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Sustainable Chicago Design winner Alex Gilbert talks inspiration and minimalism

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Graphic designer and recent Harrington College of Design graduate, Alex Gilbert, is building art with a purpose and philanthropic mindset.

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He can add a new victory to his repertoire, the Sustainable Chicago Poster Design Competition: CITY IN A GARDEN competition. The City of Chicago called on dedicated graphic designers of all ages, to design with a mission in mind. The challenge was to design a powerful, attention-grabbing, memorable poster, incorporating what it means for Chicago to be a sustainable city. The image must ignite a call-to-action and incite residents to make a difference in the community.

“Graphic design is more unique in the sense that it is about communication and job fulfillment: solving problems through design,” Gilbert says. “This competition was a problem and my design was the solution for promoting sustainability.”

The technical and advanced capabilities of graphic design permitted a rare opportunity; uninhibited artistic freedom to create and express a vital message to the community.

Gilbert says that graphic design differentiates itself from other fine arts by producing content with meaning, not just aesthetic value. His process is more than just creating an attractive work, but a piece that is founded on a positive purpose that boldly states we need more good in the world.

His winning design titled, “Define Your City,” (pictured to the left) is an expression of minimalism, reminiscent of his inspiration and renowned graphic designer, John Massey. Massey is known for his strategic use of color and selective copy to deliver profound meaning in his work.

To bring this work together, Gilbert began by addressing the issue at hand: an acute need for sustainability and an even more acute need to spur awareness in a diverse and often-distracted Chicago. He then planned his color scheme, red, white and blue to implicitly symbolize the American flag. He constructed the sharp lines and dimensions to the right to allude to the city skyline. The green plane cutting through the center simultaneously divides and unites the city with the concept of environmental stability.

The poster will be displayed on Chicago’s bus shelters and information panels to remind residents to join the movement to create a more sustainable city to live in.

His untitled piece, featuring ladders aimed to the sky and hands intertwine (pictured in the photo gallery to the left) was initially designed for the not-for-profit, Neighbor’s House in DeKalb, which provides free and low-cost youth reading and homework programs.

He utilized geometric forms to exude a sense of a united community and togetherness. For this purpose, he veered away from literary content and allowed the shapes and images to speak for themselves.

The ladders symbolize progress in community outreach and the development of the organization. The locked hands display a connection between the followers (the community) and God, an image that is powerfully linked to the organization’s mission. With this work, Gilbert challenges the line drawn between fine art and graphic design. He combines the two to create a spiritual and thought-provoking representation of Neighbor’s House’s contribution to society.

Gilbert’s current projects include freelance commercial work as well as assuming the role of Membership Director at the Chicago Design Museum. The museum, which began as a pop-up, is now in its third year. This year they are premiering their first permanent space. Gilbert is committing his time to creating a detailed membership model.

He is also pursuing more opportunities in graphic design for not-for-profits and creative collaborations. Chicago can look forward to more innovation and impacting artwork from this young artist.

To see more of Gilbert’s work, you can follow him on Instagram at @everyday_type or Twitter at @alexggilbert. Also, stop by the Chicago Design Museum to support talented artists like Gilbert and Massey at 108 North State Street, 3rd Floor in the Loop.