Graphic design at work and play

Massey's "Chicago has Great Lakes" poster

John Massey’s poster promoting Chicago’s lakefront. (click on image for larger file size)

A new Chicago museum organization plans to “celebrate the blurred line between work and play” in graphic design, with some help from past and present UIC designers and the Daley Library.

Matt Terdich, adjunct assistant professor of graphic design, is co-curating “Work at Play,” a free exhibit organized by the Chicago Design Museum that opens June 1 on the third floor of Block 37, 108 N. State St.

The subject is John Massey, director of design and corporate communications at the Container Corporation of America from 1964 to 1983 and research professor emeritus of graphic design at UIC, where he taught from 1984 to 2000.

The exhibition will include about 15 posters that Massey donated to the library’s special collections department.

Massey's "Lincoln Park" poster

Massey’s “Lincoln Park” poster. (click on image for larger file size)

Some are from a series of civic posters that promoted Chicago resources like Lincoln Park and Lake Michigan, and institutions like the Adler Planetarium and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Others were created for clients like the Aspen Music Festival and Herman Miller furniture.

“Massey bridged the gap between European modernism — the Bauhaus, the Swiss International Movement — and American modernism,” Terdich said. “He encouraged other designers to explore modernism.”

The Container Corporation of America strongly influenced Chicago design during Massey’s era, Terdich says. Its president, Walter Paepcke, was a design advocate who helped Laszlo Moholy-Nagy establish the New Bauhaus, which eventually became the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The exhibit organizers asked Terdich to help with the exhibition because he’s been working with Massey on a book about his career, featuring designs that Massey did for the Container Corporation. It will also include designs Massey did for other clients through his own firm, called the Center for Advanced Research in Design.

Massey's "Copernicus" poster

Poster for the Copernicus Center. (click on image for larger file size)

The book’s introduction is by Victor Margolin, professor emeritus of art history.

Other designers in the exhibition are Marian Bantjes, a Canadian whose clients include Saks Fifth Avenue, Penguin Books and Wired Magazine; Michael C. Place, founder of Build, a London-based design firm that has worked with Nokia, Getty Images and Sony Computer Entertainment; and Wolfgang Weingart, known for innovative typography while teaching at the Basel School of Design in Switzerland.

“Work at Play” will be on view through June 30 from noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The museum will host an opening reception June 10, 7 to 11 p.m., in conjunction with the beginning of Chicago Design Week. Admission to the exhibition and the opening is free.

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