A Year of Homes: 2016

Posted on January 01, 2017 by Phillip Thompson | 0 comments

Here's a look back at a selection of the homes and buildings I drew this past year. It was a great year. Wishing you all the success and happiness you wish for in 2017. 

Here's the link to a vertical scrolling page of home portraits

Locking in: The Creation of the 7 Locks Brewing logo

Posted on January 01, 2017 by Phillip Thompson | 0 comments

Some friends of ours, Keith and Laura, opened a brewery in Rockville, Maryland, called 7 Locks Brewing. It's a great spot, great beers, highly recommended--check it out if and when you're in the area. 

Last year, the 7 Locks crew decided to give their original logo (below) a re-design ahead of some new beer releases. 

Keith approached me to take on the task, which I gladly accepted. I shipped them the final logo just before this past Thanksgiving. 

I was happy with the outcome and the development process. In this post I wanted to share that process, showing the stages from concept to finished logo, with the sketches along the way and my thoughts and reflections on each.

Here were the ground rules I was given for the new logo: 

  1. Tie it into the area, specifically the area's history and industrial traditions. 7 Locks refers to the seven locks in the area along the C&O canal
  2. Give it some vintage flair (not so much the spare modern design)
  3. Make the "7" prominent

First step was just getting ideas on the page (see below). For a few of these I wanted to tie in 7 elements, 7 something, so for concept #1 I made it bottles interlocking.

For some of the other concepts, I wanted to allude to the change in the waterline in locks, as well as the large gears used in canals to open and close the gates.

They chose concepts 1 and 4 out of these for me to develop further.

So I developed those two concepts and made 3 variations of each. Those are presented below.

They chose to develop 3A and 1B further. 


I developed 3A and 1B further, elaborating on each concept direction. Here are those variations, below.

They really liked the last design (furthest down) and felt like it looked most like a finished logo. They also liked that, though I was originally going for interlocking bottle shapes, it looks like interlocking brewing tanks. 

Keith, who had earlier wanted to avoid any gear motif, added a gear shape. We both felt that it gave the logo a "finish." From there, I worked on polishing this design.

Here is one of my early passes at finishing the design (below). The font is one that I have liked for a while. It's a Victorian font, Excelsis, and I think it conveys a vintage feel without screaming it. I carved out the letters to accommodate the tank design, then beveled the text to give it some depth. A lot of logo fonts these days are flat, and I tend to go flat--but it just didn't work here for the direction they wanted to go in.   

The above, though, just didn't seem to be working to our total satisfaction. Seemed pretty bland. I went back to the actual drawing board, where I'm most comfortable, and sketch out something that would work better.

I ended up with the drawing below. It seemed to have a little more soul to it than the digital design. I also added a waterline below "Brewing" to support the letters. I had shown Katie and she thought that it had seemed pasted on, too much like it was floating. 

For the word "BREWING" originally I had used a web font, something pretty simple and sleek, but it looked pretty weak in this context, and so I decided to go toward another serif font, one that had a lightweight and drawn feel to it (below).

Keith and his partners were happy with the sketch above, and so I had it traced in Illustrator to give it a finished look. See below for a tiny thumbnail of that.

In sending over that final black and white version of logos, though, I had accidentally included a version of the logo I had made earlier, something without the gear (below). Keith (and I) definitely liked it better without the gear.

So we decided to...shift gears. 

Then I went to the digital drawing board and reworked the logo so that it would work well as a finished design without the gear, and put an circle in its place. I also experimented with the ways that color would give it a new dimension. One example is using a split color in the text to suggest the water lines of a canal with various locks.

I came up a few designs like this one to share with the 7 Locks guys:

We tried a bunch of different color schemes, including this one (below) that had a gray gradient that unfortunately made the design seem a little dated. I suggested moving more toward color blocking, like a screen print, and then worked in that direction.

Ultimately, with some back and forth with Keith, I found a design in there that he and I were happy with. Here's the final version!

7 Locks Brewing Logo design

So that's the story of the birth of a logo. Fun to work on and make it come to life. It's very rewarding, too, to provide some value toward a business that celebrates its local history and industry. 

If you have questions about how I can create your logo, from concept to finished product, please get in touch with me and let's talk!

The Night City Sky maps.

Posted on November 28, 2016 by Bench Bookkeeping | 0 comments

One of the disadvantages to living in Chicago (and most big cities, for that matter) is missing out on a clear view of the night sky. What's worse is forgetting it's up there.

Whenever we head back to Katie's hometown in more pristine northwestern PA, I'm always blown away by the epic night scene that reveals itself nearly every night. These days, the closest I'll get to the night sky from within the Chicago city limits is a visit to the planetarium and packet of astronaut ice cream.

This past summer, Katie challenged me to come up with a way to combine the fascinating patterns of city streets with the immense depth and unique patterns of the night sky. Many iterations and false starts and trashed drafts later, we finally came to a design that we liked a lot. The series includes Chicago, Washington, DC, Boston, New York, and San Francisco.

We're happy to introduce this as out latest print release, and it's available exclusively through Uncommon Goods. Right here. Image below for your consideration.

In other news: If you're interested in anything from my storefront, use the offer code THETURKEY15 for 15% off all purchases until December 4.

Thanks for reading. There's some work that I'm chipping away at that I can't wait to share with you. In the meantime, I wish you a great and comfortable holiday season for you and yours. Don't hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any ideas for projects, prints, or world peace.
All the Best,

The Origins, the Minimal City, the Press, the Venues

Posted on October 26, 2016 by Phillip Thompson | 0 comments

Maps & The City

Anyone who knows me might say, among other things, "This guy loves maps." That is true. The other day I got to thinking about why I started making maps at all.

Katie and I used to live in Bucktown right on Armitage and Western. There were two places nearby that we loved: Margie's Candies, a 100-year old sundae shop offering up huge servings smothered in homemade chocolate; and the Map Room, one of the great pioneering beer bars of this city.

Around 2009 or so I was in the Map Room drinking with my longtime friend Matt. Looking at the maps plastered all over the walls, I was struck with an idea to make a map of the city's best beer bars. I went on to research and ink that map, Katie colored it, we released it to the public, and it got some nice traction. It was a lot of fun and it took us to some new corners of the city.

As the years passed, other beer bars popped up everywhere, ordinary bars started calling themselves beer bars, and worst of all, some of the bars that were on my map closed. So, like many maps, it faded and became a snapshot in time. Nonetheless, I love the fact that this map is one point in time that I remember well.

there are some Easter eggs in the map that are fun to revisit. For example, I drew two of my friends who first introduced me to beer better than Yeungling. Here's Tom and Jim (below), talking and walking outside The Map Room.

The Minimal City

Earlier this summer, I decided to make a departure from my typical style. I wondered how I could reduce the city of Chicago to a very minimal presentation while preserving some soul of the city. That led me through many, many drafts, some using criss-crossing lines, following its grid-like pattern of roads. I finally settled on a design that showed some continuity from the horizontal streets through to the waves of Lake Michigan, and was happy with the outcome.

I thought the lines needed to really pop out, and so I settled on a screen printing the design in gold ink on a Midnight Blue stock. This was created at Hoofprint in Pilsen, under their expert advice. (I highly recommend checking them out, by the way. They provide a range of printing services all from a converted Funeral Home.)

Here's the print in final form. 18" x 18" on heavy French Paper. Available on my site here.


Cape Horn Illustration in the Press 

It was a great honor to have Runner's World feature the Cape Horn marathon maps. If you or your friends and family are running a race this Fall, let me just say Good Luck. My hat's off to you. I haven't run a marathon since the Chicago Marathon in 2013 and every time I think about doing another one I pass out in fear of mile 18. If you're running this year, get in touch and I'll get you a good deal on a framed marathon map print. Runner's World article is here

It was also a huge honor to have the Chicago Alphabet featured in an article by Patty Wetli of DNAInfo! She does great reporting on news in the neighborhood and in the greater Ravenswood area. Read about the origins of the print and some of the early scratch-work and sketches. 

As always, I'm offering the ABC's to Chicago-area teachers for free--right now I estimate the print is in 30+ classrooms! Get in touch if you're a teacher or know one. Click the image below for more product details:

New Places & New Work

If you're local, find my work at the great shop, Neighborly, on Montrose and Damen. I've always loved their selection of well-designed, locally sourced products, and I'm proud now that my work is part of their lineup. That includes recent releases like the Minimal City print and the Chicago Alphabet.

Also exciting news: I've worked with the Brooklyn-based retailer Uncommon Goods for some time now--they sell three of my marathon maps and the home portraiture through their site. I'm proud to say that we've deepened the partnership to include a set of prints that will be released very shortly. It will be sold exclusively through Uncommon Goods and be featured prominently in their marketing. Stay tuned for a newsletter all about that print. Hint: It's a map. (Shocked?)

Two upcoming Chicago fairs where Katie and I will be showing our work. Stop by and say hello: Thanks for making it all the way to the bottom, dearest reader. You can get to my site this way.

The Chicago Alphabet, decoded!

Posted on September 07, 2016 by Phillip Thompson | 0 comments

Want the full run-down of the Chicago Alphabet? You've come to the right place :) Keep scrolling down for the letters!

A is for Adler (Planetarium), 

B is for Bean, 

C is for Cubbies, 

D is for Deep Dish, 

E is for Elevated Train, 

F is for Ferris Wheel, 

G is for Grant Park, 

H is for Hancock Building, 

I is for Illinois, 

J is for Jazz (& Blues), 

K is for Kick-off, 

L is for Lake, 

M is for Magnificent Mile (or Michigan Avenue), 

N is for Navy Pier, 

O is for O'Hare, 

P is for Picasso (sculpture in Daley Plaza), 

Q is for aQuarium, 

R is for River, 

S is for Snow, 

T is for T-Rex, 

U is for U-Boat, 

V is for Victory, 

W is for World's Fair (or White City) in 1893, 

X is for (White) soX, 

Y is for "Yes, We Can!" 

Z is for Zoo!

The End. Happy spelling! Click here to go back!

Building Drawings: Commemorating Great Buildings for Customers

Posted on July 08, 2016 by Phillip Thompson | 0 comments

I wanted to share a few examples of building drawings I've done for customers. 

The first example is the Rookery, which I carried out for an architect I met at the Ravenswood art walk. I've posted this elsewhere, but wanted to walk through the panels.

The first is an elevation drawing. This took a while. I started with a tour of the Rookery, which I believe was given by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and I took tons of photos.

Rookery drawing

Drawing of the Rookery interior:

Drawing the Rookery exterior details:

Rookery exterior drawing details

So that's an example of a building drawing that's historic. The Rookery is stunning. It's like Chicago's Taj Mahal, and definitely deserves all the attention. So glad that it was restored to its current glory, I believe in the 80s.

But there's other work that I do, some of which is less prominent on the site. Here's one that I did for developer Evan Oliff, who wanted to show off one of his properties and present an original to his client:

Storefront Rendering in Pen and ink

Yet another building drawing example is something like the one below--made for the Skokie County Club. This is a drawing of the exterior of their building. The final version had the names of all the board members in a coin-like medallion over the building.

Skokie Country Club drawing pen and ink Finally, one other example of the custom building drawing is this one, done for the great restaurant Daniel in New York. They wanted to have a holiday card with their building facade done and thought that it would have more character if done by hand.

Daniel Restaurant drawing

And this is the final version of their card:

Daniel Restaurant holiday card

So that's just a small sample of the building drawings I do. Please get in touch here and let me know what I can do for you.

Little Cottage, Gold Coast

Posted on June 26, 2016 by Phillip Thompson | 0 comments

In 1871, fire swept through Chicago, ravaging a huge swath of the city from 18th Street to Fullerton Avenue. In its ashes, citizens immediately began the process of building the city taller and more stately.

In 1872, one of those citizens built a cottage of his own at 1241 N. State Street. Like most of the cottages popping up at the time, it was brick rather than combustible wood, suited to the narrow lots, economicalgood for a worker and his family.

Within a decade or so that worker had new neighbors: distinguished families like Potter, Goodman, and Lincoln, all living in mansions. Today, Gold Coast is chic, bustling, populated, and well-developed.

That worker's cottage is the last of its kind, nestled among larger multi-unit buildings that are almost literally squeezing the cottage between them. The economy of the neighborhood is almost like a slow tectonic force acting on a grain of sand.

DNAInfo recently reported that this cottage has just been sold to a developer with plans to demolish the home and build something more lucrative in its place.  

I love a free market. I don't begrudge the seller or the developer. There's an opportunity to add value to a property that had been so neglected, its exterior was crumbling and its kitchen lacked appliances. No one was showing it much lovethat is, until its sale made the news.

On the other hand, I love that this home is a slice of the city's history. It has cultural value to anyone who loves and appreciates that history. More than an artifact, though, the home stands for the long-forgotten people who passed through. It's a thing that holds tight to the past and asks you to remember, despite the weather and the years.


If you want to support the preservation of this home and others like it, the organization Preservation Chicago takes the lead on issues like this. I'm not affiliated with them.

DIGITAL IMAGE: The sketch below is available for free in a downloadable high-resolution 8.5" x 11" pdf.

PRINT: Or if you'd prefer, we can send you a signed print on high-quality, heavy stock paper. That's available for purchase here for $16. I also do custom home and building portraits. For more like this home, check out this gallery of home drawings.