Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
Chicago: More than Sausages

Amidst the meat packing companies, deep dish pizza, sausages and very cold, windy and blustery winters, Chicago holds a great design community. Just a few examples:

- Pivot Design

- Tanagram

- VSA Partners

- Froeter Design

- 3st

- Crosby Associates

- Essex Two

- And of course… Norman Design (had to plug my firm)

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 1283 FILED UNDER Designer/Design Firm Profile
PUBLISHED ON Oct.23.2002 BY Armin
Darrel’s comment is:


You guys have a nice site. However, I get Javascript errors (Runtime error, line 38) while viewing your portfolio in IE5.5/PC.

On Oct.23.2002 at 09:22 AM
Armin’s comment is:

(Runtime error, line 38)

I know : ( I'm trying to fix it for our coming update. But everytime I fix that one, another pops up, and I fix that one and one more error shows, and so forth. But I'll fix it, eventually.

In the meatime turn off the javascript errors alert ; )

On Oct.23.2002 at 09:33 AM
Ben’s comment is:

This will just supress all errors from being seen, just stick it in the head of each page:

<!-- js error suppression -->

<script type="text/javascript" language="JavaScript">


function stopError() {

return true;


window.onerror = stopError;

// -->


On Oct.23.2002 at 11:47 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Great just like sweeping the dirt under the rug. And nobody gets hurt : )

Thanks for the tip Ben.

On Oct.23.2002 at 11:57 AM
Corey’s comment is:

Interesting choices. As always with lists of this type the omissions say as much as the inclusions. Wherefore art thou Samata Mason, Boller, Coates & Neu, Liska+ Associates, and my own last haunt Petrick? Well, there's not much to the Petrick site, but the others contain information as deep as the sites you presented. Which brings up an idea: sure you can find comprehensive lists of design practitioners in Chicago and other communities, but as an outsider how do you quickly evaluate their specialties and strenghts and specialties without visiting each site? Might there be a need for an objective and categorized resource?

For example, few would shake a t-square (sorry, bad pun) at the design capability of Crosby Associates, and I find their site aesthetically pleasing and well organized. However, on a different level, I take note that everything is an image: navigation and text elements. There is no consideration given to using the tools of the internet medium to their greatest extent. I don't want to be too negative, but it seems to have been laid out in Quark and directed to be reproduced "exactly" from said Quark file. A print designer's solution for the web, circa 1997 (reinforced by this screenshot) of an email newsletter viewed in what looks to be Eudora 1.5 under OS 9.

In this case their impeccable design reputation comes up against what I consider to be a reluctance to properly utilize and design for a specific medium. The design uninitiated seeking a vendor for the internet medium might be well served to keep shopping around.

On Oct.23.2002 at 01:37 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>As always with lists of this type the omissions say as much as the inclusions.

I could have kept going on for hours if I were to list all the good firms. SamataMason was left out because they are technically not in Chicago, but in an Illinois suburb. I know, I know, that shouldn't matter. And that's why I mentioned 3st instead of Thirstype. But enough about technicalities.

I've never found Petrick Design's work interesting. They are good, but not that good.

>However, on a different level, I take note that everything is an image: navigation and text elements.

I'm sure some old geezer, I mean old school designer, designed it in Quark. I know a few people who do that. Very annoying. But did you see their identity work list? that's a lot of good logos. But I agree, it's 2002, no excuse for such a poor internet application.

On Oct.23.2002 at 02:37 PM
Jon’s comment is:

>I mean old school designer, designed it

Ok, I'm quoting somewhat out of context, but the whole thing looks very old-school and conservative. I suppose it's well suited to their clientele, which appear to be lots of investment banks and lawyers, but not my taste.

>seeking a vendor for the internet medium might be well served to keep shopping around

As for Crosby's web offering, very often, companies that don't really specialize in web work will try to sell website design to existing clients, but rarely succeed in marketing it as a unique discipline of the company.

On Oct.23.2002 at 04:48 PM
Jon’s comment is:

A question on the Norman site:

I don't get the full window on my screen. The bottom is cut off. Is this a Mac/ IE5 issue? I find a lot of sites that have non-resizable windows don't often fit all the information in that window, and I can't scroll down to get it. Frustrating, to say the least.

On Oct.23.2002 at 04:50 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>The bottom is cut off.

Is your screen resolution at 800 x 600? otherwise we do have a problem.

On Oct.23.2002 at 04:53 PM
Corey’s comment is:

>I've never found Petrick Design's work interesting. They are good, but not that good.

Robert is very much a word and concept guy, and tends to be real witty, and this from time to time shows up in their work. That said many of his clients are corporate and that coupled with his lack of emphasis toward experimental design may leave you with the bland impression. His priorities are definitely (1) message (2) production excellence (3) client service and distantly (4) breaking new ground in style. Although he'd kill me for trying to rank 1-3 as he finds them all equally important, without one the other two don't matter much.

On Oct.23.2002 at 07:54 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>and tends to be real witty, and this from time to time shows up in their work.

Now that, I agree with. It's always good, strong design ideas.

>Although he'd kill me...

Did you work for him?

On Oct.23.2002 at 08:43 PM
Corey’s comment is:

Yep. Long story.

On Oct.23.2002 at 08:48 PM
Corey’s comment is:

The "long story" part was directed somewhere else. Damn multitasking. Yes is my final answer.

On Oct.23.2002 at 08:50 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Yep is a good answer.

On Oct.23.2002 at 08:53 PM
Jon’s comment is:

I think I'd sum up my first job with a 'yep'.

On Oct.23.2002 at 10:48 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Are most first jobs just a 'yep' kind of job? mine was, it was a semi-freelance, actually I don't know what the hell that was, kind of job and I want to put it behind me.

On Oct.24.2002 at 03:17 PM
Jon’s comment is:

>Are most first jobs just a 'yep' kind of job?

I think so. There's just no way to properly judge that first job offer. You have no experience, no knowledge of who a good creative director is, no idea how you work in different environments. Because really, even a job at the best design firm can suck. It's really a crapshoot. I consider it fortunate that I made it through an entire year in my first job. I was ready to leave after 6 months, but decided that sticking it out would make me look less flighty to the next employer.

On Oct.24.2002 at 05:39 PM
EP’s comment is:

Chicago is home to T.26 & Segura, Inc. as well

On Oct.24.2002 at 10:51 PM
Armin’s comment is:

And it's also home to my personal most detested firm Otherwise Incorporated.

On Oct.25.2002 at 12:10 PM
Jon’s comment is:

And why so detested?

On Oct.25.2002 at 02:04 PM
Armin’s comment is:

They think they are all that and a bag of chips.

They are snobby, bossy, weird, hypocrites, and they are responsible for all those pop-under Orbitz bannner ads, but that's the least of my concerns.

I interviewed there, and as desperate as I was to get a job I told them that I wouldn't accept a position there.

Then there is this. Just scroll to the bottom of the page.

I don't know... just like there are groups of people that you feel good about knowing or working with, there are others that just give you the creeps and bad vibes.

But this is just one man's opinion.

On Oct.25.2002 at 02:21 PM
pk’s comment is:

fyi: there is no longer a chicago thirst presence. it's all barrington all the time, baby. thirst2 (wicker park) is closed.

i'd like to add pivot and faust. both make smart work.

does anyone know if concrete is still around (and does anyone have anything nice to say about them)? haven't heard a damned thing from them in ages.

On Oct.28.2002 at 01:08 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>there is no longer a chicago thirst presence.

Really? oh wel...

>does anyone know if concrete is still around (and does anyone have anything nice to say about them)?

What I've heard is they do beautiful work, although I haven't seen it myself, they pay like shit and the owner (ms. Jilly Simons) is quite the ball-breaker. These are unconfirmed things I've heard, so don't take my word for it.

And they have this as a sorry excuse for a web site.

On Oct.28.2002 at 08:37 AM
pk’s comment is:

god, how completely uninformative.

i interviewed there at the start of the 90's. they seemed interested in my work at first, but i was interviewed by a gay man who got defensive at me once he realized i'm gay as well. happens sometimes, regrettably.

so much for that "we are family" bullshit.

On Oct.28.2002 at 02:37 PM
Norbert ’s comment is:

Interesting dialogue. I appreciate seeing the honesty. Let me throw in another Chicago design firm: Pear Design. We are going through a few changes after being around for ten years and feel that our site is somewhat worn around the edges but I would enjoy some feedback.

On Oct.29.2002 at 11:36 AM
Armin’s comment is:


I enjoyed the tongue in cheek (is that how you write that down?) humor. The work inside is pretty good, my favorite was the Kitchen Sink Records and some of the packaging stuff was pretty good.

It seems like you were aiming for a "cheesy" look, but I feel like it wasn't pushed enough. I definitely saw the cheezines factor but was a bit disappointed in the details, like crudely cropped photos, the colors are just plain cheezy, anybody could have picked those colors and I think that's when designers need to step in and make the cheezy look like it was actually designed. I think I'm just going in circles now, so I'll stop.

But it's a funny site, the copywriting is refreshing and the work is good. Let us know when the new version is up.

On Oct.29.2002 at 11:49 AM
Norbert’s comment is:


Thanks for the kind words. I am really enjoying all the content of Speak Up. I will definitely contribute some of my own insight - if you can call it insight.

On Oct.29.2002 at 12:15 PM
Jon’s comment is:

Good comments on the Pear site, Armin. I do like the writing alot. It's refreshing to find a design firm that's not all trademarked processes with research-proven insight. My insight would be that the typography is what could really elevate the site design. It doesn't have the same verve as the writing, imagery or the 'bling' marks on the rollovers. Call me cheesy, but I love a good bling mark.

On Oct.29.2002 at 12:30 PM
Norbert’s comment is:

Hey Jon, thanks for the comment on the Pear Design site...bling...bling.

On Oct.29.2002 at 01:46 PM
mpb’s comment is:

can i get a crit on www.sandboxstudio.net

On Oct.29.2002 at 04:43 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>can i get a crit on www.sandboxstudio.net

I really like the identity work. The FYI logo is real nice. I like how the hands look in the site, except on the "work" section. It's the only ones that are not as well integrated as the rest. The hand in "story" looks great, it's engrossing and powerful, in contact it works too. But it falls short in "work". What if you had each project held by the thumb and index fingers of the hand?

I also like the colors. I love black bakgrounds with yellow/orangy/sepia tones, so you got me there.

One more thing, I like how the line works as a rollover and to reinforce the navigation.

On Oct.29.2002 at 05:05 PM
mpb’s comment is:

thanks dude. we are getting ready to make updates and modifications, so i will take your comment into account.

On Oct.29.2002 at 05:17 PM
Norbert’s comment is:

>can i get a crit on www.sandboxstudio.net

Overall, great site and good samples.

On Oct.30.2002 at 09:22 AM
Lance’s comment is:

No offense, Norbert, but I think your friends are giving you a bit too much credit for the current Pear site. Step back and take a good hard look at all of the elements before doing a redesign. Yes, the "cheesy" look might hold some interest for some, but it's just plain derivative to me. There are a lot of other designers doing this much better (CSA started it). And I agree completely with Jon that the type is really lacking in finesse. Some very basic rules just aren't being followed, like justifying the short columns which creates huge gaps in the word spacing and apostrophes that are rendered as foot marks. You've got to do a better job with the details. In general, "campy" is okay, but it has to be done in a way that no one else is doing it. Otherwise, it looks like you're taking the easy, formulaic way out. I like the titles of the main sections. Good luck with the site going forward.


On Oct.30.2002 at 10:29 AM
Norbert’s comment is:

Hey Lance,

Thanks for the crit. I agree with your comments. The site is over 2 years old . I personally was disenchanted with graphic design (and clients) at that point so we wanted to do something that WAS cheesy and "in your face." It was fun but it's time to move on. We are thinking of doing a site that is very different in theme and structure than the latter. Again, thanks. By the way, I don't know Armin or Jon and actually don't have any friends who are graphic designers. There's probably a reason!?

On Oct.30.2002 at 11:55 AM
Jon’s comment is:

We (designers) make horrible friends.

On Oct.30.2002 at 11:58 AM
Norbert’s comment is:


One more thing: you guys do exceptional work at tanagram. There are a lot of awful design firms and designers out there. Keep up the good work.

On Oct.30.2002 at 12:03 PM
Lance’s comment is:


You're too kind. All the work I've done in the past sucks. I'm hopeful that the next thing I do will be good. I know that everything I ever do could be better. I'm sick.


On Oct.30.2002 at 12:40 PM