John Hancock Center Website: How to Spell Genius with an X

The thought of working on one of Chicago’s most admired icons is enough to get the whole agency jumping up and down. We got that chance recently when the owners of Chicago’s John Hancock Center – affectionately known as Big John – called on us to build an online presence for the building.

The John Hancock Center (JHC) is immediately recognizable for its tapered muscular profile and the band of white at the top. Even more distinctive are the repeating Xs running from top to bottom on all sides of the building. When the property’s office owner, Hearn, approached us to create a new online presence for JHC, we knew exactly where to look for inspiration: it was built in.

A celebrated presence on the Chicago skyline, the building is also admired for its inventive engineering. The Xs on its sides were the vision of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill’s legendary structural engineer, Fazlur Khan. The Xs are structural braces that provide strength to withstand wind forces, and make the floorplates more efficient with fewer columns. By exposing these braces, the architects transformed the building’s inspired structural engineering into a beautiful and distinctive design feature.

To create the messaging for the site, we also looked to the Hancock Center’s original conception as a mixed use development – a 1960s embodiment of the live/work/play credo. This inspired the use of “mix” as a key element in the message, linking it also to the X bracing with the presence of the “X” at the end of the word. Playing off the geometry of the Xs, we created angled sweeps of color that present short bursts of copy and crop photographs in distinctive ways. With all these elements together, the site feels energetic, just as the building and the community around it are.

Our goal was to provide an experience online that helps improve the value of the building, by reflecting the stature and elegance of the building itself. The ingenuity is built into Big John. We just had to find it.