14 September 2017
Zak Group designs identity of the Chicago Architecture Biennial

The London-based design office Zak Group has art directed the second Chicago Architecture Biennial, the largest international survey of contemporary architecture in North America. The second edition of the biennial titled Make New History is curated by Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee and opens to the public on 16 September 2017.

Zak Group created a flexible identity for Make New History built around bold colours and repetition. The identity references two histories that intersected in Chicago during The New Bauhaus–the history of colour in architecture and the history of typographic experimentation. The Biennial’s colour pallet is a reinterpretation of the industrial colour code devised by Faber Birren for DuPont factories. The typographic treatment draws upon the legacy of Chicago émigrés designers who transformed language into images through composition and repetition.

Zak Kyes described the identity’s historical underpinnings as a way of engaging with the present, “we looked at the past in order to develop a visual language for the future”.

The Zak Group team worked with Artistic Directors Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee of the LA-based practice Johnston Marklee on the visual identity, campaign, signage and wayfinding, and publication. According to Mark Lee “collaborating with Zak Group on the Biennial has been an immersive experience into total design. The biennial’s identity highlights the essential role graphic design has played in the invention of new architectural histories.”

The studio developed a bespoke signage system for the Chicago Cultural Center and a half dozen other sites across the city. The identity can be found on display throughout Chicago in the form of a large scale out-of-home media campaign in addition to international, national and regional print and digital media.Freestanding printed and interactive signs, mounted on custom-made steel and concrete stands, guide visitors through the exhibition and the work of over 140 architects.

An accompanying catalogue published by Lars Müller Publishers brings together an eminent collection of writers including Sarah Herda, Robert Somol, Philip Ursprung, Sarah Whiting and the contributing architects and artists. The catalogue investigates the importance of history in contemporary architectural production.

The website chicagoarchitecturebiennial.org presents an extensive variety of content and events that can be dynamically pushed to displays within the key exhibition venues.

For the first edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial in 2015, Zak Group created a visual identity that made extensive use of the grid—a visual form emblematic of the city of Chicago and the practice of architecture itself.