Chicago Design: Unfolded

By: Lauren Wittmann

Being a graphic design student, I’m drawn to anything related to art, craft, culture, and design. So when I was told about the Chicago Design Museum I was eager to check it out.

The Chicago Design Museum is a small museum space that features mostly local, but sometimes global, artists and designers. The work is displayed in an interactive and personable environment. It is located on the third floor of a downtown mall on State Street. With free admission, the CDM runs on donations and sponsorships. They have over 90 volunteers and partner with many non-for-profit organizations and companies. They also have a small gift shop where you can purchase a variety of prints, art, posters, and books. Some of the exclusive products you can find there include a signed copy of John Massey Vision, NSFW: Cards Against Humanity Design Pack, and limited Edition Landscape Chicago prints.

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At first glance you wouldn’t think the space was a museum at all. It looks more like a studio space. The walls and floor had an industrial feel, being concrete and plywood with large windows. The lights were dim and there were many installations hanging from the ceiling. I later learned that the exhibition I saw was called Unfolded: Community Show on Paper. It featured submissions from around the world that focused on using paper as the main medium. There were examples of paper products, contemporary art, fashion design, engineering, and pieces that experimented with paper and light. It showcased over 40 different artists work. Some of the most interesting pieces included a cardboard model of a record player, recycled paper menu cards, camera models folded from multi-coloured cardstock, and a life-size paper cut dress.

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The Chicago Design Museum partners with many well-known companies such as Block Thirty Seven, Threadless, and Simple Truth. One of CDM’s biggest collaborations was with Cards Against Humanity. I own the game myself, and so when I saw the exclusive Design Pack edition I knew I had to get it. Upon opening the pack later that day, I was unpleasantly surprised to find that the cards were terribly vulgar. I was expecting the cards to FullSizeRender 6.jpgcontain words and phrases related to modern and historical design; and from looking at the packaging I had no reason to assume otherwise. I read online that the collaboration was actually inspired by George Carlin’s monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”. The Chicago Design Museum Team invited 30 designers to submit their takes on it by creating a design inspired by one of the seven words. I now understand why it was called the design pack, but am still a bit disappointed in the fact that they aren’t really meant to be played, and are more of a novelty.

With ever-changing exhibitions and layouts, including, New Horizon: Architecture from Ireland, The State of Detroit, Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles!, and Work at Play; The Chicago Design Museum is somewhere I would stop by again if I found my self back in the stunning city of Chicago.


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