Chicago has a long and colorful tradition of graphic design dating from the nineteenth century. Chicago’s impact as a center of architecture, advertising, printing, and publishing is directly attributable to its place at the center of the nation’s water and rail systems. Sears, Roebuck and Company’s first catalog, published in 1896, featured over 500 printed pages of merchandise. Companies like Container Corporation of America and its president, Walter Paepcke, embraced good design. Paepcke went on to help organize the first International Design Conference at Aspen, aided by a number of Chicagoans.

The Society of Typographic Arts and the Twenty-seven Chicago Designers, two internationally renowned design organizations, were started in Chicago in 1927 and 1936 respectively. In 1937 the New Bauhaus was established in Chicago under the leadership of Laszlo Maholy-Nagy, continuing today as the Institute of Design. Type designers Frederic Goudy, Oswald Cooper and R. Hunter Middleton practiced their craft in Chicago. The emergence of Playboy and Chicago magazines in the 1950s demonstrated that Chicago was a force in publishing and a dynamic graphic design community.

In 1978, STA hosted the Icograda Congress that was attended by over seven hundred designers from twenty-seven nations. In the 1980s and 90s the STA100 show (later the ACD100 show), a national juried graphic design competition, was produced in Chicago. Today Chicago remains an active design community hosting two professional design organizations: STA and the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Chicago Chapter.

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