Galleries with the goal of bringing together the best practices that cities have employed around the world to improve life for their residents. The conference was attended by over 100 community activists, artists, and designers who sought to identify low-cost strategies for tackling issues of homelessness, housing, waste, transport, crime, education, food, energy, and urban design at community and grass-roots levels. The project has been dormant for over a year but it is time to revive and breath new life into these conversations.

Panelists include: Drea Howenstein, professor at the School of the Art Institute and community design activist; John Edel, founder and director of The Plant, a project to bring together different sustainable enterprises within a system of mutual support; John Paul Kusz, consultant on sustainable design and business practices; Peter Landon, architect with an interest in low-income housing and SRO’s.

The State of Detroit: Exhibition Participants

Detroit has a history of inspiring creative opportunity and community-based initiative out of the city’s limitations and constraints. From transportation infrastructure to urban farming, our exhibit’s participating businesses and focus areas represent the breadth of past and present efforts to nurture and invigorate the city of Detroit and its residents.

Anahata Yoga, Established 2011

Detroit native Nicole Martin started a pop-up studio to serve residents near the west side of the city. Anahata Yoga offers affordable yoga with quality instruction, and certified teachers, and aims to reach and maintain a student population and collaborative relationships with business partners who can share responsibilities. Nicole continues to evolve her business model in response to varying economic and community constraints and verbal community feedback.

Allied Media Conference and Allied Media Projects

Established in Bowling Green, Ohio, 1999

Allied Media Projects and the annual Allied Media Conference cultivate media strategies for a just, creative and collaborative world. Drawn by Detroit’s creative atmosphere and rich history of social activation, the conference left Bowling Green, Ohio in 2007. Since then, the organization has aided community-based and grassroots initiatives by strengthening their messages and amplifying their voices through strategic planning based on community feedback.

Back Alley Bikes, Established in 2000


The nonprofit organization Back Alley Bikes began in 2000 to enable youth to transport tools and art supplies while participating in a community project called Detroit Summer. BAB operates with a small staff that includes volunteers who teach maintenance and earn-a-bike classes to kids, teens, and adults. As operations and supplies of donated bike parts grew, BAB opened The Hub, a retail outlet to sell refurbished bikes and offer repairs at reasonable rates. In 2014, 437 bikes were sold, 245 earned, 238 were given away, and 376 were recycled at The Hub and BAB.

Detroit’s Food Landscape, 2015

Alex Hill is the co-founder of Detroitography, a website that combines city data and analysis with cartography. The website has an open submission policy, and Hill is an advocate for community-based empowerment. While much of his work focuses on access to food and nutrition, maps include data on art, crime, economics, education, employment, health, income, land use, politics, population, property ownership, transit, and the environment.

Detroit Future City, Established in 2010


Detroit Future City was conceived of as “a highly detailed long-term guide for decision-making by all of the stakeholders in the city.” The plan is an evolution of Detroit Works, which was written under Mayor Dave Bing. DFC is backed by the Kresge Foundation, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In an effort to engage all the city’s stakeholders, DFC created the Roaming Table to travel throughout neighborhoods to collect data and solicit feedback for long-term strategies and solutions.

EMPWR Coat, First design, 2011

The Empowerment Plan, Established in 2012

Veronika Scott’s first version of the EMPWR Coat was created in a Design Activism class at Detroit’s College for Creative Studies. Scott prototyped her coat while doing field research at the Neighborhood Service Organization, a Detroit community development center. Since going into large-scale production, the project has evolved into a business called the Empowerment Plan that employs homeless women as seamstresses. In most cases, this gainful employment has enabled workers to move into permanent housing. TEP estimates that close to 9,000 coats have been distributed over the past three years.

Lafayette Park, Mies van der Rohe

Residential District,  1961–65


Lafayette Park, designed by architect Mies van der Rohe, landscape architect Alfred Caldwell, and urban planner, Ludwig Hilberseimer, was envisioned as a space in which the middle class could find a home within Detroit’s city limits. It was one of the first projects created under the frame of urban renewal, a nationwide initiative to fight suburban flight from American cities through the construction of highly-designed residential developments. Though many urban renewal projects faced harsh criticism and serious concerns such as crime, unemployment, and low-quality living conditions, Lafayette Park escaped such critique and remains highly desirable today. The three apartment towers and one- and two-story townhomes have maintained high occupancy rates and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Motor City Mapping, Established 2013

With Detroit’s long-term economic difficulties and sprawling size, blight challenges every neighborhood in the city to varying degrees. While some locations are salvageable, many require demolition in the interest of neighborhood safety. Loveland Technologies, a Detroit-based business, has developed the online project Motor City Mapping to comprehensively “digitize Detroit’s property information and create clear communication channels between the public, the government, and city service providers.”

OmniCorpDetroit, Established in 2010

Established by Jeff Sturges, founder of Mt. Elliott Makerspace, OmniCorp began operations as a tech studio and tool shed for local creatives after nearly a year of build-out. By definition, it is a hackerspace focused on design, with members creating furniture, graphics, and other objects.

Mt. Elliott Makerspace, Established in 2010


Fueled by experiences in the South Bronx, Jeff Sturges founded Mt. Elliott Makerspace in 2010 with a $200,000 Kresge Foundation grant. As a place where underprivileged youth could gain technical and vocational skills, Mt. Elliott has offered classes in carpentry, welding, sewing, cooking, prototyping. In direct response to community feedback and needs, Mt. Elliott realigned its mission with that of the Church of the Messiah, the building in which the organization resides. They work together to tackle transportation and employment concerns, while the church provides a community space and a safe space for the congregation and neighborhood.

Social Club Grooming Company, Established in 2013

Social Club Grooming Compnay

Sebastian Jackson’s Social Club Grooming Company offers the best grooming services, while being a force for positive change in the community, and helping to sustain the environment. As barber shops have long served as informal gathering spaces for the dissemination of information and ideas, SCGC hosts a monthly series, Shop Talk, which features discussions on social, business, political, and civic issues. Invited panelists receive a haircut while talking about their personal and professional endeavors. Jackson also serves as a mentor to many of SCGC’s stylists who aim to become business owners in the future.

Transportation Networks

Detroit Mapping

Grasping Detroit’s geographic scope—138 square miles—is an integral part of understanding movement in the metropolis. Street cars drawn by teams of horses were the first system instituted by the Detroit United Railway (1900-1922). Public services have since included street rails and busses under the Detroit Metrobus Company and Municipal Operations (1920-1931), the Department of Street Railways (1922-1974), and the Department of Transportation (1974-present).
In response to shifting economic conditions, Detroit’s urban planning priorities have changed, causing the city to re-evaluate alternative transit systems. One area of focus is new bicycle-friendly infrastructure. Current formal bike path coverage in the city extends for 3.76 miles in the Midtown loop, 1.4 miles on the Dequindre Cut, and for 3.5 miles along the Riverwalk.

Urban Agriculture


In the past 10 years, more civic attention has been paid to grassroots networks of urban agriculture in a city home to over 1,300 registered community gardens and farms. Investment spans a wide range of scale from individual backyard plots to mid-size community gardens and large agricultural sites throughout the city.
With over 12,800 acres or 20 square miles of farmable land, there is significant potential for urban agriculture to provide fresh local produce for citizens. Some organizations empower citizens by providing education on nutrition and farming techniques that can be used in their own gardens.

ACTIVATE — June 12


On the evening of June 12, the Chicago Design Museum presents an exercise in PLAY, exploring dynamic relationships between space, shape, and color.

Participating designers include The PatternbaseProgramme x Michelle Kliman, and Jennifer Wandro.

An initiative of Chicago Loop Alliance, ACTIVATE transforms iconic Loop alleys into pop-up urban experiences. Combining the talents of Chicago’s most creative minds, the events feature art, music, and more in unique urban settings. Learn more at

RSVP for a free drink.

Lights Out: Chicago Design Week Closing Reception—June 19

Celebrate the close of Chicago Design Week at ChiDM with Lights Out! Complete with a live DJ, designed drinks, and light snacks. Lights Out closes out a week full of inspiration and innovation. Hosted in ChiDM’s raw loft space, guests will have a bird’s eye view of Chicago’s energetic downtown scene as well as after-dark access to the current exhibition, The State of Detroit. Click here to purchase a ticket to the party.


Friends + Family Opening Night


Celebrate The State of Detroit opening with our closest supporters and enjoy food, music, and beer provided by Motor City Brewing Works.

Wednesday, May 13
6:00-9:00 PM
Members: $5
Non-members: $10 in advance, $15 at the door

Detroit has been shaped by its explosive growth followed by its continued decline. Those contrasts, along with employing creative thinking and innovative practices, shape the metropolis’ culture, values, and potential.

An Evening With John Massey – SOLD OUT!

Please join us on March 24, 2015 for An Evening with John Massey, presented by the Chicago Design Museum in collaboration with AIGA Chicago and the Society of Typographic Arts and sponsored by Classic Color.

John Massey Vision - photo of the book

Tuesday, March 24
6:00-8:30 PM
Arts Club of Chicago
RSVP today!

This event will launch John Massey Vision, the definitive volume on his life’s work, which will be available exclusively and for the first time. In addition, guests will enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. The event culminates in an interview with Massey by noted design historian Victor Margolin, followed by a panel discussion including Zoë Ryan, Curator of Design and Architecture at the Art Institute of Chicago, Marcia Lausen, Director of the School of Design at UIC, and Bart Crosby, President of Crosby Associates.

Ticket prices for the evening are as follows:

  • $25 for entry
  • $189 for entry and a signed copy of Vision
  • $299 for entry, a signed copy of Vision, and a signed and editioned print of Landscape Chicago


John Massey is a design legend and was at the forefront of the modernist movement in American design. He is an AIGA medalist and was director of design and corporate communications at the Container Corporation of America from 1964 to 1983 and research professor emeritus of graphic design at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he taught from 1984 to 2000.

Beautifully designed and typeset by Matthew Terdich and edited by Carissa Kowalski Dougherty; John Massey Vision features essays by design historians Victor Margolin and Maren Nelson and over 100 full color plates of paintings, posters, collages, and photographs from Massey’s illustrious career.

Editor: Carissa Kowalski Dougherty
Essayist: Victor Margolin
Essayist: Maren Nelson
Designer: Matthew Terdich

The State of Detroit
April 28—August 30, 2015

April 28 – August 30, 2015
Curated by Elizabeth Cummings and Morgan Walsh

When characterizing mobility in Detroit, America’s Motor City, the auto industry and networks of transportation are often first to mind. The idea of movement, to, from, and within the city dates back to early European settlers and traders, through the surge of Southerners seeking work in the mid-twentieth century, to the recent migration of young creatives in search of what has been called the last American frontier. However, expanded ideas of mobility, and also, stability, are not tied strictly to the reality of physical movement.

With an understanding of the city’s explosive growth, followed by its continued decline, mobility can also be understood as social, political, and economic. Each of these areas also face the realities of immobility, which can be seen as the limitations and constraints set by the city’s current conditions. It is through this lens and in employing creative thinking and innovative practice that initiatives in Detroit shape the metropolis’ culture, values and potential. Design is everywhere in Detroit.

Guideline Returns April 7th

Guideline: Feedback for students from Chicago's top designers

ChiDM is excited to announce the return of our Guideline student critique night on Tuesday, April 7. Once again, we’re teaming up with talented design professionals to provide feedback to passionate students.

Tickets are limited to 30 participants and you must RSVP through Eventbrite to attend. Students should bring up to three current design projects and will receive feedback from some outstanding local designers. Projects-in-progress and process work are strongly encouraged. Leave your tie and dress shoes at home; this is a casual event.

Tuesday, April 7th
5:45–6:00 PM Check-in
6:00–8:30 PM Critique
Snacks & beverages provided

For this spring edition of Guideline, ChiDM is partnering with the fantastic folks at Simple Truth, who will be sponsoring and hosting the event.

ChiDM Loves Interiors – January 24

Chicago Design Museum Loves Interiors! Various shapes of different colors form a table, ottoman, and glassware that sits upon the table.

Much attention has been paid to the large scale and public spaces of Los Angeles, from the highways to the architecture and the influence of the landscape. And while many of Deborah Sussman’s most celebrated projects relate directly to the sprawling physical landscape of the city, she also spent nearly 10 years with the Eames Office, designers whose furniture helped define the aesthetic of an era.

This discussion group will explore post-war housing, the manufacturing of furniture and appliances, and the domestic interior within a distinctly California style through articles and essays by leading design historians.

(PDFs of readings will be sent to participants upon registration.) Discussion led by curatorial committee member Morgan Walsh.

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
  • 1:00–3:00 PM
  • Chicago Design Museum

This free event is limited to 100 people, so please reserve your tickets through Eventbrite.

ChiDM Loves Color – January 17 – SOLD OUT!

Chicago Design Museum Loves Color | Colored squares overlap to form new colors.

Join the Chicago Design Museum for a series of programs that explore the vibrant themes of our current exhibition, Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles! Meet members of the museum’s curatorial committee and the greater creative community as you learn about and discuss topics relating to Deborah Sussman’s work such as color theory, environmental design, interiors, furniture and object design, fashion and retailing.

Color is one of the most powerful visual tools a designer can use to communicate. It influences our perception of space, shapes and moods, and embodies diverse meanings across cultures. Deborah Sussman’s work was intensely focused on the interaction of color, especially as it relates to our perceptions of space in both two-dimensional graphics and three-dimensional environments.

This workshop explores some of the fundamental principles of color interaction and theory through hands-on experiments using colored paper. Led by curatorial Exhibition Director Matthew Terdich.

The ChiDM Loves Color workshop is limited to 10 attendees. Please RSVP through Eventbrite to secure your spot! now sold out! Thank you to everyone who reserved their tickets.