How Do They Put the Blackhawks Logo on a Skyscraper?

The man who decorates the CNA Building has only two tools: windows and lights

Monday, May 31, 2010  |  Updated 11:30 AM CDT
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The man who decorates the CNA Building has only two tools: windows and lights

The man who decorates the CNA Building has only two tools: windows and lights

For anyone who has ever decorated the front of their house for Christmas ... Imagine doing that, with a skyscraper!

That's what the designer who decorates the massive sides of the CNA Building has to do. Meet Dan Perez, the man whose job it is to create a giant Blackhawks logo on the side of the CNA using only two things: windows and lights.

"We ask the people who will actually do it, if it's feasible," says Dan Perez, the man who has designed Chicago's most spectacular displays on the massive sides of the CNA Building. "Probably 20 or 30 over the last 20 years ... It was challenging, because we are always restricted to just on, or off!"

Perez begins every project at his desk, on a template of the building where he can switch each window from white to black. Every window is numbered, and he creates two versions. One depicts the way the design will look to the outside world, the other shows how it looks from the inside of each floor. Once he has a workable design, then it's up to the building's staff to transfer the masterpiece to life-size.

"First step, is to look at what window blinds need to be open, and what window blinds need to be closed," says Terry Wodarski, the building's manager. "Then we physically go around, and dot every window that needs to be opened as part of the design."

That process takes place on the morning the picture is to be created. Then, at late afternoon, building staffers insert panels in each window which will need diagonals or special shapes. After that, it's a matter of following the dots, and closing the windows which need to be "black" on the outside.

"The actual opening and closing of the blinds begins about 5 o'clock in the afternoon."

Once the design is created, it needs to stay up all night. And that's when the custodial staff is working. "We actually put up signs in all the offices on all the floors of the display," says Wodarski. "In four different languages for our cleaning staff at night, and for the occupants of the office, to leave their lights on all night long!"

From the star shaped logo of the Chicago Olympic bid, to the trademark symbols of the Bulls and Blackhawks, the CNA team has created the skyline's biggest images.

The worst part? They usually exist for only one night!

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