Joseph Michael Essex

Joseph Michael Essex is a critical thinker who hates the “s” that many people put at the end of the word communication. He feels communication is a singular process governed by how human beings accept and store information. And, while the methods for delivering information are varied, the function of preparing, packaging and presenting a message is fundamentally the same. This propensity of Joseph’s to examine and test the most basic of assumptions forms the core of his evaluative and creative process. What do you want to happen? To whom do you want it to happen? and What results do you expect? are questions that shape and guide that process.

Joseph has spent over 35 years learning how to ask questions that provide meanings, reasons and guidance, not just answers. Through his process, Joseph has created images and messages for organizations as complex as Indiana University and Beatrice Foods, as diverse as The Marmon Group and Harpo Studios and as seemingly similar as Northwestern Memorial Hospital Corporation and Children’s Memorial Hospital.

Before co-founding Essex Two, with his partner Nancy Denney Essex, Joseph was senior vice president, director of design for Burson-Marsteller World Wide and director of visual communication planning for the offices in the Americas. Essex has received more than 350 awards from every major communication publication and organization in the United States, Europe and Asia, including medals from the New York Art Directors Club. In 1998, the American Institute of Graphic Arts / Chicago presented him its Above and Beyond Award for his extraordinary service to his profession and the organization. Joseph has received Fellow Awards from both the Society of Typographic Arts and the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

His fine art and commercial posters are in permanent museum collections in Japan, Ireland, Brazil and France, as well as the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the only museum devoted to design in the United States, and the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City. He has lectured extensively to student and professional groups on the business of communication and his own design process. Father of two boys, 16 and 18, Joseph is continually learning, adjusting and challenging preconceived notions of what is, with what could be.


  • AIGA / Chicago   Advisory Board Member
  • Evan’s Life Foundation   Board Member
  • Type Directors Club of New York   Member
  • Who’s Who in America, since 1981   Member
  • 27 Chicago Designers   Past Member and Chairman
  • Chicago City Theatre Company   Past President
  • Lawyers for the Creative Arts   Past Board Member