Typography. Layout. Balance. Alignment. Value. CMYK. Grid.

Graphic designers use these words, among others, every day. It’s not just a career – it’s a lifestyle. Designing is not just about making something “look pretty”. It’s about creating and shaping the view of the world around us. Commercial art connects the viewer to the client whether it is translated through print, digital, interactive or outdoor media. However, not all graphic designers are well-known by the public in their community.


The Champaign-Urbana Design Organization, or “CUDO”, plans to change the view of local design professionals who create commercial art by connecting them with the public and showcasing their work. The second annual CUDO PRO SHOW takes place November 14-25, 2014 at the Indi-Go Artist Co-Op in Downtown Champaign, IL. Over 90 entries with be presented at this year’s exhibition with pieces ranging from marketing-communications, design, and commercial art in professionals areas like advertising, illustrations, T-shirts, games, packaging, websites, signage, and posters. Alongside the print pieces will be a mix of digital media entries as well including apps, videos, animation, websites, eBooks, and more. Design takes to new heights at this non-traditional art exhibition.

“A unique aspect of the PRO SHOW is that the work on the wall is not fine art. You don’t see that in an art gallery setting,” says Paul Young, CUDO PRO SHOW Event Coordinator and Parkland Graphic Design professor. “Graphic design, as I tell my students, is thrown away. Literally. To take things you would normally throw away and put them in an art gallery setting, that’s ironic. But it’s also a rather unique opportunity.”

The PRO SHOW excels at bringing local professionals, designers, students, and the general public together. Some of the event sponsors are Surface 51, Thunderstruck Design, Premier Print Group, Chris Brown Photography, The Living Letter Press, Wright Photography, Pictobomb, and Fine and Applied Arts at Parkland College. The work is done by a variety of local designers, illustrators, photographers, web developers, filmmakers, and other creative professionals. However, none of the art is for sale. The whole opening is purely to showcase the work for what it is – art.

McKenzie Wagner, Inc.

“What I like about the PRO SHOW, is it’s not awards driven,” says Al Fleener, owner of Surface 51 marketing and design firm and PRO SHOW sponsor. “It’s really just an opportunity for experts in our profession to get together and show off what they’re doing. I don’t feel like there’s enough opportunities still in this community for people in the creative field to meet each other, enter their own stratospheres, hang-out, and see what each other does in a non-competitive way.”

Matt Wiley

In the week and a half span of the exhibit, three receptions will be available. The first will take place Thursday, November 13 for Chamber of Commerce members to connect with potential designers for their business. Friday, November 14 will be the official opening to the public from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. with live music by Desafinado Trio and complimentary wine, beverages, and appetizers. The third reception will be held on Friday, November 21 from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and will host the CUDO annual meeting and “state-of-the-CUDO” presentation. All receptions include refreshments and appetizers.

Ralph Roether

“Like any art gallery, anyone from the public can wander in, but as you can tell in this town, art gallery hopping isn’t a big thing”, says Young. “The three receptions give ‘different flavors’ for the public and businesses to come, stop by, and network with professionals.”

Creative work will be presented by individuals and firms like Adams Outdoor, Champaign Park District, Heavy Code, Horizon Hobby, International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), McKenzie Wagner Inc., Pixo, Studio 2D, Taylor Studios Inc., and Urbana Park District. Alongside will be client work from organization and businesses like Allerton Park and Retreat Center, Bell Racing USA, Champaign Urbana Film Society, Common Ground Food Co-op, First Federal Savings Bank of Champaign-Urbana, Gill Athletics, JT Walker’s, Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College, Parkland Theatre, Public Art League, Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, University of Illinois, and Weiskamp Screen Printing. This is not just a showcase of professional work, but also encompasses student work in their own category. The hope of having a student section is not only to inspire students, but also to develop an opportunity for students to come to the receptions and mingle with the pros. The Indi-Go Artist Co-Op is conducive to providing an atmosphere for chatter and opinions to blossom.

David Michael Moore

“Anytime you hear the word ‘design’ you think ‘people making things look good’. It’s more than that,” states Fleener. “It requires coders. Writers. People who are strategists. Who know motion graphics. Who know how to communicate. It takes a swirl of people.”

Surface 51

Connecting these people has been CUDO’s mission since 2009 when the organization was born. Started by a group of local designers, CUDO has grown to consume every type of designer and the general public who has a passion for the arts. Other events that have the organization has hosted are PechaKucha Night C-U, Meet the Pros, CUDO Gives, ABCU, and CUDO Plays.

The PRO SHOW will definitely be creating a “swirl” of foot-traffic in Downtown Champaign for its second time this November. “Even being right between Chicago, St. Louis, and Indianapolis, I feel like we have it all right here,” says Fleener. “It’s a great place to thrive.”  So mark your calendars and remember to stop by the CUDO PRO SHOW and take in what local designers are doing in your lovely Champaign-Urbana.

More information about gallery hours and such can be found on the CUDO PRO SHOW web site at www.thecudo.org/proshow.

Photos provided by Paul Young.