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image Bob Emser  Sistine Touch, 2000  Copper, aluminum, fabric  11 x 13 x 4’  Gift of Ray and Sally Allen and  Robert and Marcia Goltermann


Noted British graphic designer, James Goggin, joins the Museum of Contemporary Art where he will be integrating the cultural and historical context of design to create a unique visual identity for the MCA.

THE CHICAGO MUSEUM of Contemporary Art's Director of Design, Print and Digital Media is inarguably quite a job title. And now highly regarded British graphic designer, James Goggin, gets to sport it on his business cards.

After the museum conducted a comprehensive, international search, Goggin, 35, took over the long-vacant position in August. Leaving behind an academic position in the Netherlands, as well as his London-based design studio, Practise, Goggin moved to Chicago with his wife and two young daughters. Recently, i4design visited the soft-spoken Goggin in the MCA's bustling café to talk about his big move and his big new job.

i4: You have a very long job title. What does your position entail precisely?

JG: It's quite a literal title. Although "print" could almost be replaced with "publishing." [With a staff of eight from multiple disciplines], we are going to initiate a new identity and new approaches for publishing – whether print or online. And we're going to focus on all social media and anything related to the web.

i4: What is your vision? What do you want to make happen at the Museum of Contemporary Art?

JG: We are working on an evolutionary level. I am not going to jump in and change things overnight. We have a fantastic design team already in place. My approach is not to come in and immediately put in place a new color and typeface, although that will happen eventually. Right now a lot of decisions won't be about design, but about logistical and editorial considerations.

i4: What made the position appealing? Why did you want to join the MCA?

JG: There were two main things. First there was the caliber of the museum itself. And then it was the particular place where the museum is at now [with people such as museum director Madeleine Grynsztejn at the helm]. It was the ideal moment to arrive with the people here ready to change things. I understood that it was a fantastic opportunity in an amazing city. This is the kind of institution where you have the freedom to experiment. It's great to be in a position where you can have direct dialogues and a direct say in what is going on. I'm going to have the chance to do what excites me. Yes, there are pressures, but that is a good thing. You have to expect to have pressure in a place the caliber of the MCA.

i4: What defines your work, your style as a designer?

JG: I have always tried to avoid a dogmatic application of a single aesthetic with my work, but rather let my design be defined more by a particular approach. I aim to allow the content and context of a given project inform the final outcome. This means a lot of research into both content and materials, and an ongoing dialogue with the client or subject. The look of any project therefore becomes unpredictable, and allows me to contradict myself at times: one project might be retrained visually, while another might shout louder, all depending on the specific parameters at a given time and how I choose to respond to those as a designer.

i4: In what ways can museum goers expect to see your creative vision at work at the MCA?

JG: In a way I hope that my design input will be simultaneously recognizable and invisible at the MCA. I do not wish for design to be in competition with the art on display, but rather complement and assist in interpreting it. You could reduce its function down to simple wayfinding: I want to make the public aware of what's on [display], and begin to articulate what the work is about, but ultimately allow them to experience it for themselves and allow their own interpretation without graphic design getting in the way. Importantly, I also plan for visitors to likely encounter the work of the MCA design office in places they wouldn't necessarily expect. in addition to the wide variety of media we operate within -- including print, web, video, interior and exterior space, I have ideas for planning lecture series, contributing writing and running family day workshops.

The Museum of Contemporary Art
220 E. Chicago Avenue,
Chicago, Ill. 60611