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Bud Rodecker receives Prometheans Award

Congratulations to Bud Rodecker for being recognized by his alma mater for his achievements in design. Each year the School of Fine Arts at the University of Minnesota Duluth honors accomplished alumni and friends with the Society of Prometheans award.

In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humankind to promote innovation and creativity. The Society of Prometheans award honors alumni and friends who have demonstrated the passion, commitment, and talent to achieve excellence in their art and profession, and benefactors who have enabled the School of Fine Arts to achieve new levels of excellence in programs

Satoru Nihei: 3st Artist in Residence 2018

We are pleased to announce Satoru Nihei as our 2018 Artist in Residence. 

Through the 3st Artist in Residence (AiR) program, we create four quarterly projects in collaboration with an emerging Chicago artist/designer. We place great value in the works of the artists in our community who delight our imaginations and open our minds. During the year we indulge ourselves with the creative stretch that these collaborations bring to our studio.

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Spoke in Transit

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When was Columbus Modern?

The word “modern,” according to Webster’s means “of, related to, or characteristic of the present or immediate past.” And yet the modern architecture and design for which Columbus, Indiana is justly famous, was inaugurated by Eliel Saarinen at the First Christian Church in 1942! (Visitors will know the building from its gridded façade and 166 foot, geometric tower.) Other modern buildings in Columbus include the glass-framed Irwin Union Bank (now Irwin Conference Center) by Eero Saarinen (64 years old), and the red brick and concrete Cleo Roger Memorial Library by I.M. Pei (49 years old). The designer Paul Rand’s iconic, dancing C’s logo for the Columbus Visitor’s Center from 1974 just turned 44! 

Are these buildings and designs still modern, or should they be called old, or middle-aged? 

Modern architecture began in Europe during the first decades of the 20th Century. It was called modern because it served new needs, was up-to-date in engineering, and didn’t resemble anything that came before. This was intended to be a style-less architecture that responded only to purpose or need. Some of the key names associated with it are the Swiss Le Corbusier and the Germans Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe. The latter’s famous catchphrase “less is more” (actually first used by Mies’ teacher, Peter Behrens) summarizes the belief of the modernists that the best architect is the one who designs least, and who permits function to dictate form.

In the United States, modern architecture and design wasn’t fully embraced until after the second world war, when a new, national confidence permitted a broad jettisoning of historical forms and traditions. From 1945 to 1973, the U.S. economy grew at a rate of about 4% per year, and economic gains were spread across all income levels, but especially to the lower and middle classes. During that generation, modern architecture in America came of age. Here is how one designer in 1946, who specialized in single-family homes, defined the new approach to building: “The plan…should be determined by need; the plan should [also] determine the exterior…which in turn should express the plan for all to see; aesthetic effects should be obtained by direct, efficient, and economical use of modern, technologically advanced, construction methods and materials. Order, fitness and simplicity should govern all phases of the work. (J. R. Davidson, Arts and Architecture, July 1946).

In practice, this litany meant that buildings – especially office buildings but also many homes – would be made of glass, steel and aluminum, materials newly available in great abundance due to the ramp-up of industrial capacity during World War II. In addition, it ensured that the structure of the building, including its gridded core of steel members, and its plan, would be visible from the outside through curtains of glass. That’s especially apparent in the Irwin Union Bank Building by Saarinen. And in the domain of graphic design, modern principles required restraint and concision, while still maintaining animation and eye appeal. Paul Rand’s design for the Columbus Visitors Center consisted of nothing but the letter C, in many colors, sizes and rotations. It was modern because it’s efficient, simple and direct. Once seen however, it is unforgettable, even though you can’t ever quite fix those dancing C’s in your mind! That why Thirst recently decided to make it the basis for lots of other Columbus area design, including street signs, transport infrastructure, architectural markers, flags, logos and other branding.

So, if Columbus started to become modern in the 1940s with the First Christian Church, remained modern in the 1950s and 1960s with Eero Saarinen’s Bank and Pei’s Library, and received a modern boost with Rand’s dancing C’s in the 70s; and if the city is still being modern today with Thirst’s reuse and reimagining of Rand’s original logo, what does modern even mean? Can you be both traditional and modern, old and new at the same time? 

The answer is yes, provided that the values that underlie the first modern buildings and designs – openness, directness, and fitness to purpose – continue to be embraced and even expanded in the present. Openness for example, means more than simply exposing the plan of the building. It means being cosmopolitan, democratic, and welcoming to all. Directness means revealing the purpose of a building or a design without any subterfuge, so that it can be judged by the community as a whole. Fitness to purpose doesn’t mean ruthless efficiency. It means meeting the needs of users and not wasting limited resources (human and natural) on superfluities that are of benefit only to a few. If the people of Columbus, and its future architects and designers embrace those values, they will pay homage to the great modern architecture of their past -- and they will still themselves be modern.

Written by Stephen Wiseman, Professor of Art History at Northwestern and co-founder of the environmental non-profit, Anthropocene Alliance.

Download this essay as a PDF

Thirst is one of Newcity’s Design50


Thirst's Bud Rodecker, Rick Valicenti, and John Pobojewski (L to R) are honored to be part of Newcity’s Design50 — Chicago's annual survey of design leaders who shape our city. We are thrilled to share this year's list with all fifty luminaries, especially our collaborators Jeanne Gang, Iker Gil, Matthew Hoffman, Tim Parsons & Jessica Charlesworth, John Ronan, Alberto Vélez, and Tanner Woodford.

Photo by Nathan Keay

Columbus Branding featured on CityLab

We're happy to have our work for the Columbus community branding featured on CityLab.

Through original reporting, sharp analysis, and visual storytelling, CityLab informs and inspires the people who are creating the cities of the future—and those who want to live there.

Read the full article here.


In honor of Jessica Lagrange Interiors' 20th anniversary, Rick Valicenti and Anna Mort designed their annual valentine with twenty years of love in mind.



Debossed and foil stamped on Reich Savoy by Artistry Engraving & Embossing.

Group Therapy at CAP UCLA

Congratulations to Poor Dog Group (PDG), for premiering Group Therapy at CAP UCLA! Group Therapy draws on 16 hours of recordings from the group’s therapy with a licensed professional to probe the inner workings of long-term collaboration. 

We were proud to work with PDG in designing the performance program and poster. View our work here.


Learn more about Group Therapy on Poor Dog Group's website. 

Buy tickets to the performance through CAP UCLA.

Lecture: John Pobojewski at MAS CONTEXT: ANALOG

John Pobojewski recently presented at MAS CONTEXT : ANALOG this past fall. His presentation, entitled Design of Music, was the first focused on his work in sound, as well as a brief, somewhat silly primer on the role of design used within music composition. Check it out here.

MAS CONTEXT: ANALOG is the annual conference of MAS Context, a quarterly journal created by MAS Studio and Iker Gil that addresses issues that affect the urban context. Each issue delivers a comprehensive view of a single topic through the active participation of people from different fields and different perspectives who, together, instigate the debate.

Rick Valicenti has welcomed John Pobojewski and Bud Rodecker as partners

We are thrilled to announce that Rick Valicenti welcomed John Pobojewski and Bud Rodecker as partners on 01 Jan 2018. We look forward to many more exciting collaborations.

Thirst 1993, 2010

Thirst has three works on view at the Art Institute of Chicago as part of the inaugural exhibition of the new modern and contemporary architecture and design galleries titled Past Forward: Architecture and Design at the Art Institute.

Gather Give Grow is a film highlighting Archeworks' Mobile Food Collective (MFC) program which premiered at the U.S. Pavilion of the 12th International Architecture Exhibition at the 2010 Venice Biennale.

Also on display is a front and back cover press sheet for Emigre, Issue No. 26, All Fired Up designed by Rick Valicenti in 1993, as well as his Fluxus Vivus poster for the Arts Club of Chicago from the same year.

The exhibition is up through January 21, 2018.


Stills from Gather Give Grow, 2010

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We're worldwide something... Big in Korea!

Taek Kim and Thirst are featured in CA Korea magazine from Seoul!


Lecture: John Pobojewski at Iowa State University

What are you doing tonight?

If you're near Iowa State, get over to Sukup Hall for John Pobojewski's lecture titled "What Am I Doing? Defining the Future of Design" at 7 p. His talk is free and open to the public.

609 Bissell Rd
Ames, Iowa
7 p

Forever Love!

Rick and his sister, Barb, designed the message for Jessica Lagrange Interiors' Valentine this year.

Here’s what Jessica had to say

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Adapting to Change

As President-Elect Trump assembles his cabinet and is promising to reign in the EPA, the message put forth by Holoscenes seem more appropriate than ever.

Early Morning Opera's director and founder, Lars Jan, has taken his reflection on sea levels rising to Abu Dhabi where they are performing now through Saturday.

Performance photos by Cristina Schek

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