Mini Mighty Monday: Cape Horn Illustration

Posted on Sep 22, 2014 in Chicago, Mini Mighty Monday


The countdown to the Chicago Marathon is on, and if you finish those 26.2 miles, it’s worth it to celebrate the amazing feat. Cape Horn Illustration provides the opportunity to do that–and celebrate other momentous occasions, such as buying or selling a home–with their maps and custom artwork. Phil Thompson and Katie Lauffenburger, the husband and wife team behind Cape Horn, join Mini Mighty Mondays to discuss their small business and beautiful artwork.


Siblings: The Chicago Two-Flats. 10 x 17″ print, featuring the popular early 1900s Chicago residential style in brick or greystone. Find it for purchase here!

1. So many of your prints and artwork–from marathon maps to home portraits–are pieces that connect to an emotional point in your customers’ lives. How did you decide to take your illustrative skills in that direction?

We start with whatever subjects inspire us. That’s the foundation. Chicago homes, marathons, beer bars were all areas that we thought were worth exploring, learning about, illustrating. Then we ask whether that’s also something that a customer might want to honor with artwork. Home illustration is a natural intersection of our love for residential architecture and people’s love for their own homes. For other things: Some stay in, a lot gets tossed out.

2. There’s a line between people seeing your work and saying “you could make a living off this!” and actually making a living off of your artwork. What was your path to making this a career?

Well, Katie still has her job at Jellyvision, a marketing agency. My path: Thinking about it for years, then tackling passion projects for years while working full-time (as a consultant to Swedish companies), then simply quitting my full-time job. It was jumping out of the nest and learning to fly–my best motivation to make things work.



Honor your 26.2 miles of the Chicago marathon with this 12 x 18″ print.

3. With a lot of minds (and feet!) focused on the upcoming Chicago Marathon, what was your inspiration for illustrating the marathon line of maps? How do you choose which parts of the city to highlight?

The inspiration was that I was taking on my first marathon ever, the 2013 Chicago Marathon. For highlights: I asked former marathoners, ran (and drove) parts of the course myself, and Google street-viewed the course. With this marathon maps, as with the next three maps, the most important input comes from the former runners–since there are spots that are more important for the runners’ spirit than for looking spectacular.


So many beautiful homes!

4. You offer prints and custom work. How does your process differ when designing and illustrating work for the masses, versus custom work?

For prints: There’s no customer feedback until its released. Its relying more on intuition, what we love, and what we hope “the masses” will love.

For custom: Customer feedback is ongoing, and there’s much more buy-in and attachment.

5. For any artists out there looking to break off of their own sites, what advice do you have on getting work placed in stores and in front of buyers? 

Give buyers an array of product options, prepare a professional product line sheet, be open to feedback and criticism, and offer low-risk options, like consignment. Understand their perspective and business interests and line your sights up with those.


Chicago’s lakefront deserves the same illustrated map recognition as the beautiful cities documented in the Age of Discovery. Inspiration from the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s walking tours, Louis Sullivan, and Art Deco abound in this detailed 26 x 12″ print.

Bonus Question: What has surprised you the most in your career?

That flexibility and mobility in work gives you the opportunity to work harder and longer hours.

Big thank you to Phil for taking the time to answer these questions! All photos courtesy of Cape Horn Illustration.


See more of Cape Horn’s work at You can also find their prints at retailers around Chicago, including Sacred Art in Lincoln Square, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and more!


Mini Mighty Mondays is a bi-monthly blog series, featuring interviews with creative individuals or small businesses to emphasize that you don’t have to be a huge company to have huge results. Interested in being a part, or know someone who’d be a great addition?  Shoot me an email at!

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