The Chicago Neighborhoods Project

As many city dwellers know, each neighborhood in their city has a culture and feel all its own.  And as any designer knows, it is important to infuse the specific culture and artistry of each client, company, or organization into the design project they are working on.  That is what Steve Shanabruch of The Chicago Neighborhood Project knows all too well.

Go Media recently had the opportunity to converse with Steve about his project and we would like to share it with all of you, our readers.


What inspired you about Chicago and how did that lead to starting this project?

Steve Shanabruch:

I’m a Chicagoan, and if you must know one thing about Chicago (aside from deep dish pizza), it’s that this is a city that is all about neighborhoods. Each one has its own identity, feel, ethnic makeup, and so on and so forth. Because of this, I have challenged myself to design a logo/brand for each ‘hood in the city. So far I have close to 90 logos posted, and who knows how many more I’ll end up doing (there are 215 or so) before its over. It’s been fun so far, a lot of work, but it is a labor of love.

I started the project as a creative outlet. I’m employed at my 9 to 5 as a designer, but it’s more marketing and corporate design, driven by our brand standards. I wanted to combine two of my passions: design and Chicago. So not only was this was a way for me to learn more about the city that I love so much, but it also has pushed me to try new things creatively. I definitely think this journey has made me a better designer, and that makes me happy. I thought I knew Illustrator pretty well before, but I have learned or figured out so many new tricks and techniques since I started, so much so that I look back at logos I designed at the beginning and kind of cringe…I see what I could have done better or differently, and I want to change them. But for the time being I am focused on working my way through the rest of the neighborhoods before I revisit the ones I have already worked on.


How has this project evolving and what can our readers expect to see in the future?

Steve Shanabruch:

I have posted somewhere around 85 logos to date. I started out posting one every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but have since slowed down to two a week. Chicago has roughly 215 neighborhoods…or it could be more, depending on how specific you want to get. Each neighborhood has its own personality, feel, ethnic makeup, landmarks, and so on and so forth, and because of this, I thought it would be fun and challenging to give each one a logo or brand. I do the best I can to research each area before I start a design, and while I know I can’t please everyone, I think I have done a fairly good job representing either the historic aspects of a particular neighborhood or capturing the current landscape in the ‘hood.

Below are some of Steve’s favorite images as well as little blurbs about these particular images and neighborhoods:

Andersonville: Has roots in Swedish heritage, hence the use of the Swedish flag and the crown (that is on Sweden's hockey jerseys!).
Brighton Park: Home to one of the largest rail yards in the country. The design is made to look like a switching yard.
Clearing: This neighborhood includes the southern half of Midway Airport.
Goose Island: An island in the Chicago River. It is home to a brewery, so I wanted this one to look like a beer bottle label.
Humboldt Park: Predominantly Puerto Rican neighborhood. The main street through Humboldt Park has massive Puerto Rican sculptures at each end.
Hyde Park: Home to the Robie House, which was designed Frank Lloyd Wright. This design is based on the stained glass windows he had made for this home.
Jefferson Park: Historically has been "the Gateway to Chicago," not only for commuters and travelers, but also immigrants. Since it is now such a transportation hub, I wanted this one to look like a logo that a transit agency (bus, rail, highway) would use.
Pilsen: Historically an Eastern European neighborhood, it has transformed into one of Chicago's largest Mexican neighborhoods. Their sidewalks have large bronze Aztec calendars in them, so I kind of tweaked the calendar and included the Chicago star.
Roscoe Village: Former home to Riverview, an amusement part that was finally closed in the late 1960s.
Wrigleyville: A popular neighborhood for those that just graduated college that like to get a little rowdy. Also home to the Cubs (the baseball bats in the design are actually beer taps...a nod to all of the bars in the 'hood).


If you want more updates about The Chicago Neighborhoods Project and/or Steve’s work, you can check the following links: