We’ve got a new “front door” to Illinois Humanities.

Homepage Tyreece EJ Exhibition 2019

By Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director

Read Time 3 minutes
October 20, 2023


For more than a year, the team at Illinois Humanities has been working to redesign our website, ILHumanities.org. The website is our way of welcoming people to not only who WE are as an organization, but also to the ways in which the humanities help us thrive in Illinois. I am delighted the new site is now live and ready to share with you, our wonderful community. You are the people we built this site for.

This is an exciting moment at Illinois Humanities—not only are we launching this beautiful new site—we are also about to share our new strategic plan and preparing to celebrate our 50th anniversary. All of this has prompted us to reflect deeply on our goals, our values, the communities we serve, and our role—and the role we want to play—in Illinois’ vibrant cultural ecosystem.

In short, we launched this project with you, our visitors, in mind.

Before the design phase began, our brilliant partners at Spanan Illinois-based design studio, facilitated seven focus groups with current grantees, event participants, students, donors, staff, and board members to help us shape our goals for the project. We came out of those conversations with the following priorities:

  • Make the site easier to navigate; make content more personable and accessible
  • Help our current community - and new visitors - see themselves in our work
  • Make it easy for people to quickly “plug in”
  • Showcase the reach and impact of the humanities in Illinois and our role in it

There are a few features I especially love: 

The searchable map on the home page is definitely one of my favorites. It’s a great showcase of the humanities around the state and it’s easy to find the organizations near you – no matter where you are in the state.

Similarly, our event calendar was completely overhauled. In addition to sharing our public humanities programs across the state, you can now select “Partner Events” and see what our partners are up to in your community. 

Beautiful images and a friendly tone across the site help our community see themselves and our collective impact. From our program pages like The Odyssey Project/El Proyecto Odisea (now available in Spanish and English) to grantee partner spotlights on our News page, our staff, grantees, and partners are front and center.

What’s perhaps less explicit but equally powerful is the way in which our partnership with Span resulted in the humanities being embedded into the very DNA of the site architecture. Span created a design that emphasizes warmth, community, and incorporates regional and humanities-related themes. The color palette avoids pure black and white, providing a softer look while allowing photography to stand out. 

This approach draws inspiration from the designers of Chicago’s New Bauhaus and Mies van Der Rohe’s architectural style. Each content block of the website emphasizes a horizontal layout, subtly referencing prairie-style design and architecture. The website’s primary typeface, Mackinac, was chosen for its readability and softened edges, taking inspiration from the type designed by Illinoisan Oswald Cooper in the early 1900s, a figure considered one of the greatest type designers in North America. Small design touches related to the humanities include a subtle paper texture, highlighter-like annotations, and a post-it note-like menu that accompanies users as they scroll through deep pages. 

I hope as you explore this site you feel like I do that our new “front door” encapsulates our vision of an Illinois where the humanities are central to making the state more just, creative, and connected. I hope you are inspired to get involved with organizations near you, to attend an event hosted by Illinois Humanities or one of our partners, and, most importantly, I hope you see yourself and your community.


Gabrielle Lyon
Executive Director

We hope you find everything you are looking for on our new site. Please send any notes or bugs to communications@ilhumanities.org.