If you’ve ever sat in a bar or restaurant wondering about the origins of its unique furniture and lighting fixtures–you’ve likely experienced the work of 555 designers, architects, engineers and craftspeople. James Geier is the founder of Chicago-based design, fabrication, and management firm 555 International. His success is largely credited to his engineering and design know-how, experience as a restaurant industry veteran, and former nightclub owner–allowing him to conceptualize, build, and manage all aspects of 555 International’s projects. Born in New Jersey in 1961, Geier studied engineering and business at Western Michigan University and honed his art and design skills at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he earned his degree in industrial design. Following college, Geier joined the team at Chicago-based Niedermaier, where he became the company’s design director and helped launch and expand their furniture business. In 2002, Geier designed the award-winning, limited-edition contemporary furniture line, Automatic Inc., for which he earned a “GenArt New Cultural Icon” designation sponsored by Hearst Magazines and Lincoln automaker. The firm’s focus has again expanded in recent years to accommodate larger-scale hospitality industry jobs. The projects encompass design, manufacturing, and installation of the complete interior environments including The Playboy Club at The Palms Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Aspen Skiing Company’s Sam’s Smokehouse in Snomass, CO, and the retail outlets and owners’ VIP lounges for the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX, among others. Karen Herold is the Vice President of Design, and a native of Ellecom, Holland. Herold graduated from the Institute of Fashion and Design in Amsterdam and holds a degree in interior fabric design. After a chance meeting in Europe with the man who would become her future husband, she traveled to Chicago for what was planned as a two-week visit. “I was planning to stop in Chicago, and then continue on to L.A. to scope out some new designs, and then go home,” she remembers. “That never happened,” she laughs. Married and settled in her new city, Herold was working at a Chicago architecture firm when a colleague introduced her to James Geier of 555 International. Herold and in May 2000 she was hired as Creative Director at 555—a title she held until being promoted to her current position in 2007.
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