Willis Tower Immersive Brand Experience

Out on a Ledge

Millions flock to enjoy the epic views afforded by Chicago’s Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), but the wait to reach the 103rd floor can be long and not-so-epic. So Skydeck Chicago asked Hornall Anderson (Seattle) to elevate the queuing experience to rival the main event.

Hornall Anderson set out to dissolve the boundaries between environmental design and interactive technologies. The team's goals were to create an immersive, dynamic experience, "powered by transparent technology, meaningful content, an iconic graphic language, and strategic spatial design." Working with fabricator Xibitz and integrator Creative Technologies, the team created several interactive elements that celebrate the building’s legacy, focusing on its connections with Chicago’s history, culture, and people instead of its historic connection with the Sears Corporation. 

Also responsible for the Skydeck's identity design, Hornall Anderson's charge was to transform a waiting line into a memorable brand experience. The team took both tasks on simultaneously, creating a nimble design process by using storyboarding and experience flow diagrams. The team also created the identity for the tower's new glass-encased view deck, The Ledge. 

The result manages to extend the awe-inspiring experience from the lobby all the way up to the rooftop. The Tower Room features a superscaled “103” and typographic murals that detail key facts about the view. In the Chicago Room, floor and table interactives teach visitors about Chicago’s history, culture, and celebrities. In the Launchdeck Room, visitors look up before they look down, learning about the city’s skyscrapers via wall graphics and a breathtaking view provided by a giant ceiling-hung lightbox.

The outcome is driving revenues and helping visitors forget they’re waiting in line, says General Manager Randy Stancik, vice president of U.S. Equities Asset Management, owner of the Skydeck. "Hornall Anderson provided not only a unique space, but a rich, one-stop Chicago experience where visitors see and learn about the best the Windy City has to offer."


Client:  Skydeck Chicago

Location:  Chicago

Design:  Hornall Anderson

Design Team:  Ashley Arhart, Andrew Wicklund creative directors; Erin Crosier account director; Julie Yoakum, Kerri Gerlitz account managers; Jamie Monberg interactive director; Jay Hilburn, Jon Graeff, Andrew Well, Tony DeVincenzi, Joseph King, Chris Freed, Elmer dela Cruz, Jessica Lennard, Larry Anderson, Adrien Lo, Drew Pickard, Don Kenoyer, Nivi Ramesh, Rachel Blakley, Sam Stubblefield, Kalani Gregoire, Hans Krebs, Oliver Hutton designers; Chris Monberg, Halli Thiel, Kevin Roth, Dana Kruse, Zak Menkel producers; Gordon Mueller, Matt Frickelton developers; Bill Hollister, Ben Steele copywriters; Paula Cox, Peg Johnson, Judy Dixon, Jeff Wolff, Julie Valdez, Jonas Land production designers

Fabrication: Xibitz

AV Integration:  Creative Technologies 

Photos:  Adam Friedberg

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