2018 AIGA Chicago Award Honorees

Meet the esteemed guests set to take home top honors at AIGA Chicago’s 2018 Design Awards on June 14, 2018.


Good design makes people look, but great design changes how people look at the world.

This year, we’re honored to recognize designers and organizations who are using their talents and resources to do just that. They’re not just leaders making an impact in design—they’re making an impact within their communities, doing work that unites people of all ages, races, genders, disciplines, incomes, and perspectives to promote inclusivity, reduce violence in Chicago, and bolster design education for grades K-12.

We invite you to learn more about those whose understanding of design is bringing greater understanding to the community (and, please, join us in celebrating them on June 14th at Forth Level).

Katherine Darnstadt, Fellow Award — Katherine Darnstadt is the founder of Latent Design + Boombox Chicago, a progressive architecture and urbanism firm leveraging civic innovation and social impact to design more equitable spaces and systems. Since founding her practice in 2010, Katherine and her firm have prototyped new urban design systems to advance urban agriculture, supported small business, created spaces for youth makers, advanced building innovation, and created public space frameworks. She developed Chicago’s first popup micro retail locations constructed out of upcycled shipping containers, called Boombox, to help community entreprenuers, and arts organizations bridge the gap between startup and storefront to launch their ideas, projects and passions. She and the firm have been published, exhibited, and featured widely—most notably at the International Venice Architecture Biennial, Architizer A+ Awards, Chicago Ideas Week, NPR, American Institute of Architects Young Architects Honor Award winner, and Crain’s Chicago 40 Under 40. She currently teaches at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Sprout Social, Corporate Leadership Award — Sprout Social offers social media analytics, engagement, and advocacy solutions to more than 20,000 leading brands and agencies including Microsoft, adidas, West Elm, and BBDO Worldwide. Sprout’s suite of solutions—including Simply Measured and Bambu by Sprout Social—support every aspect of a social program and enable businesses to better connect with their audience, extend their reach, and amplify their brand. Headquartered in Chicago, Sprout is a Twitter Official Partner, Facebook Marketing Partner, Instagram Partner Program Member, LinkedIn Company Page Partner, and Google+ Pages API Partner.

Vernon Lockhart, Above & Beyond Award — Vernon Lockhart is Executive Director of Project Osmosis (EST 2001), as a design education and mentoring initiative that emerged from the Chicago chapter of the Organization of Black Designers (OBD). Sharing a mission with OBD to increase dialogue and interaction between aspiring designers and the professional world, Lockhart has directed Osmosis toward mentoring young creative minds. Vernon is also founder and principal of Art on the Loose (AOTL), a creative consulting firm specializing in exhibition design and brand identity. Active on all fronts of design advocacy, Vernon has served on local and national boards of AIGA. Before establishing Osmosis, Lockhart was Executive Director of OBD Chicago. Vernon was instrumental in helping UIC to establish the UIC Osmosis Charles Harrison Scholarship. Vernon also serves as an Adjunct Design Professor at UIC School of Art and Design featuring a series of Lectures on Design Inclusion.

Karen Spears, Emerging Designer Award — Karen Spears is a 22-year old designer, hand-letterer, and entrepreneur from the Southside of Chicago. In undergrad at the University of Missouri, Karen launched her graphic design and visual branding service, Kareracter. She believes you are never too young or too old to start an idea—all you need is branding with personality and you’re off to a good start! As a full-time entrepreneur, she continues to build upon her experience at Google, Leo Burnett, and many influential non-profit organizations in brand pitching and positioning to promote short and long-term business growth. Karen is also the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Let’s Vibe L3C, an ecosystem of womxn of color and allies creating a more inclusive world through connectivity and design. As COO, Karen oversees operations, performance, brand management, and member and client experience. Under her co-leadership, Let’s Vibe received the Firestarter Award (2017, City Clerk of Chicago) for trailblazing paths for millennial womxn to connect, grow and develop as leaders. Karen completed her Communications degree focused on Business at the University of Missouri. She is a peer advisor for the Obama Foundation, former StartingBloc Fellow, and a scholar for the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival.

Ingrid Nelson, Emerging Designer Award — Ingrid Nelson is a graphic designer, born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. When she moved to the US, at 17 years old, she was introduced to graphic design for the first time. She’s always had a knack for drawing and computers, so graphic design made sense to her and the possibility of a job after graduation appeased her anxious Caribbean parents. She completed her Associate’s degree at Bunker Hill Community College and received her BFA in graphic design from the Rhode Island School of Design. Ingrid is very passionate about branding from the creation of the mark to its translation in physical and digital spaces. She designs, curates, codes, publishes, documents, records, writes, travels. Her natural empathy coming from her upbringing in a developing country pushes her desire to create change on a larger scale.  Her current endeavors include freelancing out of her apartment in Lincoln Park, developing Lab Kreyol (follow @labkreyol.studio on instagram), a personal platform for visual exploration inspired by the Haitian Language and Culture, and volunteering with the AIGA Chicago Diversity & Inclusion well because she wants to see more faces like hers and people from a diverse background in design. You can view her work at www.ingrid-nelson.com.

Kathleen Tieri Ton, Educator Award — In her twelve years as an art and media educator, Kathleen has been devoted to inspiring students to develop an appreciation for the arts while empowering them with the vision and tools they need to impact their own lives and communities. She is excited by art found in our everyday lives and incorporates this passion in her teaching of digital and print design. Kathleen holds a BA in Studio Art from Indiana University, a Masters of Arts in Teaching from Columbia College Chicago, and post-graduate work in curriculum studies at University of Illinois Chicago. Kathleen resides in Batavia, Illinois with her husband and three children where she teaches graphic arts at Batavia High School. In her free time, she explores printmaking, gardening, and her love for old movies.

Spudnik Press, Social Impact Award — Spudnik Press provides facilities and services to artists who need a place to create or exhibit their original artwork, especially those who cannot obtain access to traditional printmaking facilities and exhibition spaces because of financial or other limitations. They also provide education in printmaking practices though uniting professional artists with a diverse community of emerging artists, established artists, youth, and adults.  Now just over a decade of programming, the organization continues to provide minimal barriers to well-maintained, robust printmaking facilities and a gallery while establishing a rich community of artists and art-consumers engaged in the vibrant landscape of fine art printmaking.

Monica Haslip, Social Impact Award — Monica Haslip is a compelling voice on behalf of children and the arts. Monica was one of the nation’s youngest Founders of a community based arts organization to build a state of the art Design Center. Her focus on “the business of art” has made her one of the most respected leaders in Community Arts and Culture development. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center and Academy.

Monica was born in Birmingham, Alabama, the youngest of five children. Her love affair with visual arts began while attending Alabama School of Fine Arts. It was in this environment that she discovered the beauty and complexities of Art & Culture. In pursuit of her passion, she moved to Atlanta, Georgia where she continued her studies at Atlanta College of Art.

Monica’s passion for art led to the creation of Little Black Pearl (LBP). The organization, founded in 1994, is an innovative Arts and Culture Institution designed to create positive vehicles for children to thrive. Her philosophy and art practice is anchored by her belief in racial equity and the power and impact of “Love”. The primary vision for Little Black Pearl is to serve as a laboratory of human potential. Monica’s body of work has spanned over two decades and is recognized nationally and internationally.

In 2013, Monica led the charge to expand LBP’s educational efforts to include a high school focused on art, design and technology. Little Black Pearl Art and Design Academy (LBPA) serves 150 student’s grades 9-12. LBPA is a Chicago Public School that is designed to eliminate classroom to prison practices and demonstrate the positive impact that a community based organization can have on creating high quality and effective educational opportunities for inner-city African American youth.

Monica is a consultant and racial healing practitioner for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. She is part of the first cohort of racial healing practitioners trained by Dr. Gail Christopher to implement racial healing practices designed to jettison the belief in the hierarchy of human value.

She also serves on the Board of Directors for The Chicago Cook Workforce Development Board, where she is Secretary and Chairman of the Youth committee. She was appointed to serve on the Chicago Police Accountability Task force where she focused on recommendations for the Early Intervention System and Racism.

Monica has received recognition from a great number of individuals and organizations such as: Former President of the United States, Barack Obama, who honored Monica for her youth violence prevention work as part of the White House Champions of Change. Columbia College “Paul Berger Arts Entrepreneurship Award”, University of Illinois “Spirit of a Leader” Award, Southeast Chicago Commission “Community Service” Award, the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects and 100 Black Men and many others.

Monica was +recognized as one of “TheGrio’s 100: History Makers in the Making,” released by theGrio.com, a division of NBC News, the list includes 100 African-American men and women who are writing the next chapter of American history. She has been featured in Essence Magazine, Black Enterprise, Crain’s Business Magazine and she received the prestigious “Chicagoans of the Year” award given by Chicago Magazine.

By AIGA Chicago
Published May 7, 2018
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