If there was one takeaway from the debut of Hospitality Design’s NextGen Forum, held last week in Chicago, it was, according to Jessica Walsh of Sagmeister & Walsh, that work and play should be synergistic. This theme was serendipitously reinforced just a few hours later, when walking out of Macy’s—where I gazed up at the striking Tiffany dome nonchalantly soaring above the Clinique counter—I noticed signs for the Chicago Design Museum across State Street, at Block Thirty Seven.
I wandered in to the intimate, temporary space and an aptly named exhibition, Work at Play, which featured the creations of contemporary designers Marian Bantjes, a Stefan Sagmeister collaborator; John Massey, the former director of design at Container Corporation of America; Michael C. Place, founder of London design studio Build; and Wolfgang Weingart of the Basel School of Design.
Most interesting to me was perhaps Massey’s poster for Lincoln Park, a straightforward, colorful, modernist interpretation of the city’s iconic outdoor mecca, with the words ‘run jump play look walk think dream’ underneath. It is simple, inspired, and clearly reveals that the artist had fun dreaming this one up, and wants us to visit the park and find this same carefree joy—graphic design at its best.
As the museum sums it up, “For many, the compulsion to create is constant. It’s unstoppable. Beyond the hours at the office, we create, we make—we play. In an attempt to find our own voice, we may stumble upon a visual language that can speak for, and perhaps, inspire others. This year, we celebrate the blurred line between work and play.”
Right before I left the museum, I picked up one ViewMaster, and then another, as part of the museum’s special exhibition Re/View. In one, a playfully illustrated taco is eaten; in another it remains untouched. It wasn’t cerebral, high-minded art, but it brought a smile to my face to pick up a toy I haven’t seen since the ‘80s. I played.