Illinois Center is part of a five-building complex designed by the famous architect, Mies van der Rohe. In the early 2000s, the buildings within this mixed-use development were split into different ownership groups. The owners of 111 E. Wacker and 233 N. Michigan Ave. saw an opportunity to recapture the vibe of this historic central Chicago area, which also includes the Wrigley Building, Tribune Tower and newly built, one-of-a-kind Apple store. They wanted to do more than revitalize their properties. They wanted to create an entirely new center of the city.
Forcade was brought to the project early, responsible for repositioning the brand of these two buildings and elevating their presence to become one of the most dynamic destinations in Chicago.
Before we could start the design process, we needed to develop the building branding. We sought to create a central narrative that all elements of the project could connect to, from temporary construction barriers to signage and wayfinding to permanent brand graphics.
Taking a truly holistic approach to brand development ensured that we were creating a cohesive and compelling vibe for this project from when the first construction barricade went up to when the revitalized buildings were revealed. It was all carefully crafted to build excitement for and draw attention to this new center of the city.
The brand we created was: Centered on You. It was all about connecting the buildings, people and city together. Forming a new destination that brought new life not only to this area of Chicago, but most importantly to the tenants and visitors of the buildings. The brand let people know that everything about the development was being done with them in mind first.
Once the central essence of the brand was created, we needed to design an outward aesthetic that matched its inner meaning. Our solution was simple, bold and colorful. We respected the classic yet timeless style of Mies van der Rohe, creating a design system that celebrated repetition in balance.
From ingenious construction barrier camouflage to a two-story, 248-feet long building branding wrap, every element of the design system was human-focused. It drew people in throughout all phases of construction and beyond, conveying a sense of grounded humanity in a giant five-tower development while also creating an intense level of intrigue for what’s inside.
The sheer scale of this development revitalization meant constant changes throughout the many phases of construction across the two buildings. We worked closely with the construction company, LendLease, to ensure people could effortlessly navigate the space regardless of what was being constructed at any given time. This led to many inventive signage and wayfinding solutions.
At one stage when the building entrances were under construction, we turned a parking garage into a highly stylized walkway for people to enter and exit the properties. We camouflaged every construction barricade in the space with beautiful graphics, creating an attractive branded experience so people didn’t even realize they were walking through a parking garage.
We even covered typical ugly construction fences with transparent branded graphics that had built-in wind breaks, so no matter where people entered the property, they were greeted with design and messaging that built intrigue for what was to come. And nearly everything we did was moveable and flexible, allowing the signage and wayfinding to be efficiently used and reused in all phases of the project. Flexibility also took new meaning in 2016, when we created a building wrap that became the backdrop for the Chicago Cubs World Series run.
As the development neared its completion, we brought the Centered on You design aesthetic and brand narrative into the permanent fabric of the buildings. This included all exterior building signage, primary identification for tenants with sign rights and more. Currently, we’re working on finishes to the below-ground concourse level that connects all buildings in the Illinois Center complex. The goal of these final stages of the project is the same as the early stages of development: create a compelling human-centered experience that makes people feel like they are in the new center of the city.
The work Forcade continues to do on 111 E. Wacker and 233 N. Michigan Ave. in Chicago is much more than just design for a development. We are working closely with the building owners to design a statement in one of the greatest cities in the world. Our mission is to build a human-centered brand that positions these buildings as an integral part of an entirely new center of the city.