Throughout his fifty years as a designer, Robert Vogele founded two of Chicago’s most significant design consultancies and one of the largest firms in the nation. Born in 1928, Vogele exhibited a natural talent for drawing early on. At the University of Illinois, he flourished, securing degrees in communications, fine art and business while working as assistant art director for the press department. Upon completing his military service in 1956, Vogele accepted a position as the director of graphics, packaging and corporate identity at Lathan, Tyler and Jensen — a firm that grew out of Raymond Loewey’s Chicago office when it closed in 1954. Dick Lathan, Vogele’s mentor at LTJ, stressed innovation and taught the importance of a unified visual identity, a concept that would become the cornerstone of Vogele’s burgeoning career.
“To design a life is to find what you believe in, what you aspire to be and what you want your legacy to be…a life in design.” — Robert Vogele
In 1958, Vogele opened Robert Vogele Designs. Founded squarely on the belief that good design was good for business, the firm offered a multitude of services including advertising, packaging, branding and industrial design all under one roof. Unlike his contemporaries, the firm was a one-stop-shop for developing corporate identity with an emphasis on business marketing. Creativity flourished in the years that followed, and in 1967, embracing a business-forward approach, the firm officially changed its name to Robert Vogele Incorporated. In 1969, IBM hired RVI to develop the marketing plan for leasing their new (and struggling) building at One IBM Plaza. Instead, Vogele presented a business plan, a risky proposal suggesting that IBM cover design and furnishing costs for tenants, which paid off tenfold and resulted in a lasting partnership.
In 1982, ready to embark on a new adventure, Vogele laid the foundation for what was to become VSA partners with his son Bruce, Ted Stoik and later Dana Arnet. VSA garnered national attention for their award winning designs and Vogele’s unique management style. Taking a behind-the-scenes approach, Vogele challenged his designers to think creatively and was quick to recognize and nurture talent in his employees. He emphasized working collectively and taking risks, and when a challenge presented itself, he would say “Let’s try it. It may be out on a limb, but we may grow from here.” Vogele retired in 2002, but his impact on design is still felt to this day. Challenging the traditional definition of a designer, Vogele lived by the following adage, “To design a life is to find what you believe in, what you aspire to be and what you want your legacy to be…a life in design.”
Robert Vogele and his wife Ruth were avid collectors of fine art, folk art, and modern design and they amassed an impressive collection in their 60+ years together. More than patrons, the Vogeles believed in establishing personal relationships with artist to better understand the artwork and inform their collecting. On April 25th, 2019, Wright presented works from their collection at auction. View The Robert and Ruth Vogele Collection.