In September 2015, I joined the Art Institute of Chicago as a founding member of the Experience Design Studio—a small, interdisciplinary team of in-house designers, creative technologists, project managers, and media producers. As of July 2020, I lead the our team of graphic and experience designers as a creative director.

This page captures the big picture of my contributions and thought leadership at the museum, where each initiative has gotten me closer to understanding how design can challenge and shape the museum experience and what it means to build creative culture at a 125-year-old institution. 
Sitting in for light tests on a photoshoot. Photograph by in-house photographers Aidan Fitzpatrick and Criag Stillwell Standing in for an art direction test for a photoshoot in the 2020 museum Impact Report. Photograph by Art Institute staff photographers Aidan Fitzgerald and Craig Stillwell.

The first thing I tell anyone who asks about the Art Institute of Chicago is that the museum was born out of a fascinating crux of the city’s history—on the ashes of a Great Fire and in the triumph of a World’s Fair. Built in 1893, the museum was and remains a physical and cultural cornerstone of the city. This leads me to the second thing I share is that the museum; it is incredibly beloved and sentimental to the people of Chicago and its visitors.

While that might sound like convenient propaganda, it struck me immediately upon moving to Chicago—a city I had never set foot in prior—that the average Chicagoian’s affection for its art museum is unrivaled by any city I’d ever lived in or visited. As an outsider, I was stubbornly curious about what made the experience of this institution so unique. Luckily for me, I was in the perfect position to investigate this question.

What brought me to the Art Institute in 2015 was a six-month contract to lead the discovery phase and creative vision for an ambitious upheaval of the museum’s website. If you ever undertake a website redesign of this scale, you will understand that every decision that goes into a website signals something about who you are or want to be to your visitors. From the tone of your copy, style of your images, accessibility of your code and data sets, layout of the page, texture of your typefaces, prominence of your logo, and naming conventions of your navigation, your website is your front door to the world.

As the in-house designer on the project over the three years from discovery to launch, I gained the perspectives needed to be a leading voice for articulating the identity and values of our museum’s unique experience. Through this project, we broadened our brand, built a design system, and defined the experience values of our institution—all of which were relevant to the museum beyond the web. With this expertise under my belt, I was charged with seeing where else this creative tool kit could apply across print, service, and environmental design projects at the museum.