Elevating Creative Economies

Jake Trussell
Design Innovation
Published in
4 min readApr 29, 2016


ChicagoMade Lounge @ SXSW 2016

A region’s creatives are at the center of its story as they and their businesses drive innovation, economic growth and job creation.

Last month I was in Austin, TX at that media industry mecca called SXSW. Along with a delegation of Chicago makers and innovators, I was there to help shine a light on the city as a hub of next-gen ideas, products, and culture among the global influencers at the conference.

Since its days as a scrappy music festival in the ’80s, to the addition of the film and “interactive” components in the ’90s, to the launch of platforms like Twitter and Uber there in the ’00s, on up through the ever-growing beast that is SXSW today, Chicago has always been heavily represented by bands, filmmakers, and business leaders. But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that our city decided to put some effort into convening those forces under a unified umbrella:

ChicagoMade: Showcasing the creatives and businesses elevating Chicago as a hub of creativity and innovation.

ChicagoMade Lounge @ SXSW 2016

Jaime Black of Dynasty Podcast featured ChicagoMade and a number of its ambassadors including music legend Martin Atkins (PiL, Nine Inch Nails, Ministry), Josh Chicoine of the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival, Emile Cambry of BLUE1647 (who received a prestigious SXSW Community Service Award), and Justin Massa of IDEO in their coverage of ChicagoMade.

Here’s an interview with my collegue Shannon McGhee and me in which we talk a bit about the initiative:

At the ChicagoMade Lounge, we transformed a food truck on a vacant lot next to the Austin Convention Center into a relaxing place to have a beer, a bite, listen to some music, and learn about what’s happening in Chicago.

ChicagoMade Lounge @ SXSW 2016

Ambassadors from Chicago who helped host the Lounge included:

The Lounge included a tweet-activated vending machine encouraging guests to tweet #ChicagoMade to receive a Chi-centric item including Cards Against Humanity expansion packs, Field Notes notebooks, KOVAL Distillery keychain flasks, and more. The hashtag reached more than 5M twitter feeds.

Other gracious partners and sponsors included 3D Printer Experience, BallotReady, Bucketfeet, Busy Beaver Button Co., Chicago Design Museum, Comcast NBCUniversal, Dynasty Podcasts, GE Ventures, General Assembly, Gramovox, Illinois Technology Association, Lagunitas Brewing Company, Locke Lord, MINIMAL Design Studio, Ms. Tech, Opternative, Rhine Hall Distillery, Shawnimals, Skinny Pop, The Hideout, Vice District Brewing, and You Are Beautiful.

In addition to the Lounge, there was also an official SXSW ChicaogMade music showcase featuring 2-time Grammy winner Rhymefest, acid-house inventers Phuture, Mick Jenkins, Saba, Psalm One, Taylor Bennett, Dreezy, Z-Verse, Hawley, and more.

Mick Jenkins performing at the 2016 SXSW ChicagoMade Music Showcase

But Chicago isn’t the only city joining the conversation at SXSW. In fact we partnered with our sister city of Hamburg Germany to bring companies and leaders together. NYC, DC, San Antonio, Atlanta, and Berlin were among just a few of the other cities officially represented, in addition to countries like the UK, Germany, Japan, and Canada.

In Chicago our story is rooted in hard work. It’s a place where artists, designers, and technologists are driven to innovate. By recognizing Chicago’s creatives as ambassadors, ChicagoMade endeavors to increase awareness of this city that has nurtured so much of the nation’s creative talent.

Saba performing at the 2016 SXSW ChicagoMade Music Showcase