Recent Projects



(April 2012-present)

In response to the realities of today, in which email has replaced letters, flying is a chore, and everyone is a winner, 16 emerging designers from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) presented whatnot, an inventory of useful, affordable objects at Spazio Rossana Orlandi during Milan Design Week 2012. The collection offered products rich in materiality and meaning, providing a bit of necessary joy, irrational desire, and simple satisfaction for everyday life.

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Featured GFRY Studio Projects

In 2005, Motorola established the GFRY Design Studio at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in memory of Chief Marketing Officer Geoffrey Frost to provide students with educational opportunities through innovative and collaborative projects in design and technology. Abbreviating Geoffrey's name to four letters reflects the strategy devised by Frost for Motorola's iconic devices such as the RAZR, PEBL, and SLVR.

GFRY is a collaborative, interdisciplinary design and fabrication studio that actively cooperates with industry to explore how new technologies, social forms, and materials can be integrated to produce innovative objects, media, environments, and experiences to meet the challenges of an increasingly complex world. The studio produces work for targeted public opportunities such as art, design, and technology expositions; design competitions; and topical research publications.

Each year, members of the SAIC faculty choose one noteworthy proposal on which to base the innovative efforts of the GFRY Studio. Participating in this prestigious atelier offers students a highly visible venue for the exhibition of work and the chance to be involved in the development of public work from concept through fabrication, installation, promotion, and review. Students are admitted to this special, two-semester course via an application reviewed by the faculty. The studio is part of the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects, and encourages original, hands-on production of architecture and design projects using technology.

To date, GFRY Studio projects have included:




The Com(m)a project is devoted to intensive research, design, and dedicated action towards the development of new templates and scenarios for rapidly deployable communities. SAIC in its multidisciplinary pursuit for progressive innovation, is a force. By Harnessing the momentum of spirited students from all fields of study and the SAIC's tireless faculty, the studio is thoughtfully and rigorously developing new methodologies for constructing community infrastructure in areas of tragedy and social displacement.



Professors Thomas Kong and Hennie Reynders, together with an interdisciplinary group of students from SAIC conducted a year-long collaborative project based in the AIADO department. The GFRY studio collaborated with architect Kenta Kishi, students from Tokyo and the community of Beppu through explorations into mutations of urban environments. With a critical stance towards the acts of thinking and of making in the city building process, the GFRY studio also explored the role of artist, designer and architect and possible alternative modes of citizen action when laying claim to the city by the re-activation of physical and social infrastructure. A series of biopic investigations, workshops and installations in Beppu, Detroit and Chicago lead to final proposition that was exhibited in Tokyo in March and in Chicago from mid-June 2010.

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2000 Watt Living
New ways to conserve energy or generate electricity

Fabbrica del Vapore, Milan, Italy


Projects in the GFRY Design Studio attempt to develop the desire for more sustainable behavior, imagining an inspiring rhetoric through objects for new ways of living. New behaviors arrange themselves around these re-imagined lifestyles. The "2000 Watt Living" initiative imagines attractive new ways of using one sixth of the energy used by the average American. Aiming toward this goal, GFRY students have designed objects and urban systems that either reduce our energy consumption or generate their own electricity.

The work of the GFRY Design Studio is supported in part by a grant from the Motorola Foundation.

Anders Nereim, Faculty
Carl Ray Miller, Faculty

GFRY_summary09.pdf [PDF]
Caroline Linder and Industreal, Fizz

18% Gray


For the third year Motorola generously continued their support of the GFRY studio that gave students access to a collaborative project with a very real and visible outcome. This year the GFRY studio partnered with the company Industreal in Milan where Professors Helen Maria Nugent and Douglas Pancoast and eleven AIADO students manufactured project components and exhibited very unique lighting design explorations under the title of 18% Gray during the annual Salone del Mobile in Milan.

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Students, faculty, and various academic departments at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago collaborated to produce waterShed through a year-long design studio. Within the framework of the trans-disciplinary education at SAIC, where students move easily between hundreds of courses and studio environments, the students drew on various departments to manifest their concept: Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects (AIADO); Art & Technology; Painting; Writing; and Fashion Design.

ID Magazine: Watershed in the Windy City [PDF]



Other AIADO Projects


End of Year Shows: 2010

Showcasing design from the Departments of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO), this exhibition brings together work by graduate students that explores responses to gravity exemplifying fiction and advocacy through innovation and design.

Curated by AIADO faculty Odile Compagnon and Felicia Ferrone, the exhibition features work from the following programs at SAIC: Master of Architecture / Master of Architecture with an Emphasis in Interior Architecture / Master of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture / Master of Fine Arts in Design for Emerging Technologies and Master of Design in Designed Objects.

The Expanding Classroom
News ways to live and learn

FuoriSaloneDanese Milano, Milan, Italy

Students from SAIC, in collaboration with Danese Milano and American designer Jonathan Olivares, examined contemporary behaviors and contexts of education, study, and learning. The resulting objects, designed with an eye toward commercialization, reflect our new ways of working and challenge existing typologies of furniture and accessories.

Bruce Tharp, Faculty
Jonathan Olivares, Visiting Artist

New objects inspired by Change, Hope, Challenge, and Allure

SaloneSatellite, Milan, Italy

From President Obama's hometown of Chicago, SAIC students explored and re-imagined everyday objects, adding a measure of "Obama-ness." Students took on the ordinary, but in extra-ordinary ways, through the examination of the United States' contemporary domestic milieu and our place within international affairs. The resulting objects envisioned the quotidian through the lens of the Obama promise and its problems.

International Contemporary Furniture Fair

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago's Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture and Designed Objects (AIADO) exhibited its design project, 'collective_difference,' at the 17th Annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York. The concept of 'collective_difference' was catalyzed as a result of student dialogue about the impact of globalization and the role of the designer in contemporary society. SAIC was one of six design schools selected to participate in the 2005 international competition by a jury of editors from leading design journals, such as Abitare, Domus, Frame, Intramuros, Metropolis, and Wallpaper.