Meng Yang
Graphic Designer
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Chicago

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The history. The people. The music. The architecture. The food. The lakeview. And god forbid, even the winters. These are the many aspects of Chicago that struck a chord in me. During my 14 years there, I was continually inspired by this great city and these were some of the projects I self-initiated under the moniker, Know Your Flag. From random, one-off ideas to campaign-ish concepts, I created a bevy of design over the years. Enjoy the compilation.

 
 
 

The Chicago Flag

  • Star 1: Fort Dearborn
  • Star 2: The Great Chicago Fire
  • Star 3: The World's Columbian Exposition of 1893
  • Star 4: A Century of Progress International Exposition of 1933-34

For years, I would ride my bike and pass a peripheral glance at the Chicago flag. It was sprinkled throughout the city and served as a background prop amongst the skyscrapers and neighborhoods. With its 6-point star, I merely assumed it was of Jewish affiliation.

But, one afternoon well spent at the Chicago History Museum, I was formally introduced to the uniqueness of the Chicago flag. Originally designed by fellow Chicago resident Wallace Rice, each star on the flag represented a significant event that propelled Chicago forward and each tip on the 6-pointed star represented a virtue that embodied the city. If that wasn't enough, Mr. Rice designed the flag to accommodate additions of the 6-point star for future, significant events that would reshape the future of Chicago. As a designer, I love little details like this and the seed of inspiration was planted.

 
 
 
 

From there on, a domino-effect had occurred and I started making 'Chicago-inspired' artwork and design on the side from 2012 to 2016. So, the above Chicago Flag quadtych was the genesis for all the rest of the artwork below.

Just a few years ago, I hawked these miscellaneous items at craft fairs to food festivals and had a great time meeting all types of folks from all over the city. Much thanks goes out to everyone I met throughout the years that bought a poster (or several), a t-shirt and/or merely stopped by my booth to hear me ramble. I miss chatting with you folks as much as I miss an all-beef, Chicago-style hot dog with mustard and absolutely no ketchup. 

 
 
 
 

Chicago by Carl Sandburg

Hog Butcher for the World, 
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders: 

The opening lines of Carl Sandburg's epic poem of Chicago during an industrious and nefarious time. Moving onward from the Chicago flag, I honed in on Carl Sandberg's powerful words and designed different posters paying homage to Chicago's hard-nosed, get-the-job-done work ethos and its industrial roots. As much as Chicago touts itself as a modern city, it still has an old-world, industrial feel and that's one thing I enjoyed seeing on a daily basis.

 
 
 
 

Head south on a Chicago River taxi to the Chinatown and Bridgeport area and you'll find rust-coated elevated bridges, some still in use too. Travel west on Clybourne Avenue past the cookie-cutter condos and modern shopping plazas into Goose Island's industrial district and the waft of hot steel and shaved metal hits your nostrils and lungs. Walk down the West Loop streets beyond the boutique restaurants and you'll see the old meatpacking district in full effect; blood-stained white-coat men loading and unloading meat from trucks, shift workers on break busting each other's chops. It's a city of continual contrasts; go see these old relics before they get demolished and/or pushed out to the suburbs.

Also, I got a little recognition for this set of posters back in 2011.

 
 
 
 

Chicago Neighborhoods

I moved around the city a lot. When I was a college student and the landlord hiked up rent by $50, I bolted. That was extra money for late night beers and burritos. Lakeview. Uptown. Avondale. Logan Square. Belmont Gardens. Humboldt Park. Irving Park. West Town. Even up by O'hare during a spell at student housing.

 
 
 
 

When I landed my first agency job (in Evanston of all places), I would ride my bike all the way from Logan Square daily through rain, shine and snow. That was 11 miles one-way, on a cheap, K-mart mountain bike, not a fixie either. The crazy things you do when you're young and hungry. Anyhoo, I would break up the monotony of the journey from time to time and weasel my way through the various neighborhoods.

Through means of bicycling my way around Chicago, I got to see neighborhoods from a different perspective compared to a passing blip while driving. From poverty-stricken to gentrified and historically-preserved to affluent, Chicago's neighborhoods were fascinating to bike through. So, I designed some one-off neighborhood posters and logos. No rhyme nor reason.

 
 
 
 

Northside & Southside

Whether it was my college roommate blaring a Sox game on a radio or stuck in a sardine-packed train during the evening commute while a Cubs night game commenced, being a Chicagoan meant baseball was unavoidable and picking a side was somewhat mandatory. But, I was Swiss in my choice of baseball teams because a Vienna beef hot dog tasted just as good regardless if it was on the southside or northside.

 
 
 
 
 

Politics

Most people assume Chicago's Windy City nickname is from the cool breeze off Lake Michigan and the architectural city-grid laid out after the Great Fire. But, it's mostly due to the huff and puff of Chicago politicians. And, no bigger politician loomed over Chicago (at least during my time there) than #43 Da' Mare Richard M. Daley. With 22 years in office and groomed since a youngin (ol' Richard's pop Richard J. Daley was Mayor #38), seeing Rich leave office and the power vacuum it created with the 2011 mayoral election was a spectacle. With White House alum Rahm Emanuel aka Rahmbo entering the race, it made the political scene even more interesting. And, for me, I had some fun with these designs and wheat pasting them around a few districts.

 
 
 
 
 

The Great Lakes States Project

After my then-girlfriend and now-wife & I went on a road trip throughout the midwest in 2013, I came back to Chicago re-energized and inspired. I wanted to do something different from Know Your Flag and created Civic Goods Co to house my ideas that weren't Chicago-ish. So, I did what I did and designed posters highlighting the nicknames of 6 of the states we visited.

 
 
 
 

Previously, I had self-funded all my extracurricular Know Your Flag projects; from sourcing posters and t-shirts to be screenprinted, buying bulk buttons, getting patches manufactured, etc. But, I wanted to try out an alternative venture this time around. As an exercise on crowdfunding, I launched a Kickstarter project to fund the production of these posters. Thanks to all the amazing backers, my Kickstarter funding goal was reached and I got these posters printed and shipped out.

 
 

Chicago. Thank you.