Practise is a Chicago-based design studio working with clients and collaborators on projects in the academic, architectural, civic, cultural, and publishing fields across Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America.

Studio Gang website homepage

October 2015

Website: Studio Gang Architects, Chicago

This summer Practise and regular collaborators Studio Scasascia were excited to partner with Studio Gang, a favourite architecture practice of ours, to design and build a new website for them. Based on an internal survey, the studio collectively identified the need for a site that was simultaneously clear and efficient; interesting and intriguing; thorough and practical; all while remaining playful and dynamic. The assembled team chose to embrace these disparate attributes and view them as not only compatible, but entirely appropriate for a site that would successfully articulate the intangible spirit that one encounters in visiting Studio Gang’s offices, exploring their expansive research, and experiencing their built works.

Thanks to their incredible communications, editorial, and archive team, along with the design principals, directors, project leaders, and Jeanne Gang herself, the site launches today, just in time for the public opening of the Chicago Architecture Biennial. The website highlights the equal importance of built projects and in-depth research to Studio Gang and, if you happen to be in town for the biennial, highlights in particular the diverse range of projects completed or in progress around the city.

Pictured: Studio Gang homepage detail, 3 October 2015

Pastoral Warning Road Sign

September 2015

Exhibition: 50 Years of British Road Signs, Design Museum, London

Practise has long admired the iconic British road sign system, designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert and introduced across the United Kingdom with the launch of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions document in 1965. To celebrate the system’s 50th anniversary, Patrick Murphy of Sheffield-based cultural organisation MadeNorth invited leading British artists and designers to transform the familiar circle, triangle, and square signs for a new exhibition, titled 50 Years of British Road Signs, now on display in and around London’s Design Museum. Alongside Practise, the exhibitors include artists Sir Peter Blake, Kate Gibb, and Julian Opie; designers Sara De Bondt, Milton Glaser, Graphic Thought Facility, Vaughan Oliver, and Aubrey Powell (Hipgnosis); and architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

For their contribution, Practise partners Shan James and James Goggin pulled their own well-thumbed, Post-it note-bookmarked copy of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (2002 edition, purchased at the old TSO shop on Kingsway in London) from the studio bookshelf, and borrowed shapes (not all of them Kinneir/Calvert originals, we must note) from various sections (Schedule 14 Parts I and II, “Proportions and Form of Symbols Indicating Types of Tourist Destination in England and Wales”, in particular) to make a so-called “Pastoral Warning Sign”. The resulting composition portrays a seemingly innocuous rolling pastoral landscape with slightly surreal and sinister undertones hinted at by the kaleidoscopic out-of-scale flora and fauna, and the very shape within which the scene is captured: a triangular warning sign.

The promise of adventure and escape has always been implicit (beyond the ostensibly banal role of directions, speed limits, and road works) in Calvert and Kinneir’s spare yet charming system, and with the brown tourist signs, this promise has always been explicit, actively encouraging impromptu detours to new discoveries. As a homage to Margaret and Jock, we thought that Londoners (especially drivers) could use a reminder, a warning even, in their congested urban context, that the countryside is still there, for now, beyond the M25, waiting to be explored and well worth a detour.

Pictured: Pastoral Warning Sign, by Shan James and James Goggin

Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of Things, Phaidon Press

September 2015

Book: Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of Things, Deyan Sudjic, Phaidon Press

Writer and director of London’s Design Museum Deyan Sudjic knew the late prolific, famed (and infamous) Italian designer and architect Ettore Sottsass, having first met him at one of the many pivotal moments of the designer’s life, after a party celebrating the launch of Memphis in 1981. Sudjic’s new biography, published by Phaidon, therefore represents both an encyclopedic yet personal life story of Sottsass, from World War II, through Olivetti, the founding of the Memphis Group in 1980, to increasingly impressive architectural commissions for Sottsass Associati up until his death in 2007.

Practise has long been obsessed with Sottsass’s vast body and range of work, even since James Goggin’s childhood, with the visual influence of Memphis being felt in 1980s Australia and Sweden. The studio was therefore pleased to work on the design and typesetting of this important biography, taking multiple influences from Sottsass’s Olivetti projects (Futura Black lifted from the Valentine typewriter); experimental furniture, ceramic, and glass works (layers and stacking); and from the idiosyncratic colour palette developed across his life and career. Colour-blocked chapter dividers employ a total of ten different Pantone colours, and the cover hints at the textural range of Sottsass’s work with type and elements variously foil-block embossed, Pantone-coloured, and UV-coated.

Read more about the publication and Ettore Sottsass’s remarkable story in this feature on Phaidon’s website. Also recommended: Phaidon’s exhaustive monograph, Ettore Sottsass, published in 2014.

Pictured: Ettore Sottsass and the Poetry of Things front, spine, and back cover

David Kohn Architects website

June 2015

Website: David Kohn Architects, London

Practise has worked with London-based architect David Kohn since 2007, when we produced a new identity for him upon the founding of his architectural office. A graphically bold yet conceptually ambiguous mark (is it a bird? is it typography?) was constructed out of the seven shapes from the self-imposed constraints of the Chinese tangram puzzle system. Stationery, printed matter, and digital and print-on-demand publications have been produced on an ongoing basis, as well as collaborations on individual projects such as a modular signage system for Tutti a Tavola, the opening event of the Milan Furniture Fair in 2010.

The David Kohn Architects website, also launched in 2007 (just before the first iPhone came out), did its job for the practice for eight years, but has now been radically overhauled with Studio Scasascia in close collaboration with David and his staff to respond to the huge technological changes that have taken place in that time. The new site further emphasises the equal importance DKA places on projects and research, allowing flexible cross-connectivity between urban planning, built works, research, and writing at a particular stage of significant new commissions and growth for the practice.

Pictured: David Kohn Architects website announcement card & mobile site

Allemaal flag for 019 Ghent

April 2015

Flag: Allemaal, 019, Ghent

Founded in 2008 by artist collective Smoke & Dust, 019 is an artist-run exhibition, concert, and work space occupying a former welding factory in Ghent. An old discarded flagpole was found during an initial clean-up of their space and installed back to its original place on the roof with a flag introducing themselves to their new neighbourhood.

In March 2015, sixteen new flagpoles were added to run along the length of the building, and a number of artists and designers were invited to contribute to a new series of flags, including Will Holder, Joris Kritis & Julie Peeters, Ines Cox, Paul Elliman, Karel Martens, and Manuel Raeder. Practise proposed a design that would be simultaneously universal in sentiment and linguistically local. The result is a simple flag emblazoned with a Dutch word we’ve always liked: “Allemaal”, which means both “everything” and “everyone”, set in white monospaced type on United Nations blue.

Pictured: Allemaal flag, produced in an edition of two for 019, Ghent

John Harvard Projection poster

April 2015

Poster: John Harvard Projection, Harvard University Committee on the Arts

Centred around a large-scale projection installation by the artist Krzysztof Wodiczko, John Harvard Projection is a spring cultural programme organised by the Harvard University on the Arts (HUCA). The season features conversations and talks by choreographer/director Liz Lerman, artist Martin Beck, and Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts director James Voorhies, who will also be in discussion with Wodiczko. During the last week of April, the artist’s public projection will animate the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard with faces, voices, words, and gestures of Harvard University students interviewed on video by the Wodiczko. Inspired by the projection site, context, and plans, Practise has designed a folded poster and a campus banner campaign for the month-long programme.

Pictured: 17 × 11 inch John Harvard Projection folded poster/programme

Sam Prekop: The Republic blue vinyl and sleeve

February 2015

Album: The Republic, Sam Prekop, Thrill Jockey Records

The Republic, a project by Chicago-based artist David Hartt shown at New York’s David Nolan Gallery in spring 2014, explores Greek urban planner Constantinos Doxiadis’s proposals for the cities of Athens and Detroit. The exhibition comprised cast bronze sculpture, a machined aluminium frame, turned poplar seating, photographic prints and a 16 minute video work shot in both of the aforementioned cities. Hartt commissioned Chicago musician Sam Prekop to score the film and the resulting tracks make up the first half of a new record of modular synthesizer compositions by Prekop, also titled The Republic and released in CD and vinyl formats on Thrill Jockey Records. Practise’s sleeve design assembles both details from Hartt’s prints, and stills from the film, printed with a UV gloss coating. A limited edition of 500 LPs have been pressed on blue opaque vinyl, the side B label of which features a still of a car being rolled over (and over and over, as the record plays).

Pictured: Record sleeve back cover featuring detail from David Hartt, The Republic, 2014, and limited edition blue 12-inch vinyl

MetaModern catalogue spine details

January 2015

Publication: MetaModern, Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois

MetaModern is a new exhibition opening January 30th at the University of Illinois Krannert Art Museum in Champaign-Urbana, curated by Ginger Gregg Duggan and Judith Hoos Fox. The show gathers a diverse range of contemporary artists whose works interrogate and critique the authority of iconic mid-century modernist design and architecture icons: Conrad Bakker, Constantin Boym, Kendell Carter, Jordi Colomer, William Cordova, Elmgreen & Dragset, Fernanda Fragateiro, Terence Gower, Brian Jungen, Olga Koumoundouros, Jill Magid, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Dorit Margreiter, Josiah McElheny, Edgar Orlaineta, Gabriel Sierra, Simon Starling, Clarissa Tossin, Barbara Visser, and James Welling.

The accompanying catalogue, designed by Practise, elaborates on the themes established by the curators and artists with a publication constructed from materials, colour, illustrations, and typography relating to the works on show and the original mid-century sources upon which those works are based. Mirror chromolux one-sided board is imposed with opaque white-printed coloured paper dividers, gloss, and uncoated stocks, smyth-sewn with an exposed spine and all held together in a silkscreened clear welded plastic sleeve, into which original postcard works by Barbara Visser have been randomly inserted. The publication thereby attempts to reference, embrace, and ultimately draw attention to its own process-based constraints (inks, paper stocks, 8– and 16-page imposition and pagination) as a pseudo-meta exercise while maintaining its function as a catalogue that clearly and accessibly displays writing and artworks for the reader.

For more information about MetaModern’s design and process, read an interview with James Goggin by Classic Color, the patient and exacting Chicago-based printers who produced the publication.

Pictured: detail of the MetaModern catalogue’s exposed smyth-sewn binding inside a silkscreened clear plastic sleeve

Peace on Earth silkscreen print

December 2014

Poster: Peace on Earth, Practise

New year wishes for peace on earth, to everyone on earth.

Pictured: 18 × 24 inch Peace on Earth silkscreen print, produced in an edition of 100

Design Issues back and front covers

November 2014

Cover: Design Issues, Volume 30, Issue 4, Autumn 2014, MIT Press

Design Issues, published by MIT Press since 1984, is the first American academic journal to examine design history, theory, and criticism. As the journal’s extensive Pinterest gallery shows, every cover is designed by a different designer, each working within a two-colour printing constraint, but also with full conceptual freedom. James Goggin was commissioned for their Autumn 2014 issue, which featured essays on such contemporary concerns as ”Unknown Positions of Imagination in Design”, “Citizen Science and Open Design”, and “Modelling Business Models”.

Given an underlying theme of speculation apparent in the writing mentioned, JG formulated what might be described as a “Bubble Bauhaus”, an elaboration on the three familiar primary forms of the Bauhaus (triangle, circle, square) where “speculation”, in both theoretical and financial senses, is represented as balloon, thought cloud, and bubble. Poised on the back cover is the hand of the critic, as an ominous (or promising, depending on your point of view) presence.

Pictured: “Bubble Bauhaus” front and back cover illustrations

Poster for the Michael Schmelling exhibition Your Blues

October 2014

Poster: Michael Schmelling: Your Blues, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago

During an eighteen month-long commission in his hometown of Chicago, Los Angeles-based photographer Michael Schmelling explored the musical landscape of the region, immersing himself headlong into Chicago’s music scene, focusing on the overlooked, frequenting house party shows and searching out niche and local acts that are not widely known. The resulting series of photographs at clubs and parties have been assembled in an expansive exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, titled Your Blues, that emphasises the fluid crossover between Chicago’s music genres.

As Art Director of London music magazine The Wire (2005–2008), James Goggin was a regular commissioner of Schmelling’s photography, and the collaboration was continued here with the photographer and Practise working together on the main MoCP exhibition poster and a 36-page publication with an 8,000 word essay by Chicago musician Tim Kinsella. An additional poster was designed for Yr Blues, a companion concert run in parallel with the exhibition at Chicago’s legendary Empty Bottle, featuring many of the musicians documented in Schmelling’s project, including Cairo Gang, Lucki Eck$, The Funs, and The Drum.

Pictured: Folded 18 × 24 inch poster for Michael Schmelling: Your Blues

Francis Upritchard’s Monkeys and Sloth board book

August 2014

Publication: Francis Upritchard’s Monkeys and Sloth, Whitechapel Gallery, London and Garden Press, Chicago

Every year London’s Whitechapel Gallery invites a contemporary artist to create a new work of art that engages children, and the so-called Children’s Commission has in recent years included Jake and Dinos Chapman, Alan Kane, and Simon and Tom Bloor. To accompany the 2014 commission of London-based New Zealand artist Francis Upritchard, Practise partners Shan James and James Goggin have launched their new children’s book publishing imprint, Garden Press, by editing and designing an artist’s book that gathers a number of Upritchard’s monkey sculptures (and one sloth).

The resulting co-publication with Whitechapel, printed and bound in a children’s board book format, is titled Francis Upritchard’s Monkeys and Sloth and available directly from Garden Press ($20, email to order — online shop opening soon), as well as the Whitechapel Gallery Shop.

Pictured: Francis Upritchard’s Monkeys and Sloth board book

Phantoms in the Dirt poster

July 2014

Poster: Phantoms in the Dirt, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago

Phantoms in the Dirt, an exhibition at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Photography (MoCP) guest-curated by Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago curator Karsten Lund, surveys a range of artists who reckon with the facts of matter, the nature of photographic imagery, and the forces (sometimes invisible) that leave their mark on our surroundings. Their work is often both matter-of-fact and mysterious, an empirical approach that gives way to atmospheric or inscrutable results. Appropriately, James Goggin’s poster design (and upcoming exhibition catalogue, to be published in early September 2014) employs a newly-digitised interpretation of British designer Edward Wright’s Flaxman typeface, known for its rotating role on the New Scotland Yard sign outside London’s Metropolitan Police headquarters (said to be the second most photographed location in London after Buckingham Palace).

Pictured: Folded 18 × 24 inch poster/mailer for Phantoms in the Dirt featuring Shannon Ebner’s Untitled Blank No. 3, 2008, courtesy of the artist and Wallspace, New York

A Loop in the Lake

June 2014

Poster: A Loop in the Lake, AIGA Chicago

In honour of AIGA’s centennial this year, AIGA Chicago asked 100 Chicago designers to each make a visual response to the question “What does design in Chicago mean to you?”. The resulting 100 posters were displayed at the This is Chicago event on June 12th. James Goggin’s answer is pictured above and described below:

“As I pondered AIGA Chicago’s request for a poster that answered the question ‘What does design in Chicago mean to you?’, two great printed works sprung to mind: one modernist, one post-modernist. In my response, John Massey’s famous 1965 Chicago Has a Great Lake poster for the Container Corporation becomes a field where Stanley Tigerman’s infamous 1978 Titanic protest against modernist orthodoxy—a photomontage proposal to sink Mies van der Rohe’s great building in Lake Michigan—is itself thrown back into the “great lake”, continuing the action/reaction loop upon which Chicago is built. The name of my resulting collage is a verbal riff on another favourite Chicago work of mine, John Cage’s A Dip in the Lake. Hence the repentant subtitle regarding all concerned: “Apologies to John, John, Stanley, and Mies”.

Pictured: James Goggin, A Loop in the Lake (Apologies to John, John, Stanley, and Mies), 2014, Collage, 24 × 36 in, AIGA Chicago

Grow Up Chicago!

May 2014

Poster: Grow Up Chicago!, City of Chicago

Shan James and James Goggin have collaborated on a poster for the City of Chicago promoting the city’s Sustainable Chicago 2015 initiative, responding to a call for designs to bring the city’s motto, “Urbs in Horto” (Latin for “City in a Garden”), to life. The poster is one of several designs now installed around Chicago on official city poster sites and bus shelters. In their poster, SJ’s flower illustrations are combined with a paper-cut skyline by JG, punctuated by the admittedly provocative, yet ultimately affirmative call: “Grow Up Chicago!”.

A decription, and rationale for the slightly contentious headline, accompanied the poster design: “Our city’s long-held motto ‘Urbs in Horto’ is a typically bold and contrary Chicago manifesto. Forget the nice yet tame idea of a garden in a city: we’re talking about a City in a Garden! As we all know, growth is a recurring theme in Chicago’s history. The radical modernist rise from the ashes of the great fire paralleled city and citizen campaigns for the creation and protection of green spaces. From Burnham, Olmsted, and Jensen on, building boom stimulated landscape bloom. With the Sustainable Chicago 2015 initiative, we imagine Chicago as a sustainable city of the future with a collective natural skyline rising from the plains in symbiosis with the architectural. Our rallying cry mirrors that of the ambitious post-1871 urban planners: Grow Up Chicago!”.

Pictured: Shan James and James Goggin’s Grow Up Chicago! poster on the corner of California and Diversey in the city’s Logan Square neighbourhood

Front Room

April 2014

Publication: Front Room: Artists’ Projects at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis 2008–2013, Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

The newly-released publication Front Room surveys the first five years of a renowned project space at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM), with photographs and entries on every project during that time, over 80 in total. Presenting exhibitions and performances in a dedicated gallery as well as in various public spaces throughout the Museum, the Front Room operates on an accelerated schedule, with each installment lasting anywhere from several days to a month. This ambitious series is designed for nimble and experimental programming, pushing the boundaries of what the museum exhibition can be. Since its inception in 2008, the Front Room has featured a prescient and bold selection of established and emerging artists from all over the world, many in their first solo exhibition in an American museum.

The publication is designed by James Goggin and Shan James at Practise, together with Scott Reinhard, and features essays by Anthony Huberman (CAM Chief Curator 2007–10, now Director of CCA Wattis) and CAM Assistant Curator Kelly Shindler. Front Room is published by CAM St. Louis with distribution by Artbook | DAP.

Pictured: Front Room front and back covers

Let's Do Something Impossible: Chicago Design Museum

March 2014

Poster: “Let’s Do Something Impossible”, Chicago Design Museum

Following a number of significant but temporary pop-up iterations, initially in Phoenix, then the past two summers in Chicago (first Humboldt Park, then in the Loop), the Chicago Design Museum is making a permanent move: a gallery and archive open to the public year-round in downtown Chicago. To enable the first exhibition to take place this summer, a Kickstarter campaign has been launched by the museum’s Executive Director, Tanner Woodford. In support of the initiative, James Goggin has contributed a poster design, along with five other international designers (Chuck Anderson, Marian Bantjes, Mike McQuade, Debbie Millman, and Michael C. Place), with the museum campaign’s theme of “Let’s Do Something Impossible” as a limited edition print reward for any backers of $50 or more. Visit the Kickstarter campaign page to support this bold initiative and make it possible.

Pictured: “Let’s Do Something Impossible” poster by James Goggin for the Chicago Design Museum summer 2014 campaign

IIT Architecture Chicago Spring 2014 poster

February 2014

Poster: IIT Architecture Chicago Spring 2014, Illinois Institute of Technology, College of Architecture

James Goggin designed a spring program and lecture series poster for the College of Architecture at Chicago’s Illinois Institute of Technology. The 24 × 32 inch (610 × 812 mm) poster folds as a self-mailer and is printed four colour offset with coarsely-screened fluorescent blue, pink, and yellow replacing traditional process cyan, magenta, yellow.

Pictured: Unfolded IIT Architecture Spring 2014 poster printed by Classic Color