Tanner Woodford graciously invited us into the Chicago Design Museum and gave insights to his personal and professional trajectory as they began to intertwine to form the ChiDM. He talked about his beginnings in album cover design, meeting awesome people through Fill/Stroke, secret underground train stations, free student membership, Kickstarter (of course), building a collection and Chicago Ideas amongst many other things. Tanner revealed so much it felt a little like sitting in a session of Inside the Actor’s Studio except Craighton sounds nothing like James Lipton and there was a severe lack of index cards.
“Leave Better.” - Tanner Woodford
It takes many people to maintain a museum, but the ChiDM is an obvious manifestation of Tanner. He strongly believes in leaving the world a better place and it is reflected in decisions at the museums like prioritizing streamline processes for membership and events to make it more enjoyable for the volunteers. Both the space and Tanner are open and friendly.
As a relatively young institution, the ChiDM is still trying to solidify their identity and place within the design community, museum world and their own mission. Fortunately, they aren’t creating the first museum ever, nor are they the only designers in the world which means there’s a myriad of precedents to draw upon and take pieces to create their own. (Much like the basis for Steal Like an Artist.) It’s not a bad place to be. Bits and pieces from a variety of sources lend a sense of familiarity to the audience while also creating something new. The choice to call itself a museum automatically sets expectations for visitors such as having a gift shop. What ChiDM does with their gift shop by stocking only Chicago-based designers to support the local industry as well as set their own commission is only one example of the newness they bring. It may be a stretch to say this is like Watch Me (Whip and nae nae), but hear me out. Silento is young (17 years old) just like ChiDM. He is also trying to figure out his identity. The whole song is just a combination of dance moves that have been around, some before he was even born. Tanner and the Chicago Design Museum like Watch Me, create something new and more importantly energize others to to follow.