An app platform concept targeted towards tourism organizations, ArtTRACKR helps cities showcase all the public art their city has to offer. With maps and information for each piece, as well as curated thematic tours, art enthusiasts and tourists can easily explore a city's free art.
A fictional brew inspired by the Gotham universe.
The current iteration of Chicago's official seal, while steeped in history and symbolism, is a nightmare of a mark. It's overly complex, loaded with strange imagery, and even racially-insensitive — the Native Chicagoan's original bow and arrow has been replaced with a tomahawk, but I like to think we've progressed beyond using weapons to signify our country's original inhabitants. A New York Times article from 1987 details a time when Chicago's African-American community protested the seal's inclusion of the ship — both its resemblance to slave ships and its official description in city documents as "emblematic of the approach of white man's civilization and commerce."
Controversy over the symbols aside, the seal presents a host of purely visual issues — the full-color version uses 10 different colors (awful for printing), and the one-color version often oddly reverses highlights for shadows, making a confusing seal even more-so. The seal can be seen on bus stops and police uniforms citywide, on signage and plaques and tucked into the footer of hundreds of city-sponsored websites and digital communications. Anyone who's had to work with this seal knows that it's near impossible to elegantly include it within a design or composition.
As an experiment, I have created an updated seal that works well at small sizes and in one-color applications — I kept it as true to the current shield as possible by not adding or removing any symbols or decorative elements. If I were asked to re-imagine the seal from scratch, I'd probably ditch most (if not all) of these symbols, but this personal challenge was to update, not completely abandon, the current seal.
To start the project, I first had to understand the history and meaning of all the symbols found within the seal. Tim Samuelson, the city's cultural historian, details the seal and the meaning of each symbol as such:
The original design approved by the City Council in 1837 is lost, but its imagery was clearly specified and incorporated in subsequent artistic renderings for official use:
• A sheaf of wheat superimposed on a federal shield represents the fertility of midwestern land and its value to the country.
• To one side stands a figure representing the area’s native inhabitants, and to the other is a ship depicting later settlement.
• A baby floats overhead, symbolic of the newborn city; shown in early versions as floating in a cloud, it is later seen sitting in a clam shell symbolic of the city as the pearl of the Great Lakes.
• “URBS IN HORTO,” inscribed on a ribbon at the bottom of the seal is Latin for “City in a Garden.”
After several modifications and revisions, the present-day composition of Chicago’s official seal was adopted in 1905. It was designed by Chicago dentist Bernard J. Cigrand.
Hilariously, a small controversy was generated when Dr. Cigrand submitted a bill for $547 (worth about $14,394.74 today) as compensation for creating the revised design — the City Auditor complained the requested fee was “at least several times what a well designed and engraved seal should cost.” The plight of the logo designer — destined to be perpetually undervalued and underappreciated by the bulk of society.
With this information as background, I set out to create a more timeless seal. By using single-width strokes and geometric forms, the distinct forms in portrayed in a cohesive way, and optimized for use at small sizes (especially on-sceen). All the original symbols — the ship, the lake, the shield, the wheat bundle, the Native American surveying his landscape, the Latin banner, yes, even the naked baby in the giant floating clamshell — are still invited to the party, though in my update, the ship no longer represents the city's new settlers. Instead, it symbolizes all the wonderful leisure and trade that happens on our great Lake Michigan.
Obviously, I don't expect the City to ever adopt this new mark. It would be tremendously difficult and cost-prohibitive to update the mark in all its forms and applications. In 1987, the city would have had to spend $350,000 ($750,000 by today's standards, just to update the fire and police padges alone. Still, I'm very happy with the end result and would love to see it in use someday.
FUN FACTS: When the Town of Chicago was incorporated in 1833, the population was estimated at 150. A census, taken by the city a few months after the charter of the city was taken out, showed a population of 4,170. The males numbered 2,570, the females 1,600. Dwellings numbered 398, churches 5, liquor dispensaries 26, taverns 10, groceries 19, law offices 17, and drug stores 3.
While at Firebelly, I helped to create the name, logo and brand strategy for Chicago’s new bike share program, Divvy. The double-V "sharrow" is a street marking that indicates a shared space for cars and bikes – by embedding that familiar symbol within the logotype, we represent the bike's rightful place within Chicago's transportation infrastructure. The sharrow becomes a repeating element used throughout the collateral and wayfinding systems.
When Dollop decided to expand beyond their northside mainstay to multiple locations across the city, they realized it was time to up their branding too. While at Firebelly, I helped create an entirely new brand for the coffee & tea provider, including signage, wall displays, and menus. Logo by Will Miller.
At Firebelly, I helped create identity concepts for a multi-platform productivity app from Chicago-based developers, Branchfire. With Folia, users can easily create simple, content-rich documents and presentations. The "peeled" F is a visual nod to the notion of peeking behind something to reveal more information — a powerful aspect of the Folia platform. The 45° angle functions as a consistent design element that ties the app back to its maker, Branchfire.
While at Firebelly, I helped develop a new identity and icon system for Halfwit Coffee Roasters — inspired by the atomic age, vintage chemistry sets, and the real science behind their delicious beans.
Don't panic. It's just a few posters that pay tribute to one the greatest books in the universe.
Identity for King is a Fink, two Chicago-based writers, filmmakers, editors, and mischief architects.
Logos and marks for a wide range of clients and industries — food & beverage, entertainment, retail, hospitality, professional services, and more.
Identity and collateral for small bait shop.
My submission to the 2013 Typeforce event. Photography by Mike Boyd.
In a few short years, The Wormhole Coffee has become a Chicago institution — the premier destination for beans, edibles, and nostalgia. I created the identity, collateral, and set of posters to promote two signature drinks.