• April 20–August 18, 2018

Great Ideas of Humanity: Out of the Container

Chicago Design Museum

108 North State Street, 3rd Floor, Chicago, Illinois 60602

Greatideas adc 1 pickleman crop

Jason Pickleman on Katherine Kuh, We can learn to look, but to see is another matter, 2018. Courtesy of Chicago Design Museum.


In 1943, philosopher Mortimer Adler began to lead a group of Chicago businessmen in the study of texts (“Great Books”) that he felt embodied the core ideas of the Western canon. Encyclopedia Britannica later published Adler’s monumental Great Books of the Western World series in 1952 after years of development—431 works by 71 authors. Inspired by the group conversations and ideas represented in the Great Books, and with a desire to engage the general public in cultural discourse, Walter Paepcke, founder of Container Corporation of America, initiated an unprecedented advertising campaign entitled the Great Ideas of Western Man. Great Ideas provided a platform for creatives such as Paul Rand, Max Bill, Herbert Bayer, Saul Bass, and René Magritte to bring attention to celebrated thinkers such as Mark Twain, Alfred North Whitehead, and Theodore Roosevelt.

With reverence and enthusiasm, the Chicago Design Museum has renewed this historic series by connecting contemporary artists with important thinkers to create a new series of advertisements. Great Ideas of Humanity: Out of the Container highlights a broad spectrum of human thought and reminds us that, sometimes, looking to the past helps to comprehend the present.

As a special component to the exhibition in conjunction with Art Design Chicago, 10 of the posters reflect the quotes of distinguished Chicagoans such as Ida B. Wells, Buckminster Fuller, and László Moholy-Nagy, and are designed by Chicago artists and designers, including Jason Pickleman, Jilly Simons, and Carol Ross Barney.