Design Discourse with Bryan Bedell

Field Notes and Forensic Design

Designers should look everywhere for inspiration, and it’s often useful to study existing work. Unfortunately, whether the work comes from the design establishment or “the vernacular,” it’s presented as the magical genius of individual designers, and pigeonholed into ret-conned movements. We see only the curated results, unaware of unseen factors such as process, people, language, culture, materials, commerce, and technology. We skim the surface and snipe superficial ideas

“Forensic Design” is a method of gathering more meaningful inspiration from existing design, without being superficial or imitative.

The key to Forensic Design is looking beyond the surface for a deeper understanding. To this end, we ask questions. Good designers already do this subconsciously. With a conscious framework, the exercise becomes more fruitful, providing deeper understanding and leading to more interesting ideas. Rather than aping obvious features of the original, we integrate its intent with our own to create something original and honest.

We’ll examine this framework through the perspective of Bryan’s work at Field Notes, including a list of specific questions to ask, with the hope that creative professionals will use it as a starting point for their own investigation and inspiration.

The first 50 registrants will receive a letterpress-printed ‘zine, “Forensic Design: 100 Questions”

About Bryan

Bryan Bedell is a Chicago-based graphic designer, letterpress printer, and photographer.

For the past 26 years, Bryan’s been involved in Coudal Partners’ mutation from advertising agency to self-driven side-hustles, eventually partnering with Aaron Draplin in 2007 to form Field Notes Brand, a popular line of made-in-U.S.A. memo books.
Bryan’s deep involvement in the design and production of Field Notes is informed by his interest in design history and technology. Most projects involve extensive research and collaboration with printers and suppliers to accurately replicate the look and feel of vintage agricultural and industrial memo books.

In his spare time, Bryan runs Midwest Ephemera, a letterpress print shop.

About Public Works

Public Works is an art & design gallery, shop, and apparel brand in Wicker Park, continuing the neighborhood's history of supporting independent artists. Since 2009, Public Works has been collaborating with artists in Chicago and internationally to create seasonal exhibitions and apparel. A gallery, lounge, listening station, and retail store to work, look, listen, and shop. Openings, musical performances, film screenings, and other events, Open to the public.

Public Works is an extension of the Someoddpilot creative studio, continuing a tradition of our 25 year history within Chicago art, design, and music.

Thank you to our sponsor!
This event is sponsored by Public Works. Learn more about Public Works at

Handles, Links and Hashtags

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Code of Conduct

By registering to attend this event, you agree to abide by AIGA Chicago Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct may be found here.

When & Where
Mon, May 13, 2024 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM CDT
Public Works Gallery
2141 West North Avenue
Chicago, IL 60647