Alexandra Harcha-Montes is a multidisciplinary design professional, born and raised in Lima, Peru, and based in Chicago. She is a Principal of Design at Newell Brands, a consumer goods global corporation. She joined Newell Brands in 2017 as a Creative Manager, leading a team of graphic designers focused on packaging design in the Outdoor and Recreation division with brands such as Coleman, Contigo, Puddle Jumper, amongst others. Today, she is a Principal in the Advanced Design team, leading omnichannel design projects for all brands across the Newell portfolio including Prismacolor, Oster, Rubbermaid, Crockpot, Yankee Candle, Breville, Calphalon, etc. She is deeply invested in D&I initiatives, and chairs committees in three different employee resource groups.
Prior to joining Newell Brands, Alexandra has held roles as Art and Creative Director, in organizations ranging from award-winning advertising agencies, universities, start-ups, publishers, newsrooms, and her own independent design studio. Her expertise crafted in different design paths from digital, environmental, to print and everything in between.
Previous company roles include Texas Tech University, Curiosity Advertising, GoSun, The Amarillo Globe-News, Cincinnati State, with clients such as P&G, CINTAS, Lenscrafters, Dean’s Foods, Luxottica, TruMoo, Mayfield Creamery, MedVet, amongst others.
Volunteering, social justice initiatives, sustainability, and contemporary art take a very important space in her life. She has been a board member of AIGA Cincinnati chapter, a mentor in the AIGA mentoring program, and has served in the boards of several arts and community centered non-profit organizations over the years, including the Contemporary Art Center (Cincinnati) and Pones. She has deep passion for teaching
and mentoring, which she has fulfilled for 11 years as a museum docent at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago and the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, where she chaired the Docent Council.
Other personal passions include food making, food styling, traveling extensively and as often as she can, fashion, documenting life, Peruvian hairless dogs, performance art…none of these in any particular order. She dreams of being a chef and opening a tiny restaurant in a faraway beach.
Nick Adam (he/his)
Nick Adam (he – his) believes graphic design is an integral form of public work that connects us all. This notion regards the causal relationship between graphic design and its publics as an opportunity to engage with and enhance the lived experience. Nick is a Design Principal at Chicago’s Span, a multi-disciplinary, strategic identity design studio. He has over 18 years of experience directing and designing across all mediums for civic leaders, visionary startups, cultural communities, and non-profits. Beyond design making, the projects that he has led have included collaborative work sessions, multi-stakeholder group dialogues, and public town hall presentations that involve residents, Mayors, governments, non-profits, academic institutions, and the leadership of businesses small and large.
Prior to Span, Nick Adam was Associate Principal at Thirst where he was mentored by the National Design Awardee, Rick Valicenti. Nick received an MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2018, during which he taught a course on the intersection of typography and civics. He was Strategic Director at Firebelly where he held a hybrid strategy and design leadership role and was mentored by Dawn Hancock. Earlier in his career, he held in-house positions such as Art Director in a leading publication house, and Designer in a renown Chicago hospitality organization. His BFA from 2003 is in Visual Communications from the Illinois Institute of Art, (formerly known as the Ray Vogue School of Art). During the final year of his BFA, Nick held a full-time position as a designer for the school’s department of admissions while he also waited tables at a biome-themed restaurant. Nick Adam is still paying the loans on both of these degrees. Chicago’s underground punk, rave, and graffiti-writing subcultures of the 1990’s pointed Nick to a life in design.
His work is archived in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, the Newberry Library, The Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Fleet Library at RISD, Design Museum of Chicago, and the Chicago Design Archive.
Dave Pabellon is an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Columbia College Chicago and a design consultant under the moniker It Is Just Dave LLC, with a focus on partnerships with cultural institutions, contemporary artists, and activist organizations.
Pabellon most recently was an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Dominican University and prior to that held the role of senior designer at the award-winning studio Faust Associates. In addition to his professional and academic practice Pabellon also serves as the Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion for AIGA Chicago and is a member of the Design As Protest Collective.
Valerie Craig (she/her)
Valerie Craig is a designer and leader who brings brands to life through collaboration, curiosity, storytelling, and excellent design. Her passion is in building and shaping brands through design that is intentional, raises awareness, and delivers remarkable results. Valerie is the Creative Director at Customer Experience Automation leader ActiveCampaign. In this role, she leads strategic communication design that is impactful and beautiful to tell the ActiveCampaign story. Prior to ActiveCampaign, she led design at the industrial software company Uptake as Brand Director.
A passionate advocate of the design community, she serves as the President of the AIGA Chicago Board of Directors. Valerie lives in Chicago with her husband, Grant, and two tiny children, Jonah and Lucy.
Outgoing Vice-President of Communications
Bianca Smith (she/her)
Bianca is a writer who marries personal anecdotes and colorful language to communicate compelling brand messages. As a trained journalist and editor, she is passionate about the entire scope of the creative process—from pitching a story idea through to creating a piece’s social media posts, she is invested in all facets of the projects she’s a part of. Bianca is currently a copywriter at One Design Company. Most recently, she edited Mouthwash magazine and was the managing editor of Echo Magazine—a nationally award-winning student-run publication—while she completed her BA in Magazine Journalism at Columbia College Chicago.
Outgoing Vice-President of Community Engagement
Mary Foyder (she/her)
Mary loves to partner with clients to plan, envision and bring content to life. An award-winning interdisciplinary designer, brand strategist and IDEO alumnus with over 15 years of experience, Mary is versatile communication design leader who has worked with dozens of clients, from fortune 500 brands to top nonprofits. Her experience includes a diverse range of projects—from microfinance banking in rural Kenya to the creation and branding of a birth control support network for women. She has worked with a broad range of clients including, The Trust for Public Land, The University of Chicago, The Chicago Department of Public Health, American Express, Nike, Sara Lee, Bank of America, and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy.
No matter what the project, Mary believes in a Human Centered Design approach—great design starts with understanding the needs of individuals as well as organizations. Among the press and accolades Mary’s work has received, her work with Bedsider garnered an IDEA gold for service design and bronze for both research and design strategy, as well as a Core77 strategy and research award. Her work was also featured in the Pasadena Museum of California Art.
Incoming Vice-President of Community Engagement
Nacho Montiel (she/her)
Bio coming soon!
Vice-President of Programming
Jen Lemerand (she/her)
Jen is an idea generator with an infectious passion for design. She builds and motivates teams to solve design problems in unexpected ways. When it comes to smart design, Jen sees things differently, so she does things differently. She believes in taking a fresh look at creative, which is why people always ask if her glasses are upside-down. That’s what it takes to stand out–and leave a lasting impression. Jen is the Studio Lead & Creative Director at Glantz Design in Evanston, IL. There she leads a team of designers, account managers and developers for small mom and pops to Fortune 500s.
In 2012, Jen founded the Chicago chapter of SheSays, a mentorship and networking group dedicated to getting more women at the top. She’s also known to break the ice at conferences such as HOW Design Live by inviting attendees to turn her into a “walking typography” experiment.
For fun, you can find Jen biking the streets of Chicago and performing original songs (sometimes about her bike) as “Jen Lem”. But mostly she is keeping up with her Australian Cattle Dog, Kylo Lem. Yes, she also wrote a song about him. Woof!
Co-Vice-President of the Mentor Program
Nicholas Daniel Phillips
Nick leads design research and experience design at Studio 2133 with his co-founder Sergio Marquina. He strives to approach every problem with empathy and humility making sure to always put the users’ needs first. As a result, he strives to translate human behavior into design decisions leveraging them as the framework to shape products and experiences that are both valuable and viable in the market. Nick received a Master of Science in Engineering Design Innovation from Northwestern University’s Segal Design Institute and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Texas at Austin.
He is very interested in the many methods and techniques of design research and how to utilize them to gain valuable insights. He is always open to discussing where the industry is headed and potential career paths with other designers from non-traditional backgrounds and career paths. After hours, Nick enjoys starting new hobbies and finding innovative ways to make sure the neighborhood rabbits don’t vandalize his garden.
Co-Vice-President of the Mentor Program
Leslie Presto (she/her)
Bio coming soon!
Vice-President of Education
Kelli Evans is a designer and educator with extensive experience working in Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles and New York. Her work includes corporate identities, annual reports, brochures, packaging, point of purchase displays, signage, exhibits, mobile event design, web site design and animation. She received a BS in Graphic Design from the University of Cincinnati, an MFA in Graphic Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and has two certificates from the Hochschule für Gestaltung und Kunst in Basel, Switzerland.
Kelli has been teaching since 2008 and has been an adjunct faculty member at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Lake Forest College, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently Assistant Professor of Visual Communication at Loyola University Chicago.
Her ongoing areas of emphasis and research are: promoting interaction between the professional world and that of the student; the development of socially responsible graphic design; incorporating generative practices and devices in graphic design, which includes the tenets of movements such as the Oulipo, Surrealism, and the Situationists; and vernacular design of Punk flyers in the Midwest circa 1982–1988.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Chair
Judith Mayer (she/her)
Judith Mayer is a designer and illustrator—born and raised in the Midwest and the daughter of an immigrant. After working at several Chicago design firms, she started her own practice in 1998.
Judith’s work is influenced by her love of mid-century modern and pop art and has been published in over 40 books and magazines, including Communication Arts, Uppercase Magazine, HOW Magazine, Graphic Design USA, and LogoLounge. She’s also a member of Crush Illustration Collective.
Creating fine art is a part of her practice. Recent projects include painting a mural at a residency in Costa Rica and representing Illinois in a collaborative 19th Amendment flag design, displayed at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in D.C.
Judith earned a BFA from Ball State University; has served as Vice President of Marketing for South Shore Arts for 18 years; served as Professional Programs Director for Society of Typographic Arts; and served 6 years as a Plan Commissioner for the Town of Highland.
Alex Sommerville is a designer and educator with expertise in brand development, photography and graphic installations. Formally trained in both graphic design and architecture, Alex seeks out opportunities to partner with interdisciplinary teams on projects that add to the narrative of people and place. She is currently pursuing projects that confront the latent systems that shape children of Mexican-American immigrants and offer a vehicle to reflect their personal identity within a multicultural community.
In her professional practice, Alex currently works as a Senior Graphic Designer at Simple Truth, a creative branding agency in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. She has recently collaborated with organizations such as Baird & Warner, Old Town School of Folk Music, BPI and the Chicago Humanities Festival. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Graphic Design and Foundations Curriculum Coordinator at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she has experience teaching courses in composition, color theory and photography.
Alex has her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Design in Graphic Design from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Ola is an academic advisor, instructor, and Visual Communication student at Loyola University Chicago. Though new to the design industry, her work with undergraduate students has ignited her creativity to find captivating, efficient ways to communicate information through the lens of accessibility and inclusion.
She earned a BA in Applied Psychology with a Gender and Women Studies minor from University of Illinois at Chicago and an MA in School Counseling from Northeastern Illinois University.
Before joining First and Second Year Advising at Loyola University Chicago in 2019, Ola worked as a Career Coordinator where she was able to assist students in surveying different majors, careers, and opportunities through the lens of self-exploration.
When she is not advising, she is mocking up a new design or taking care of her ever-growing collection of plants.
Bio Coming Soon.
Abby Brown Seiple
Bio Coming Soon.
Mentor Program Chair
Bio Coming Soon.
Buddy Boor is a designer with a passion for exploring the intersection of art and code. Curious about people and their environment, his favorite aspect of design is the requirement to dive deeply into outside disciplines. By day he runs Other Things Creative, a branding and interaction studio in Ravenswood.
Prior to starting Other Things, Buddy worked in interaction design at the agency Mightybytes and supported multiple publications at Tribune Interactive. He holds a BFA in Graphic Design and a BA in Advertising from Michigan State University. On the side he’s a passionate runner, illustrator, & podcast-listener.
Interactive Programming Co-Chair
Megan (Jax) Jackson (they/she)
Jax is a UI/UX+ designer that utilizes their energized, organized mind to develop engaging solutions to creative problems. At Dogstudio, Jax ideates, collaborates and executes digital experiences for clients around the world. Thanks to the fabulous studio agencies in Chicago, Jax has experience working in most industries, mediums and team sizes – including strategizing and leading teams.
Jax got that BFA in Graphic Design with honors and awards back in 2014 (when they were still teaching Flash). Since then, Jax keeps up-to-date by participating in competitions, mentoring, volunteering and obsessively checking design sites for new things. The most notable competition they competed in was Pixels of Fury back in 2017. They lost, but a cool Star Wars poster was made so not all was lost.
Jax is a humble midwesterner raised on a healthy mixture of strong female-boss energy, jokes, naturalistic hippie sh*t and emo music. At home, Jax co-parent’s Chowder, Flapjack and a variety of herb and vegetable plants. Outside of Chi, you can find Jax and their partner on the road in their purple Jeep Wrangler traveling to somewhere with (hopefully) good pizza and cool tattoo shops.
Interactive Programming Co-Chair
Michael Vaughn Green
Michael has been crafting digital experiences for over a decade. Passionate about design and FED, Micahel believes in empowering users with delight and discovery. He currently works on the internal design systems team at Conversant Media. There he leads the motion design practice and helps craft the visual experiences for the company’s web application offerings. You can find out more by visiting: https://cui.conversantmedia.com. Michael also teaches FED design and development at Columbia College and is co-founder of Night City Games; a small shop focused on designing experimental indie games.
Michael has a background in leading the design and creative direction for web & app design interactive digital experiences, games and FED. Michael earned his Master’s degree in Interactive Media from Indiana University-Bloomington in 2007. Since then he has worked for Disney Interactive, Salesforce and created a small “indie-darling” called GetClose, for the Nintendo Wii U.
In his spare time, Michael loves “attempting” to draw on his iPad, obsess over horror films and practice his abysmal pinball skills at Logan Arcade. He has way too many Mondo posters.
Kelly Knaga (she/her)
Kelly is an artist, designer, teacher, and always up for a great adventure. After spending time on both coasts she believes Chicago’s creative community is one of the best. Kelly thinks that the small everyday moments are more incredible than the every once-in-awhile spectacular moments. And she believes that ordinary people can make extraordinary differences in the world.
You can often find Kelly in Andersonville or on an acre of land just outside of Chicago where she designs, paints and is building a small urban farm. When she’s not teaching at IU Northwest in Gary, Indiana, Kelly is busy advocating for Chicago’s creative community and arts education.