Object permanence

The Object Design League vies to promote independent product designers.
1/3
2/3
3/3
By Jessica Herman. Photographs courtesy of Object Design League. |
Advertising

Last year, Lisa Smith and Caroline Linder, grad students in SAIC’s Designed Objects program, visited the Milan Furniture Fair. What they saw confirmed a hunch: In Europe, unlike the U.S., young designers have ample opportunities to exhibit their work and an infrastructure that supports them.

 

Last year, Lisa Smith and Caroline Linder, grad students in SAIC’s Designed Objects program, visited the Milan Furniture Fair. What they saw confirmed a hunch: In Europe, unlike the U.S., young designers have ample opportunities to exhibit their work and an infrastructure that supports them.

“You were just as likely to see a mom with a stroller checking out a show as you were a group of students or a corporate buyer,” Linder says. “From the convention halls to the small shops and restaurants on the fringes, the city was completely invaded by design exhibits. The community as a whole was interested in this conversation.”

Back in Chicago, Smith, a 27-year-old Texan, and Linder, a 31-year-old Baltimore native, sent an e-mail to fellow students, professors and friends with the subject line “design club.” What that club would entail, other than “pooling resources to do bigger things,” was up for grabs. The group quickly grew into the Object Design League (ODL), whose mission is to promote independent, emerging and experimental design. (Coincidentally, within a six-month span, like-minded design associations popped up in Seattle and New York.)

“The American design scene is so tame, but there are so many great designers here,” Smith says. “Our goal is to help those artists get exposure.”

Last February, Linder and Smith kicked off ODL by hosting a few Slide Shows, a series of ten-minute presentations by ODL members and guests loosely modeled on Pecha Kucha. In the spring, they co-curated an exhibition at Morlen Sinoway’s studio with local design collective and ODL members the Mighty Bearcats, and appeared in the “Guerrilla Truck Show,” a popular local design exhibition, in June.

Yet the exhibitions didn’t address one of ODL’s primary goals: “How do we help designers succeed commercially?” Linder asks. “How do we help them find ways to market their work to a local audience?” Those questions led to ODL’s Worth Your Salt project, a pop-up shop installed at Bucktown antiques boutique Pavilion (2055 N Damen Ave) through December 11. About half of the 19 designers whose work is for sale, including Craighton Berman and Michael Savona, are from Chicago.

While day jobs keep the duo busy—Smith’s an editor and writer for the design website Core77; Linder’s a brand strategy consultant—they’re working on establishing ODL as a nonprofit organization. In the short term, they hope to exhibit at more trade shows and produce a publication as a platform for ideas about design.

Smith believes ODL has found its niche: “[We want] to fill that middle space between the Renegade Craft Fair people working out of their homes and huge companies.”

For more information, visit objectdesignleague.org.

More Art & Design articles

Advertising