The Champaign-Urbana Design Organization (CUDO) Pro Show — a change to highlight local professional design — kicks off its third year this Friday at the Indi Go Artist Co-op in downtown Champaign.

The Pro Show, which features over a hundred items, offers visitors the chance to see what’s happening with local design.

“We have a lot of talented people in town who do a lot of good commercial work, but it’s not always visible,” said Paul Young. “The Pro Show brings that all together in one showcase.” Young is the Chair of the Pro Show event and Director of the Graphic Design Program at Parkland College. He emphasized that the Pro Show puts a spotlight on creative work that is often under-recognized for its artistic merit.

“Often fine art gets respect from the general public and advertising, marketing, but design aren’t always as elevated,” said Young. “But it takes just as much energy and talent to be a professional designer as it does to make fine art.”

The Pro Show features design work in a number of contexts, including advertising, apps, logos, packaging, posters, brochures, websites, games, T-shirts, and more.

Among the local creative whose work will be on display is Shatterglass Studios, which works on feature films as well as documentaries, corporate videos, and commercials. “We have so many talented filmmakers in C-U,” said Young, “and it’s a shame not to showcase their work.”

Work by a number of ad agencies and design firms will also be on display, including pieces by Surface 51 and McKenzie Wagner. The Pro Show will also feature work by organizations that produce design work in-house, including Wolfram Research and Busey Bank. Together, the show underscores the diversity of design in C-U.

“You’re going to see very large pieces and very small pieces,” said Young. “You’ll see some pieces that are intensely moving and some that are very subtle. Some that are loud and grab your attention, some that are quiet. Some that are very corporate and clean, and some that are very energetic and dynamic. The Pro Show gives us the chance to recognize the broad range of commercial art that is produced locally.” 

The Pro Show is part of CUDO’s larger mission, which is to cultivate a vibrant design culture that engages and enriches Champaign-Urbana. CUDO was formed by Maya Bruck, a designer who has since left C-U for New York. Her vision for CUDO was to create a local version of AIGA, a national design organization whose purpose is to promote good design and educate people about how design can change their lives.

“Maya was a very energetic person,” said Young. “Since she left, those who have followed in her footsteps are doing their best to keep up with her. Our goal is still the same: to keep designers in C-U connected.”

Good design matters, said Young, because it “makes products more functional, systems more efficient, communication more clear. Good design is also good business since we always want to present ourselves in the best light. Since I'm a graphic designer, I can talk about that discipline best. Graphic design these days should really be renamed 'communication design' since we use more than just graphic images and we really make use of all media to get our messages across. Good graphic design should be simple, clean, honest and aesthetically pleasing. If our community were to raise our standards of what we consider good design, we would all communicate a little better, live in a more beautiful environment and lead happier lives.”

Of C-U’s design culture, Young acknowledged that our community still has room for growth. “We’re not quite at the level of cities like Boulder, Madison, or Ann Arbor,” he said. “I believe that one of the goals local designers should have is to create a standard of design that is equivalent to those cities.”

“The truth is, we are a very transient community,” said Young. “A lot of our good talent comes and goes. But we have pockets of talent that are as good as those in Chicago and New York. We need to nurture them so they become even better.”

On the other hand, according to Young, C-U offers room for experimentation and growth that bigger communities can’t offer. “In larger communities,” said Young, “it is much more competitive. People who are just starting out have a hard time entering the business of design. Here, if you have talent and drive, you can make a name for yourself pretty quickly.”

The Pro Show gives community members both inside and outside the design community the chance to familiarize themselves with those name and the work of people who keep our community looking good. 

The CUDO Pro Show is open to the general public and kicks off with a reception on Friday, November 13 from 5–9 p.m. at the Indi Go Artist Co-op in Downtown Champaign. The reception will include a cash bar, free food, and music. A second reception, which will take place on Friday, November 24 from 5–8 p.m., will include a presentation about CUDO. The Pro Show will remain open through Tuesday, November 24.