neighborhood pioneer

Thirst: West Town Pioneer

Thirst is a communication design practice based in Chicago. The firm works with major players in the design, cultural, and civic communities. However they keep a low profile and let the work speak for itself.

About the work... It finds that perfect balance of experimentation, art, concept, communication, and craft. It's challenging and beautiful. It has garnered multiple awards including the 2011 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for founder Rick Valicenti.

Thirst believes design is integral to the human condition. It is ubiquitous, nourishing and transformative. Thirst believes design allows us to connect with one another and compels us to slow down and pay attention.

Chicago is very lucky to have Thirst. They call West Town home. Watch the video and read the interview below to learn more.

John Pobojewski, principal designer for Thirst, answers six questions on how West Town has evolved:


When Thirst moved to Chicago from the burbs in 2007, we were invited to share space with Wright Auctions. We had just finished designing their identity and our founder Rick Valicenti was spending several days a week building up Wright’s internal design studio with a new spirit of art direction. As such, it made sense for us to “move in” and we've never left!
The neighborhood felt very raw then and feels very much in transition now — more businesses seem to be moving in every month and there is a real spirit of creativity amongst the old warehouses that define the architectural character.


Despite the recent changes, the area still feels very working-class and that is definitely the soul of Thirst. While our portfolio represents incredibly sophisticated art, architectural, and cultural clients, we are still very much a hands-on firm — directly connecting the strategic conversations at the conference table to the form of design being made in the studio. The neighborhood reminds us that we are here to get things done and invest ourselves in our work.


From rough-and-ready to a bit of a hotspot — attracting more and more creative businesses every month.


We need more options for food and cuisine. As more residents move in, the options are growing, but it’s still pretty slim pickings...


Our world is changing every day — five years seems like an eternity! We’ll keep you posted...


We call The Breakfast Club the Thirst Conference Room as it is where we get business done over omelettes and meatloaf sandwiches. The Twisted Spoke, Sip Coffee, Nini’s and Bari’s are always favorites amongst those in the studio.

Are you a neighborhood pioneer?

We're looking to spotlight urban trailblazers in retail, food and bev, arts organizations, education, or any brick and mortar concept which sparks a positive change in your favorite Chicago neighborhood.

Contact us today if you, or someone you know, fits this description!

Otherwise Inc: West Loop Pioneer

Otherwise Incorporated describes the essence of their work as helping companies understand critical "moments of change" in branding or rebranding. It's a beautiful way of describing an incredibly difficult process of creating and launching new brands. 

Since 1997, the duo of Nancy Lerner and David Frej have led in the creation of an incredible body of work which is consistently elegant, daring, and effective. The team's studio on Randolph Street in the West Loop is a reflection of these qualities. Elegant, with creative energy; yet you feel like work gets done. The contemporary art in the space shows impeccable taste.

Take a look at the pics, then read below on how the West Loop has evolved since Otherwise has called it home.

Nancy Lerner, founder and principal of Otherwise Incorporated, answers six questions on how the West Loop has evolved:

What was pioneering about the West Loop when you moved here?

It was 1998. Simply put, the neighborhood was still raw and real. We also knew photographers who were drawn to the cavernous buildings in the West Loop to set up studios. Some of the city’s best gallerists were also early to the neighborhood, including Rhona [Hoffman] and Donald Young. 

How does the West Loop support your passions?

The West Loop is all about art, design, creative pursuits and placemaking.

How has the West Loop evolved?

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Google is a huge magnet and validator for the neighborhood, which is encouraging a frenzied pace of development and investment. The great success of Soho House has also been a tipping point in attracting masses of Chicagoans and visitors and vetting the neighborhood as the epicenter of the cultural scene.

One thing you would never change about the West Loop?

I'm rueful about wholesale gentrification. I only wish the West Loop can become a truly integrated neighborhood with a balance of sensitive adaptive reuse and new construction to maintain the funk!

What will life be like in five years in the West Loop for Otherwise?

We have always been interested in the early stages of neighborhood revitalization, and will like move on to the next edge.

Got any secret hangout spots in the 'hood?

Our rooftop. It's only three stories up, but provides great sight lines of the neighborhood and you're still close enough to the street to hear the sounds and activities of the neighborhood. 

Otherwise Incorporated works with diverse organizations to address their needs for brand building, rebranding, website design and development, social media, graphic design, advertising, and integrated marketing. Contact them to start a conversation about your strategic creative needs.

Are you a neighborhood pioneer?

We're looking to spotlight urban trailblazers in retail, food and bev, arts organizations, education, or any brick and mortar concept which sparks a positive change in your favorite Chicago neighborhood.

Contact us today if you, or someone you know, fits this description!

Ink Factory: Bucktown Pioneer

You talk. We draw. It's awesome.

A simple motto from Ink Factory describing the incredibly complex skill of graphic recording. Their visual recordings of live speaking events help folks from companies big and small retain more information. This small team of ink'd all-stars travel the globe, their client roster is deep, but they feel right at home in Bucktown.


Located a few block north of the 606 on Milwaukee Ave, Ink Factory's space is a perfect representation of the team's approach to their work. Light-hearted, creative, clever, and effective. Even the studio pup, Whisky, has his very own nook.


Learn why Bucktown is so important to their work:

What excited you about Bucktown?

Awesome location, not too crowded. Outside of the loop hustle.

How does Bucktown support your passions?

Approachable rent and space. It's gritty and energetic.

How has Bucktown evolved?

It's borders seem to have grown. Hipsters are moving north. Empty buildings are finally renovating.

if you could change ONE thing?

More trees and green space. One more month of summer!

One thing you would never change?

Ink Factory!

In five years bucktown will be...?


Got any secret hangout spots in the 'hood?

Ipsento for drinks. Irazu, Goddess, Handlebar, Birchwood and Jane for food. A quick walk on the 606 or taking in all of the amazing graffiti while strolling the neighborhood.

Interested in learning more about Ink Factory? Contact them here or just attend one of the many events they host in their beautiful space.

Are you a neighborhood pioneer?

We're looking for urban trailblazers in retail, food and bev, arts organizations, education, or really any idea which sparks a positive change in your favorite neighborhood.

Contact us today if you, or someone you know, fits this description!