“Design Fugitives is Milwaukee, and we adhere to the history of making while looking to the future.”

There’s a reason you can’t walk more than a block or two in this city without seeing a “MILWAUKEE HOME” t-shirt: Milwaukee residents and businesses LOVE this city and are proud to call it “home.” And we’re no different.

Born from the minds of UW-Milwaukee architecture students and alumni who wanted to create something different, Design Fugitives began as a design collaborative that shared ideas, resources, and tools to create interesting, out-of-the-box projects. Six years later, we haven’t abandoned the mindset and values that we were created upon, nor have we abandoned our great city Milwaukee, and we never plan to.

While we DO love our beer, brats and baseball, you’re missing out if you think that’s all that Milwaukee embodies. Milwaukee is a very creative and collaborative city that we’re proud to contribute to and surround ourselves with. But what is it specifically about Milwaukee that captivates Design Fugitives? As the newest member of the Design Fugitives team, heading all the marketing and organizational efforts around the office, I, Emily, sought out to learn more about what makes Milwaukee feel like home to this group. I asked partners Paul, Justin and Tuan, and designers Miguel and Lauren a couple questions to find out.

For starters, Milwaukee is full of beautiful sculptures and public art pieces that this creative bunch of artists love to look at. Most Milwaukeeans are familiar with the big orange sculpture at the end of Wisconsin Avenue that’s usually affectionately called the “Starburst,” but it’s actually named “The Calling” by artist Mark di Suvero and happens to be Miguel’s favorite sculpture in Milwaukee. Or maybe you’re more like Lauren, and the whimsical Cass Street Park fiberglass sculptures by Wisconsin artist Marina Lee match your eccentric style. Head down to Discovery World on the lake, and you’ll find Paul’s favorite sculpture – “Wind Leaves” by Ned Kahn. This cool hands-on piece shimmers and moves with the wind, as well as offering the option for spectators to turn them with a hand wheel. My personal favorite aspect of this park are the benches with mallets attached that can be played like a xylophone.


Clockwise from top: “Wind Leaves” by Ned Kahn (Photo: Car Los Flickr), Guardian 2 Light @ Cass Street Park, Cass Street Park Entrance Cat (Photos: Marina Lee, Artist), “The Calling” by Mark di Suvero (Photo: Jerry Tang)

However, the art in Milwaukee doesn’t just end with the public sculptures and the impressive collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum; the buildings themselves are works of art as well! The most well-known being the Milwaukee Art Museum’s very own Quadracci Pavilion by architect Santiago Calatrava. This beautiful building on the lakefront is a Milwaukee skyline staple; it’s no wonder it’s both mine and Miguel’s favorite building. Lauren and Tuan, however, set their sights just next door to another eye-catching lakefront building: the War Memorial Center by architect Eero Saarinen. And Justin is a fan of one of the oldest buildings in Milwaukee, designed by Henry C. Koch and built in 1895, and formerly the tallest building in the United States, the beautifully historic City Hall. Between the bell tower and the beautiful archway entrance, it’s no wonder this building was declared a National Historical Monument in 2005.


Top left: Milwaukee City Hall, Top Right: Quadracci Pavilion (Photo: Morgan Sheff Photography), Bottom: Milwaukee County War Memorial Center

When we’re not walking around the city looking up at the intricate architecture, the Fugitives enjoy taking advantage of all that the city has to offer. I love spending my time off taking in live music; whether it’s seeing a touring band play at the beautiful Pabst, Riverside or Turner Hall theatres or catching a local show at any of the amazing bars that support Milwaukee’s local music scene. Justin is a fan of live music as well; his favorite place is The Jazz Estate where he can catch some cool tunes. The other Fugitives prefer to take in the nature-focused side of Milwaukee. Miguel enjoys biking around the many bike trails that run throughout the city, while Paul like to take time in the morning to walk down to the calm lakefront to catch the sunrise over Lake Michigan. Tuan also enjoys a moment of calm and silence, while sipping on a cup of coffee from Stone Creek Coffee, specifically the location in 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s building, just down the street from us!

free time

Top: The Riverside Theatre, Middle Left: The Jazz Estate, Middle Right: Sign designed, fabricated, and installed by Design Fugitives at the start of the Hank Aaron State Trail, Bottom Left: Sunrise over Lake Michigan (Photo: Mike De Sisti, JSOnline), Bottom Right: Stone Creek Coffee @ 88Nine Radio Milwaukee

We would be remiss if we didn’t include our favorite local eateries in our ode to Milwaukee. Whether you’re going out for a nice dinner with Justin at his favorite restaurant, Tess, grabbing a basket of the best wings in Milwaukee at Points East Pub with me, heading to Comet Cafe for their irresistible Reuben sandwich with Paul or enjoying half-priced sushi at Screaming Tuna on a Sunday evening with Miguel, it’s no secret that Milwaukee is full of culinary gems that the Fugitives enjoy taking advantage of. Not to mention the fact that Design Fugitives is essentially powered by Taqueria El Cabrito’s burritos. No Milwaukee means no El Cabrito, which means no Design Fugitives. Why would we ever leave?

But at the end of the day, YOU are what keep us here in Milwaukee. The entire team agrees that Milwaukeeans are their favorite part about this city. Justin loves that “Milwaukee people have amazing stories and a wealth of knowledge that, in my experience, they’re always willing to share.”

And we’re honored to be able to share our stories with you, too.