John Massey’s minimalist designs are back on State Street in the Loop for the rest of August.

Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.

The boldly colorful series of Chicago posters and banners created in the late 1960s by John Massey trace their origins to the moment the young graphic designer saw Armin Hofmann and Josef Müller-Brockmann’s minimalist works at a 1953 conference in Aspen. Massey was then a student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who’d signed up to escort the famed Swiss designers in exchange for free admittance to the event. Once he saw their work, he decided he had to make something like it for his home city.

Eventually he did. In a recent interview with Art Design Chicago to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the minimalist banners that hung up on light posts in the Loop in 1968, Massey recalls saying to himself after Aspen, “Chicago should have a series of posters that change all the time … not only for the edification of people who live here but also the thousands of visitors.”

Organized by the Chicago Loop Alliance Organization, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and the Chicago Design Museum, Massey’s banners are back on State Street between Ida B. Wells Drive and Wacker Drive in a public art show called “The Shape of Chicago: John Massey’s 1968 Banners Revisited” from the first to the last day of August.

His most memorable posters, which commemorate various landmarks across Chicago, appear as timeless as anything Hoffmann and Müller-Brockmann ever made. And on State Street, the simple shapes and colors add a fresh layer of abstraction to a city that Massey, now 77, has never stopped being drawn to.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    British People Feel Locked Out of London

    Britons who live outside the capital consider it too expensive and crowded for them to live there, a new report finds.

  2. Passengers wait in a German subway station
    Transportation

    The Global Mass Transit Revolution

    A new report confirms that the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in mass transit.

  3. Equity

    What’s at Stake in Washington’s Heated Battle Over Tipped Workers

    Does paying tipped workers the minimum wage spell death for the city's restaurant industry, or dignity for the city's employees?

  4. Transportation

    Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don't Blame Cars.)

    Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.

  5. Life

    A Solemn Memorial Sparks a Feud Between Sister Cities

    San Francisco's new monument to "comfort women" has Osaka, Japan, threatening to end a decades-long relationship.