Raising the Barn

The Village of Goodfield welcomes the Conklin Players back to the Barn.

If you had told Mary Simon two years ago that the Barn would be rebuilt and booking future performances, she wouldn’t have believed you. The director of the Conklin Players was sure that her turn in local theater was up. The Barn II in Goodfield, the theater troupe’s longtime home, had closed in the summer of 2015 after irreparable wind damage rendered the building unsafe. Undeterred, Simon moved her operations to Five Points Washington, where the troupe performed until the end of 2017.

“I was giving everything we made at Five Points to the troupe to try to keep them solvent,” she recalls. “And then I couldn’t afford to do it anymore. I had cashed out my insurance policies. I borrowed against things. My credit card debt was huge… I was tapped out.” But just two weeks after Simon gave up, Abby Reel walked into her life and proposed a plan that turned everything around.

A Storied History
A native of nearby Congerville, Abby Reel essentially grew up with The Barn’s cast of colorful characters as a backdrop. Her parents, Les and Carolyn Reel, were huge supporters of the theater—attending performances regularly, becoming friends with Simon and founder Chaunce Conklin, and encouraging their daughter to join—which she did as a teenager, working there before heading off to college.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and Reel is now owner of the Barn III, still under construction. The new venue is set to open in February with support from its community, a massive fundraising effort, and a sizable loan from Morton Community Bank. You know what they say about it taking a village. Well, it took that and more.

Although Abby Reel and Mary Simon act as partners, Simon is quick to point out that Reel is the boss—“It’s her nickel,” she explains. No doubt there’s a mutual affection and respect between the two. Several times during our conversation, Simon leaned close to Reel, patted her hand and mentioned how grateful she is to her for saving the Barn—not only for herself but for her beloved troupe, who were displaced when the last incarnation went out of business.

“We make decisions together, collaborate [and] compromise,” Reel notes. “And I think it’s really interesting how similar we are… in terms of how we think about taking care of people.” In fact, before embarking on their partnership, Reel, a licensed therapist, asked Simon to take a personality test. She had an inkling that they shared a lot of common traits and wanted to know how they would work together. Read the rest here.

Innovations in Neuroscience

It’s projected that more than 12 million Americans—nearly one in 25—will suffer from a neurodegenerative disorder such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS), Parkinson’s or dementia within the next 30 years. These diseases have lasting effects, not only for patients who live with the condition, gradually losing their physical or mental capabilities, but also the caregivers and family members who suffer emotionally and financially.

“Some studies argue that neurological conditions cause the greatest effect on lost ‘quality-of-life years’ compared to non-neurological conditions,” says Dr. Chris Zallek, neuromuscular disorders specialist with OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute (INI). “One reason neurological conditions seem so common and are increasingly present in the population is because our population is aging.” It’s a national epidemic with a significant local connection.

In collaboration with the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria (UICOMP), health professionals at OSF IN are making major strides in research to help detect and diagnose patients earlier, thus helping them manage the effects of their disease for a better quality of life. But research requires investment.

Two retired Caterpillar executives—both diagnosed with neurological disorders—have been on the frontlines of advocacy, raising money and awareness for their related causes. First diagnosed with MS more than 40 years ago, Larry Wallden reorganized the local MS Council to ensure that local funding stayed in central Illinois, while Ed Rapp, diagnosed with ALS in 2015, founded the Stay Strong vs. ALS charitable fund to find a cure and bring assistive technologies to others suffering from the disease. Their work—and that of many others—has been instrumental in putting Peoria on the map for neuroscience innovations and the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. Read the rest here.

Breathing Life into an Historic Building

When Raphael and Katie Couri Rodolfi purchased the F. Meyer Block Building on Adams Street in 2017, they acquired a little slice of Peoria history. Built in 1885 as Meyer Hardware, the structure has seen its share of tenants over nearly 135 years, weathering economies good and bad. Having set up their own ventures in the building—alongside a pair of other businesses—the Rodolfis are in it for the long haul.

The entrepreneurial couple has longed to open shop in Peoria, initially setting their sights on finding a location along West Main Street near their home. When they couldn’t find the right space for their needs, they expanded their search to the Warehouse District.

“We really liked everything that was happening down here. The city had redone the streets, making it more pedestrian-friendly. Sugar [Wood-Fired Bistro] was established and Zion [Coffee Bar] was moving in,” Katie recalls. “So all of that felt more like ‘city life.’ We lived in Chicago for a number of years, and Paris on and off, so we appreciate pedestrian-friendly cities and all the joy that can come with that.”

The addition of rehabbed loft apartments within walking distance—including Cooperage 214, Winkler Lofts and Persimmon Lofts—also sealed their resolve to put their roots downtown. Shortly after purchasing the building, Raphael moved his video production company, Videogenique, into one of the open office spaces. “The structure has a lot of character, which is 100 percent what we love about it,” he explains. While his large, open space on the first floor remains largely unchanged, he quickly went to work updating the other spaces to accommodate potential tenants. “We made mostly cosmetic changes like painting, tearing out old carpet and replacing acoustic ceiling tiles with metal tiles. It made a huge difference.”

Read the rest here.

Building a Chamber

Maria Galindo and her brothers César and Arturo Vargas are first-generation Americans. Their father and grandfather first came from Mexico to the United States in the 1960s through the federal government’s bracero program, which allowed temporary guest workers into the country to work in the fields of the southwestern states. The entire family emigrated from Mexico in 1974.

“My father chose to move to Illinois, landing a factory job at Butternut Bakery, so he didn’t have to work the fields,” César explains. “Our family was part of a new wave of immigrants settling in Peoria.” They settled on the city’s south side, where Maria, César, Arturo and their four siblings grew up and attended school.

Today, César is an English as Second Language (ESL) teacher in Peoria Public Schools, helping the next generation of Spanish-speaking students achieve success in their education. Arturo, an artist, and his wife Carla opened Casa de Arte in Peoria’s Warehouse District last fall; while Maria is a teacher’s aide at the Valeska Hinton Center, pursing her degree in early childhood education while operating the Tianguis outdoor market in the summer. All are active in the Hispanic business community, but it was an outsider who helped them start up the Peoria Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (PHCC).

Enter John Lamb, attorney and global communicator for the Caterpillar Latino Connection, a resource group for Cat’s Latino employees. Lamb’s ties to the Hispanic community go back to his college days, when he spent a summer in Mexico doing missionary work. Upon graduating, he worked in Santiago, Chile for a few years before returning to his hometown of Nashville, where he served on the board of the Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. After attending law school in Chicago, he joined Cat Financial supporting its Latin American subsidiaries, moving back to Santiago in 2012 before transferring to Peoria in 2016. Read the full article here.

Putting Your Best Font Forward

Finding the perfect typeface for your next project takes skill and know-how. Here we put together three different takes on type and why they work so well.

Type says a lot about a brand. Letters are a language in themselves, communicating personality traits like sophistication, simplicity, and whimsy. They can shout or they can whisper. It’s also very subjective, so knowing your audience is critical. With so many typefaces to choose from, it can be overwhelming—and nearly impossible—to make the right choice for your client.  Read the rest of the article here.

 

Sustainable Packaging Options

So many eco-friendly packages are reminiscent of brown paper sacks—boring, colorless, no personality. The materials, themselves, can be difficult to navigate from a design perspective to make them more palatable, and avoid the use of harmful glues, inks, and bindings. Here, four firms have successfully navigated the eco terrain to come up with tactile and beautiful design solutions that meet the strict recycling, reusable, or biodegradable packaging standards. Read the rest here.

Designers Lead the Charge in the Retail Revolution

Although we’ve seen many huge retailers downsize (like the Gap) and some close altogether (Toys R Us), you’d be surprised to know that there was a 58% increase in store openings in 2017, according to a study by Fung Global Retail and Technology. Amazon even made the leap to brick and mortar through pop-up stores and by purchasing Whole Foods. Surprisingly, a lot of this has to do with Gen Z and millennials who prefer to shop in-store vs. online. Granted, they gather intel and find the items online, but then head to an actual store to make the purchase.

This is good news for brands and designers who are marketing to these segments. Direct mail, gift cards and packaging still play an indelible role in purchasing decisions at the store. According to Liz Burnett, principal at Matchbox Studio in Dallas, “As consumer behavior changes, brands are starting to design packaging and in-store experiences with social media in mind.” She cites a study by Contract Packaging Association that says, “Nearly 40% of consumers say they’ll regularly share product packaging that is ‘gifty’ or ‘interesting’ on social media.” With that in mind, she says, “Thoughtfully designed packaging and collateral pieces entice customers to share products with their followers on Instagram, which can boost brand awareness and word-of-mouth.” Read the rest here.

Finding Your Way: Designing Functional & Beautiful Maps

Graphic design is all about solving problems and making things functional and easy to understand, and wayfinding materials such as signs and maps aren’t the exception. In fact, they’re the rule. If the information is wrong or misunderstood, there can be deadly consequences. But not all maps are life and death. Some can be really fun while providing factual information, such as maps for parks, playgrounds, museums, and more.

One company that knows how to put the fun in mapmaking is Visual Maps based in Copenhagen, Denmark. They’ve designed colorful, richly detailed maps for parks all over the globe for the past 20 years. “It started with an illustration for a DUPLO universe on a LEGO package I did, which was spotted in Legoland, which then commissioned me to do their park map,” explains founder and creative director Mads Berg. Since then, they’ve designed all the Legoland parks worldwide, and have specialized in park maps since.

Here are five tips for creating successful map designs.

  1. Combine fact with fiction for emphasis

Designing wayfinding maps for parks isn’t so much scientific as it is illustrative. Sure, you need to help visitors find their way around the park, but it’s much more loose and playful than a city map. “There’s a mixture of reality and fantasy in each design,” he notes. “Google does the reality thing beyond compare. We love to do the fantasy part.” Of course, they do this without overriding the wayfinding purpose. (Read the rest of the article here.)

Enticing Menu Designs

Beyond offering a selection of food and beverage items, a good menu design is an extension of the restaurant’s identity, it’s well organized and easy to read, and hopefully it’s appetizing. Here, we offer up several menu designs with decidedly different ethnic and cultural offerings.

Köksbordet is a family-style restaurant serving locally produced foods in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Designer Björn Berglund, who’s known for his hand-lettering, was tasked with creating the identity. Köksbordet literally means “kitchen table,” so he intentionally made the o’s look like a round table, and the wavy baseline for the word indicates the restaurant’s close proximity to the sea.

Once the logo was determined, Berglund focused on a color palette derived from the natural ingredients served at the restaurant, and he worked with illustrator Fanny Schultz, who drew the imagery. “I love to collaborate on larger projects, if you find the right partner. The overall quality is so much better,” he says. The illustrations are used on the menus, business cards, and on the website. Read the rest of the article here.

Where are they now?

In the early ’90s, the graphic design landscape was undergoing a dramatic shift. Desktop publishing was in its infancy and everyone was making it up as they went along—some better than others—while trying to keep up with the new technology and software. Then in 2000, the dotcom bubble burst, and in 2008 the worst recession since the Great Depression hit. Many studios weathered the storm, while others simply closed shop.

Here, we talk with the survivors of the past few decades, many of whom have reimagined their careers, and in some cases, started new vocations altogether. Read the rest here. (Poster design by Modern Dog.)