Everyone loves an occasional road trip, right? Sometimes it’s nice to just hop in the car with friends or family and travel to a new location. I know plenty of people who have gone on road trips to see natural parks, historical sites and even breweries. But I know far fewer people who have gone off to visit some of the country’s great graphic design destinations.
I decided to put together a list of some of the design related places I’ve visited or would like to visit (within 800 miles of Indianapolis, because let’s be reasonable here). Some of these places are close enough in proximity you could combine them into one trip, and others would most likely require a whole weekend to conquer.
Two Rivers, WI (366 miles away)
Imagine 45,000 square feet of museum space dedicated to wood type. It sounds too good to be true for anyone interested in letterpress, but it’s exactly what you’ll find at Hamilton Wood Type. This museum, situated on Lake Michigan, is home to one of the largest collections of wood type in the world. You can browse at your own pace, take a guided tour, observe one of the visiting artists or even sign up for a two hour hands-on letterpress workshop.
Chicago, IL (184 miles away)
Sure, most of us living in Indianapolis get up to Chicago fairly regularly, but there are always new things to discover. One of the spots I plan to check out next time I’m in town is the Chicago Design Museum. It’s no secret Chicago has a great art and design scene, and this museum seems to really embrace and celebrate that. CHIDM began as a “pop up museum” before finding a permanent home on State Street. Now you can expect to be greeted by permanent Debbie Millman and Ed Fella exhibits, as well as some rotating shows, such as the current Deborah Sussman Loves Los Angeles! graphic design gallery.
New York, NY (723 miles away)
This museum has it all. If you’re looking to hang out in one of Andrew Carnegie’s old mansions while bouncing between a good mix of historic and contemporary design, this spot’s for you. The exhibits at Cooper Hewitt span a vast array of topics, so there’s certainly something for everyone. Some of the current exhibits include a history of Pixar, something called “How Posters Work,” and a high tech digital wallpaper “Immersion Room.” If this museum doesn’t spark some creativity inside you than I doubt anything ever will.
Vignelli Center for Design Studies:
Rochester, NY (563 miles away)
If NYC isn’t really your speed, on the other side of the state is where you can find Massimo Vignelli’s archive of graphic design and furniture. For anyone not familiar with Mr. Vignelli, he designed the iconic NYC subway maps, and was a famous minimalist and perfectionist. Vignelli valued education and knowledge a great deal, so it’s no surprise the center hosts many regular design lectures and student events.
Pittsburgh, PA (360 miles away)
Some people feel strongly that art and design are separate entities. When you look at work by artists like Andy Warhol, it’s easy to see that they can be a combination of both. This is one of my favorite museums, and without a doubt the most fun. Feel free to drag along a friend who isn’t necessarily an “art person.” Besides being the master of pop art and scandal, Warhol also worked on advertisements for magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and the New Yorker. Each floor of the museum has a different feel and theme. One second you’re in tears watching his raw black and white videos and the next you’re standing in a room of giant silver helium balloons feeling like a child.
Cincinnati, OH (109 miles away)
This is another destination for designers and non-designers alike. I’ve wanted to check this place out ever since Peter took a trip there last year. This 19,000 square foot warehouse holds hundreds of neon signs and the stories that go along with them. The museum is set up so you’ll see things in chronological order, beginning with a bit of the history of hand painted signs. The guided tour is recommended if you want to get the full, fascinating history of all the signs you’ll see. The signs are all in original condition. No repainting or restoration has been done, besides the changing of bulbs to keep everything functional. There is even a functional neon shop inside the museum where you can watch signs being created.
Museum of Design Atlanta:
Atlanta, GA (531 miles away)
MoDA is an ultra modern museum devoted solely to the study and celebration of design. The exhibits are always changing, but you can expect to find a number of topics ranging from architecture to fashion to visual communication and design. An example of a clever past exhibit is “Hidden Heroes: The Genius of Everyday Things,” which told the story behind 30 everyday objects which changed the way we live. There are also a number of 3D printing classes for adults and children, and even a “tinkering” class for toddlers.