AIGA FELLOW: NAMED BY AIGA CHICAGO, 2008
Jilly Simons is Concrete.
Like the essential material for which it is named, Simons’ design firm, Concrete, consistently produces work that is strong, hardworking and grounded in her clients’ needs. Her design solutions and the way she runs her practice are all of a piece: Place the art and craft of design before bureaucratic demands. Keep things simple to make them clear. Face roadblocks head-on. Lead by example. Discriminate between information and true communication.
Before “thinking global” was the buzz, Simons was there. She was born in New York City, raised in dissonant South Africa, traveled the globe and then chose Chicago, the concrete capital, as her personal and professional home. Simons’ design vocabulary echoes her international design experience, beginning with her work at Grapplegroup in Johannesburg, where she found her voice as a designer. An invitation from Young and Rubicam to join Cato Johnson in Cincinnati brought her back to the United States. After settling in Chicago, she became part of the design group at Handelan-Pedersen, where she joined design director Steve Bagby. She was partner and co-creative director at Lipman + Simons before she founded Concrete, in 1987.
Concrete’s clients run the gamut, from architecture firms to financial institutions, from museums and universities to retailers. Over the course of two decades, Simons and Concrete have developed longstanding client relationships that have evolved into collaborative partnerships. Concrete’s work has brought clients high visibility, and Simons herself has earned many awards and honors. Her work has been published widely in books and periodicals in the United States and abroad, included in seminal design exhibitions and housed in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum’s permanent collection and the Newberry Library of Chicago.
A longstanding member of AIGA, Simons received the AIGA Chicago Above and Beyond Award in 2000 for her service to the chapter. She served several terms as a member of its board of directors and continues to serve on its advisory board. She was elected to the historic 27 Chicago Designers and has been invited to serve as a juror of design competitions internationally.
Known for employing and nurturing talented young designers, she extends her teaching and mentoring to the classroom. Simons has taught at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and now devotes her teaching energies to her students at Columbia College Chicago.