Design 50 2022: Exhibitors and Advocates

For this year’s list, we kept our overall ranking numbers but organized everything by category.

Design 50 2022: The Fifty People Who Shape Chicago (Introduction)
Design 50 2022: Interior Architecture & Design for Home
Design 50 2022: Fashion
Design 50 2022: Architecture and the Built Environment
Design 50 2022: Graphic Design and Branding
Design 50 2022: Innovation, Incubation & Acceleration
+ Designer of the Moment: Andre Brumfield of Gensler Chicago


Here are Chicago’s Exhibitors and Advocates.

Maya Bird-Murphy/Photo: Nathan Keay

Maya Bird-Murphy
Founder/Executive Director, Chicago Mobile Makers
Chicago Mobile Makers creates programming that encourages Chicago youth to become advocates and change-makers in their own communities through design-focused skill-building workshops. On a mission to engage and empower youth, create awareness and public interest, and advocate for social, economic, gender and racial diversity in the architecture and design fields, founder and executive director Maya Bird-Murphy, an architectural designer, educator and maker, had an unexpected idea that granted her the Design a Better Chicago Grant (2020): to turn a retired USPS van into a classroom, tool shop, design studio, gallery and community gathering space so she can spread design wisdom far and wide.

Anton Seals Jr.
Lead Steward Co-Founding Conveener, Grow Greater Englewood
Organizer, educator, community connector, filmmaker and entrepreneur, Anton Seals Jr. is dedicated to service and active engagement through the use of media arts, community organizing and empowerment to dismantle oppressive systems impacting divested and oppressed communities. Focusing on wealth building, engagement, advocacy and policy, he leads Grow Greater Englewood, an alliance nonprofit that works with residents and developers to create sustainable food economies, green businesses and opportunities for a better future.

Emmanuel Pratt
Co-Founder/Executive Director, Sweetwater Foundation
Bringing together agriculture, education, art and design, Sweet Water Foundation transforms vacant spaces and abandoned buildings into economically and ecologically productive and sustainable community assets that produce engaged youth, art, locally grown food and affordable housing. This creative social justice method is referred to as Regenerative Neighborhood Development and has turned neglected urban neighborhoods into places of growth, vitality and hope under the leadership of Emmanuel Pratt—an urban designer on a mission to change public space for the better.

John McKinnon/Photo: Nathan Keay

John McKinnon
Executive Director, Elmhurst Art Museum
“At the Elmhurst Art Museum we strive to expand on and tell compelling stories about Chicagoland’s rich design history,” says executive director John McKinnon, stressing the museum’s commitment to their core ideals—art, education and architecture. From exhibiting work by Midwest contemporary artists, to the McCormick House by Mies van der Rohe, to extensive educational programming, the Elmhurst Art Museum mission is stronger than ever. And 2022 marks their twenty-fifth anniversary.

David Brown/Photo: Nathan Keay

Rachel Kaplan-David and David Brown
Director, CAB and Designer/Researcher/Educator, University of Illinois Chicago School of Architecture / Artistic Director, CAB
Bringing to life the fourth edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial (CAB), “The Available City,” CAB director Rachel Kaplan-David and artistic director David Brown, who is also on the faculty at University of Illinois Chicago School of Architecture, worked together to expand access to architecture and design. They facilitated dialogue by engaging new voices, as well as sparking conversations about the intersection of architecture and design on critical issues such as health, sustainability, equity and racial justice. “I am excited to see the unexpected collaborations and partnerships that develop this year—not just in the field of design, but across industries that can help inform and shape the future of our city,” says Kaplan-David: “We are so grateful for and energized by the new partnerships and projects that developed under David Brown’s artistic vision for the 2021 edition of the Biennial and look forward to carrying that momentum forward into the future. Brown agrees, “I am looking to continue with ‘The Available City’ by working with some of the spaces, organizations, and designers from the Biennial as well as initiate other collaborations,” he says. “This spring, we’ll start to see the long-term impact of each project to unfold following the close of the Biennial as organizations can now engage the spaces across a full outdoor season. ‘The Available City’ is an ongoing work that is meant to develop over time.”

Elle Ramel and Katherine Darnstadt/Photo: Nathan Keay

Katherine Darnstadt, Elle Ramel and Paola Aguirre
Co-Founders, Chicago Design Trust
“Chicago design in 2022 and beyond will be Black, brown, young, fluid and powerful,” says Katherine Darnstadt, who, together with Elle Ramel and Paola Aguirre, comprise Chicago Design Trust, an emerging, multidisciplinary civic impact design studio connecting communities and designers to collectively create equitable and thriving spaces and places. “I am beyond excited to see the unique visions that are coming out of design studios that are framing experiences and demanding justice in a way that has frankly frightened many of the previous design gatekeepers in this city,” she adds. As for the studio itself: “Right now is an exciting time. We are launching MAPPED, an interactive website to search neighborhood design projects in Chicago, and we are also launching our design grant application for nonprofits and community organizations seeking architecture and urban design assistance on projects.” With Ramel, who is working on developing their community programming in an effort to demystify the design and development process for community-based organizations in Chicago, and Aguirre, also the founder of Borderless, on board, Chicago Design Trust is an emerging women’s powerhouse.

Michael Neault/Photo: Nathan Keay

Michael Neault
Associate Vice President/Executive Creative Director, Experience Design, Art Institute of Chicago
Leading the design and digital teams at the Art Institute of Chicago, Michael Neault works with graphic designers, architects, filmmakers, producers, web developers and AV specialists. “Cultivating an in-house creative studio has been an important part of my vision and the museum has been supportive of building out a talented team,” he says, speaking about the unpredictable design challenges that the pandemic has brought. “During quarantine, we had to rapidly adapt our digital strategies and the team made substantial changes to our website. When we reopened, we had to strategize visitor flow throughout the museum, reconsidering every step that visitors take—from buying a ticket to moving safely through the galleries. The museum is an enormously complicated environment—the campus has over a million square feet of experience and the website has tens of thousands of pages of content,” he says adding: “If you’re at the museum, take a moment to step back and consider all of the design decisions that go into making a positive experience and all the designers required to make it happen,” says Neault. His most important takeaway? “If you invest in good, creative people, you can adapt to most challenges that come your way.”

Todd Palmer
Director, Diversity in Design Collaborative
Leading the newly launched Diversity in Design Collaborative, Todd Palmer, former executive director of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, is working toward a more inclusive design ecosystem. With over two decades of experience that spans planning and design firms, nonprofit organizations and advocacy, Palmer is committed to improving representation of Black creatives in the design industry, increasing design career opportunities for Black youth, and focusing on education programs and initiatives that would allow students of color access to design education. Dedicated to making a much-needed systemic change, this collective move brings design leaders together and marks a significant effort to make the world a better place for all.

Celeste Adams
President/CEO, Frank Lloyd Wright Trust
Celeste Adams has tirelessly worked toward passing down Frank Lloyd Wright’s design legacy through engagement, education, inspiration and preservation of his original sites for future generations. The president and CEO of Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, Adams operates the Frederick C. Robie House and the Wright’s Home and Studio in Oak Park and the Emil Bach House. Strengthening community bonds via awareness, education and programming, the Trust, under Adams’ guidance, provides powerful aesthetic experiences of landmark Wright sites ensuring that Wright’s original design vision is preserved.

Scott Mehaffey
Executive Director, Edith Farnsworth House
With a background in cultural landscape preservation and architectural history, Scott Mehaffey, executive director of Edith Farnsworth House, stirs the efforts to preserve, evolve and create awareness around the glass house. Renamed in celebration of its seventieth anniversary, the iconic emblem of modern architecture that Mies van der Rohe completed in 1951 for Dr. Edith Farnsworth is nestled in Plano, Illinois, right on the Fox River. Mehaffey, also an adjunct professor at the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology, has years of experience managing and developing historic properties and is committed to rethinking and expanding the institution’s exhibition, programming and outreach with equity, diversity and inclusion in mind.

Irene Sunwoo/Photo: Nathan Keay

Irene Sunwoo
John H. Bryan Chair and Curator, Architecture and Design, The Art Institute of Chicago
A seasoned architectural historian, scholar and curator, Irene Sunwoo, serves as Architecture and Design Chair, the Art Institute of Chicago. Formerly at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, where she has been curator of the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery and director of exhibitions, Sunwoo has an extensive background in architectural history, exhibition and curatorial studies that includes multiple publications as well as associate curator during the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial, “The State of the Art of Architecture” (2015).

Chirag G. Badlani/Photo: Nathan Keay

Fred Eychaner and Chirag G. Badlani
Founder and Executive Director, Alphawood Foundation
“Having recently started as Executive Director of Alphawood Foundation in November 2021, I am honored to have the opportunity to contribute to Chicago and the region’s cultural and design landscape, and to work with organizations that make design and preservation accessible to all,” says Chirag G. Badlani, who works closely with Alphawood Foundation co-founder, media entrepreneur, philanthropist and activist Fred Eychaner to continue promoting social change. “I work with Foundation staff and leadership to support grantee organizations, primarily in the Chicago region, whose mission honors, promotes, and sustains the built environment,” he adds. “In addition, I work to support exhibitions, including those around architecture, preservation, and socially engaged art, at Wrightwood 659, a Tadao Ando-designed exhibition space in Chicago,” he says about the Lincoln Park gallery that—more than an arts space and cultural resource—provides a place to engage with the pressing social issues of our time. Moving beyond their architecture and design initiatives that span the Chicago Architecture Biennial; Landmarks Illinois; Glessner House; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, and others, Alphawood Foundation, under the guidance of Eychaner, advocates for the rights of LGBTQ and people living with HIV/AIDS, and strives for a more equitable, just and humane society at-large.


The Hall of Fame: Exhibitors and Advocates
*= new this year

* Sarah Herda
Director, Graham Foundation

* Greg Lunceford
Curator/Exhibition Designer, DCASE

* Bonnie McDonald
President-CEO, Landmarks Illinois
* Lisa DiChiera
Director of Advocacy, Landmarks Illinois

* Lynn Osmond
President-CEO,  Chicago Architecture Center
* Michael Wood
Senior Director of Program Strategy,  Chicago Architecture Center

Tanner Woodford
Founder/Executive Director, Chicago Design Museum

Design 50 2022: Exhibitors and Advocates

Nigarai M Grusio

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