Design 50: Who Shapes Chicago

Updates  /  03.20.14
Photo by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux
Photo by Joe Mazza/Brave Lux

Excerpt from Newcity’s 2014 Design 50

Design is the watchword of a wave of makers for whom it defines the very act of creation. This is a new and thrilling turn. A generation or two ago, to design meant something rather closer to “decorate”: one engineered the world, but one designed a needlepoint pattern.

Today, design describes a broad and ever-expanding swath of human activity. We design objects and services, experiences and interfaces, infrastructure and superstructures, meals and microchips, commercial images and hidden meanings. Even our democracy turns out to be a designed product; pundits have suggested that the President is a Design-Thinker-In-Chief.

Newcity’s 2014 Design 50
entries celebrate this cultural shift. For the second annual issue, we’ve sought out Chicago’s most respected—and most promising—designers from across industries. They are visionaries and doers. They are Chicago’s top creatives. And, though it was not a criterion for selection, they may just be among Chicago’s best-looking.

Multiple wasn’t always this way. Its titular multiplicity was forged in the fires of a merger between Tandemodus and a goodly chunk of smbolic. We suspect that other names for the new conglomerate had been considered and discarded in turn: dblwide, several, Morethanbeforius. As a name, Multiple is both simple and remarkably descriptive, much like the creative vision that guides the firm’s work.

Multiple’s book includes institutional and corporate clients of baroque complexity, yet the work communicates with clarity and precision. That may be because the design process at Multiple is front-loaded, heavily invested in listening, learning, understanding, researching: the part of design that we used to call “figuring stuff out.” The firm’s office features a blackboard covered densely in doodles; a good day is when the doodles form a kind of funnel with lots of tiny ideas at one end and one big idea at the other. Beyond the blackboard, Multiple cultivates ideas by staging an annual orgy of design thinking, Cusp Conference, which can be a fascinating place to hear world-class creatives think publicly about the “design of everything.” Characteristically, the firm’s Chicago principals—Andy Eltzroth, Kelly Komp, Kevin Krueger and Dave Mason—don’t have speaking roles at the conference. Like the rest of us, they listen.