5 Years of Ink Factory!

2+2+2 = 6

Did you know Ink Factory started with an email among three friends? The email that started it all ended with “Let’s take over the world, one marker at a time!” Ink Factory was an idea ignited during two meetings at the foot of two bridges on two different continents. In the summer of 2011, Dusty and Ryan, both working in the Czech Republic, met for a drink at the Charles Bridge in Prague.  A week later, while working in Australia, Ryan and Lindsay met near the Sydney Harbor Bridge. The topic of both conversations: “How do we start a company together and propel the visual revolution?!” Once back in the States, the three met again to design a business plan, a bold company name, and a brand identity.

October 15th, 2016 marked the fifth anniversary of Ink Factory Studio! We’re very grateful for the clients, friends, and adventures so far and are excited to see what our future will bring. Humor us as we reminisce about the early days of our company and some of our favorite projects to date.

The early days of Ink Factory studio's founding with Dusty, Ryan and Lindsay

October 2011 – Chicago Ideas Week

Proof that social media works! We saw an ad for Chicago Ideas Week on Facebook and instantly knew it was the type of conference we wanted to be a part of. 2011 was the inaugural Chicago Ideas Week and our very first official client engagement as Ink Factory. We gained a wealth of knowledge about the influence of graphic recording in a conference setting (and how to efficiently get large sheets of artist boards across The Windy City in a taxi). We were introduced to lifelong friends and future clients at Chicago Ideas Week and have proudly seen this gathering of innovators and thought-leaders grow into the national spotlight. If you do not know about this amazing week in October, check out their brand new website and become a member.

Drawings from the first Chicago Ideas conference in 2011

July 2012 – Our first national ad campaign

How do you tackle designing an ad for Fast Company? Imagine painting a raw steak, some Yukon Gold potatoes, and a side of broccoli all white! We collaborated with NYC-based creative director, Diego Marini, to help create a fun, thought-provoking full-page ad. We took a risk and decided to push for a layout that piqued interest in what Ink Factory is, and what a “balanced meeting” meant.

Ink Factory's first ad in Fast Company

August 2012 – Our first ActionSketch video

Supplies for Dreams reached out to us to create a compelling stop-motion ActionSketch video. Supplies for Dreams is a local non-profit and we were happy to give their organization an awesome communication tool to tell their story visually. We crafted a handmade 16:9 composition book to set the scene for their message and included cut paper, drawings, and even refrigerator magnets. To this day, it is one of our favorite videos and is often referenced when a client inquires about our ActionSketch videos. Click here to watch the video.

Behind the scenes of creating our first stop motion animation

October 2012: The BIG IDEA book at the Museum of Contemporary Art

Ink Factory has always been interested in helping people engage and share their ideas in a visual way. One of the first manifestations of this was our BIG IDEA book. We took a classic composition notebook design, made it HUGE, and let the public use it to draw their ideas. Ink Factory partnered with a local sculptor, Ron Gard, and co-designed this 8’x10’ piece to be waterproof and public proof. We showcased this Claes Oldenburg-sized sketchbook during Chicago Ideas Week and interacted with pedestrians visiting CIW and the Museum. We installed the Big Idea Book two years in a row at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the heart of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. It now lives in Rockford, IL, where it still has impact today.

Ink Factory's BIG Ideas sketchbook at the Museum of Contemporary Art for Chicago Ideas

January 2013 – Developing our internships with local Universities

We wanted to share our company with a budding artist, as well as get some help tackling our growing client list. We looked locally to the fabulous art programs at Columbia College and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago – and we were fortunate to strike gold early. Our very first intern, Alison, was a natural fit at Ink Factory. Since then we’ve had a ton of talented young artists learn the basics of graphic recording through our internship program.


February 2013 – Ink Factory moves to its new HQ!

After 18 months of working in the Fulton Market neighborhood of Chicago, we found a more permanent place to call home. We took over a beautiful brick 120+ year old storefront in the heart of Bucktown; a haven for artists, new restaurants, and recently, the brand new 606 trail. It feels like every month we learn about a new restaurant, coffee shop, bar, or artist project starting up around us. We definitely feel at home.

Ink Factory's new studio in 2013

April 2013 – Ink Factory heads to Abu Dhabi

After hundreds of client engagements across the country, we hopped over to United Arab Emirates for their annual forum on quality and conformity. This philanthropic arm of the UAE government brought together thought-leaders from around the world to speak on topics that ranged from child safety to the future of architecture. We also collaborated with a Jordanian graphic recorder to translate all of our visual notes into Arabic. It was quite amazing to see how our words and images were translated and presented because their language reads from right to left, opposite of English. We returned again a few months later to help continue the conversations and propel the ideas that were created.

Visual notes created in Abu Dhabi

August 2013 – Our second national ad campaign

After a successful ad campaign in 2012, we decided to give it a go again in 2013. Once again, we collaborated with NYC Creative Director, Diego Marini, to create a thought-provoking ad. Using the hands of our co-founders, Lindsay and Dusty, and lips of a good friend, Fabi Ramirez, we went straight to our tagline: You Talk. We Draw. It’s Awesome.  This concept was also published as banner ads during the Art Directors Club’s annual festival in Miami. Needless to say, we were delighted with the outcome.

Ink Factory's second ad in Fast Company: You Talk. We Draw. It's Awesome.

September 2013 – Teresa joins the team!

Ink Factory continued to grow, and we were in search for a solid person to help with that growth. We sorted through a pool of hundreds of applicants and found our ace in the hole, Teresa Rawlings. She was looking for a creative company to work with and saw our ad. Teresa is our current Studio Manager and has her hands in all parts of our business. Because she has deepened our relationships with each other and our clients, she is also starting to help us curate the content for our blog posts and new client outreach.

Teresa is hired as Ink Factory's first full time employee

September 2013 – Whisky Tango Foxtrot Arrives!

To everyone’s delight, Lindsay surprised us one day with an adorable Chihuahua/Pug mix puppy (a Chug). She named him Whisky Tango Foxtrot, WTF for short, and he has proudly been our therapy dog ever since. He is quite to alert us whenever anyone enters the studio, and has his very own “Whisky Lounge” to take naps and guard the door.

Ink Factory's studio dog Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

September 2014 – Alison joins the team full time!

After our first intern, Alison, graduated from SAIC in 2013 we scooped her up before any other creative firms could. It was a natural fit and she has taken our digital offerings to another level! Alison continues to impress us and our clients with her adaptable and creative style. Alison is also helping to manage our social media presence and identity internally and on our website.

Alison joins Ink Factory as a full time artist

October 2014 – Painting the Violet Hour

Bucket list item…Check! We were curated by the Violet Hour to design a mural that would ignite ideas and celebrate our local community and promote the core of Chicago Ideas Week’s “A Community of Curiosity”. This speakeasy-like bar is just a few blocks from our HQ and in the heart of Wicker Park. By incorporating CnC routed letters, we added dimension to the entire mural, which was painted a bright yellow and then illustrated using bold black paint.

Ink Factory's mural outside the Violet Hour for Chicago Ideas

Process photos of Ink Factory painting the Violet Hour mural in Chicago

November 2014 – Africa 2.0 Summit in Accra, Ghana

As our airline mileage continued to grow, we hopped over to Africa for the annual Africa 2.0 Summit in Ghana. We created a long Living Wall, which incorporated real-time interactions between Ryan and the attendees. It was capped off with real-time visual notes that were created during the keynote sessions throughout the entire week. *Travel tip: bring cash with you to the airport so that you can generously tip the porter when you check two 60” x 40” boxes of artist boards!

A mural of visual notes created in Accra, Ghana

July 2015 – Creative Partnership: A Video Made Entirely of Cut Paper and Ink Factory HQ gets an upgrade!

Our space in 2014 was large, open, and full of character. Fast-forward a year, and we started thinking about how we use the space, how we could optimize the layout, and how we could transform the space within the terms of our lease, and more importantly our budget.  Perimeter Architects, a boutique Chicago-based architecture firm, contacted us to help them tell the story of a unique opportunity they were offering. A lightbulb turned on – we could help them tell their story in the form of an ActionSketch video and, in turn, they could help us rethink our 120+ year-old storefront to make it more efficient, creative, and engaging. Definitely a win-win.

A paper stop-motion created for Perimeter Architects' Sardine Lab

Photos of Ink Factory's newly designed studio in Chicago

October 2015 – Creating a brand new surface for visual notes

We felt compelled to create something illuminating for our clients, literally. After a few prototypes using heavy, large lighting and plexiglass sheets, we decided it was time to innovate. We collaborated with a Chicago-based LED manufacturer to create a new surface for us to draw onto. These ultra-thin LED backlit panels are designed to be free-standing, hung on a wall, or propped up on our compact easels. They can be customized to any shape and gelled with any color background imaginable. From creating an activation space to trade show booths, these are the perfect tool to engage and interact with information.

Ink Factory artists work on various illuminated LED panels

November 2015 – Ink Factory is featured on Windy City Live

Windy City Live is Chicago’s most watched morning program. We were delighted to make our mark on their show and share the visual revolution with a new audience. During the entire broadcast, we created real-time visual notes of each segment as well as the news of the day.

Ink Factory demonstrates visual note-taking on Windy City Live in Chicago

May 2016 – American Institute of Architects Chicago recognizes Ink Factory’s studio

AIA awarded our space with the Citation of Merit. The design of our space, by Perimeter Architects, stood out among hundreds of AIA Small Projects Award nominees. A proud moment, for sure – and further proof of the power of true collaboration between creatives. Thanks again, Perimeter Architects!


October 2016 – Crain’s 2016 Coolest Offices

Ink Factory’s intimate storefront studio, in the heart of the Bucktown neighborhood, was featured as one of Chicago’s coolest designs by Crain’s Chicago Business! We were honored to be featured among some amazing designs that included many Fortune 500 companies. Our incredible architecture firm, Perimeter Architects, worked closely with us and our general contractor, Means of Production, to create a space that is not only functional and flexible, but innovative and fun to work with. Our needs were simple, but challenged with the narrow space and limitations since we lease this space.

Ink Factory is featured on the front page of Crain's Chicago Business for our studio redesign

November 2016 – Our 6th employee is added to kickoff our 6th year!

Becoming an Ink Factory-certified visual note-taker is quite the involved and lengthy process. This is definitely a role that requires careful attention to detail, but with flexibility to think on the fly. Ariana Essian waded through the applicant pool of over 100 and came out on top. She is dedicated to learning everything we have to teach her and has a charming personality to boot! She fits right in with her love of animals, improv, and wicked talent. Stay tuned for more work from Ariana as she grows with Ink Factory.

2017 and beyond…

Over the past five years we’ve had the honor of visualizing compelling keynote speeches, personal stories, diverse conversations, and brainstorming sessions with incredibly talented, thoughtful and innovative speakers from all over the world. As we move on to 2017 with our team of six, we look forward to growing the visual revolution we’ve been proud to be a part of for over 35 collective years. We can’t wait to help new and existing clients visualize their ideas and engage their audiences. Are you ready for the visual revolution?