Meet Me in Chicago

Mark Busse – No Comments


Chicago River and skyline phone by Monica Thorpe via Creative Commons.

“Why would you guys open a satellite office in Chicago of all places?” I have been asked numerous times lately. Good question actually.

As an experienced graphic design, branding consultancy and communication firm, we’ve had the pleasure of working with a whole variety of clients. From universities to mining companies to restaurants to yoga studios, we’ve worked with all kinds, shapes and sizes, and have enjoyed getting to know many industries. Over the last many years however, we’ve found that we excel at servicing likeminded creators and designers in professional service firms such as architects, engineers, and constructors. That’s why we decided to expand what we do to a different city; a city with a reputation, history, and strong professional services community. It only made sense to pick Chicago—the birthplace of the skyscraper.

Historically, Chicago has always been the mover and shaker in the world of architecture, engineering and construction. The Chicago School of the late 19th century was the first group to build vertically and use steel frames and large windows; they literally set the standard for the buildings we’re still building today. Some of the most influential names in the history of architecture came from The Chicago School, such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright. Chicago’s tradition of architectural prowess and innovation continued on into the 21st century with the emergence of the Second Chicago School, led by iconic architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. As a result, Chicago is home to jaw-dropping, momentous and symbolic structures, such as the Auditorium Building and the Chicago Board of Trade.

More than one hundred years later, Chicago still sets the standard for excellence in architecture, engineering, design and construction. Some of the world’s top architecture and engineering firms, such as Perkins + Will, Skidmore, Owings + Merrill, HOKTERRA Engineering, and Pepper Construction are all located in Chicago. Chicago also emphasizes the importance of those industries – AIA Chicago, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago Architectural Club and SMPS (of which we are Canadian members) are just a few of the institutions that support architecture as an industry.  To top it all off, Chicago is classified as an Alpha world city, ranking 7th in the Global Cities Index.

As you can see, Chicago is an exceptional city: it maintains a powerful reputation and tradition of innovation in design. Truth be told, that’s exactly why we chose Chicago as the city to expand to. Industrial Brand is a loud, passionate, and active advocate of community building and getting involved in your industry. What better place to go to than a city with a 100+ year-old design community? We aspire to the greatest design solutions possible, and Chicago has proven again and again that it is capable of producing just that. That’s why we want to be part of Chicago’s design community, and contribute our services to and ever-growing and ever-innovative environment.

The US economy is in rough shape, and Chicago and surrounding Illinois is suffering along with other states in the union, so this might seem like a questionable time to start knocking on doors. I disagree. Down economies are a brilliant time for companies to take a hard look at their marketing plans and brand positioning and messaging. The professional services sector is still active in this area (buildings and roads still need to be built!) and to be blunt about things, architects, engineers and constructors have historically not done a particularly good job of telling their stories in meaningful ways. Our audit of the numerous firms show the industry bloated with firms who’ve historically relied entirely on their past work, reputations and a string of last names on the front door to market themselves. The rules have changed. Their audiences have changed.

Professional services firms commonly run by founders and partners are often faced with challenges that go beyond traditional marketing, but require genuine branding efforts. For example, many companies use their websites as selling tools, where they direct specific marketing messages toward potential clients. But in the professional sector, where projects are often in the millions of dollars, very few potential clients for an architecture or engineering firm would make a decision to hire them based on their logo or website. However, our years of surveys and studies of these audiences do show that both identity, messaging and definitely websites play an important role in credibility building. A terrific website might not earn you the next big project, but a crappy dated one could cost you the opportunity entirely. And a constant goal for brand and web design projects from clients in the professional services sector is the acquisition of top talent (job applicants) and retention of current staff. Without an effective, meaningful brand (other than some dead guy’s last name) and an effective online web presence, the graduating and young architects, engineers and construction specialists may never consider the firm an employer of choice.

So these are the sort of things that come to mind when people ask why we’d want to do business in Chicago. It’s a terrific city—a design city—filled with professional services firms that can benefit from the strategy and design services we offer. There are plenty of graphic design and marketing firms in Chicago, but few with the years of experience with their business that we have. Beyond pretty logos or graphics on websites, we can help  these companies identity who they really are internally, what they really believe in and stand for, what motivates them as a company to do what they do—ultimately to be comfortable in their own skin. And then we can translate this into written and visual language that will allow them to look as good as the structures they design and build.

If you’re a professional services firm in the Chicago area wondering if we can help you, I invite you to read the FAQ page on this website for more information. And please feel welcome to send us an email to chat about possible working together. Or better yet, take a moment to sign up for our mailing list so we can keep in touch.