The Charles Deering Memorial Library was designed by the renowned architect James Gamble Rogers (1867-1947), who also designed the South Quads, Dyche Stadium, and Scott Hall on Northwestern's Evanston campus and most of the buildings on the University's Chicago campus. Rogers was responsible for numerous other academic buildings including the Harkness Quads and the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University.
According to Aaron Betsky, author of James Gamble Rogers and the Architecture of Pragmatism (NY: Architectural History Foundation, 1994), notable architectural elements include:
- The facade is divided into eleven equal bays by buttresses that start out as pronounced stone piers and at the top blend into the skin of the building. Each end elevation is organized around a single arched window, and the elaborately composed corners are held by piers topped by octagonal caps, which Rogers at one time had envisioned as towers.
- Within the front structure's shape is a series of equally simple rectangular shapes that are played off against a rich choreography meant to slowly seduce one into the assimilation of knowledge through books. The visitor enters through one of three low arches – thus being confronted immediately with the structure of the building – thence into a loggia of vaulted spaces covered with stone, much like a dark medieval crypt.
- Constructed of Wisconsin Lannon stone, Indiana Bedford limestone, Briar Hill sandstone, Winona travertine, granite and concrete by skilled craftsmen, the Deering Library features 68 window medallions designed by G. Owen Bonawit and wood and stone carvings by sculptor Rene Paul Chambellan. Chambellan's wood and stone carvings symbolize the world of learning: the owl, the hourglass, the open book, the pen and so forth. Bonawit's glass medallions depict people and events associated with mythology, history, religion, literature, learning and the history of the old Northwest.