Vice-President of Education
Amir Berbic is a designer and educator dedicated to projects with a social or cultural dimension. He has practiced design in the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East, working with community and arts publications, cultural institutions, and small businesses. Amir is on the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Design and is an Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs in the College of Architecture, Design and the Arts. His research interests are in place identity, dimensional typography, cross-disciplinary practices, and design pedagogy. Prior to joining UIC, he taught design at the American University of Sharjah, in the UAE, where he examined branding campaigns for Dubai’s architectural developments.
Amir’s design, writing, and teaching output have been featured in several academic and professional publications, conferences, and exhibitions including Print, Design Issues, ICOGRADA World Design Congress, AIGA Design Educators Conference, TypeCon, the Hyperlinks exhibition at the museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, Salone Internazionale del Mobile, in Milan, and many others. He holds a BFA in graphic design from UIC and an MFA in visual communication from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Brenda Bergen is the owner of Wink Design Atelier, a graphic design studio that focuses primarily on developing emerging brands in the music, fashion, and culinary industries. When she first arrived in Chicago, she was brought on board as the Creative Director for Vosges Haut-Chocolat, due to her talent for crafting experiences that surprise and delight the senses. During her tenure there, she helped hone the Vosges brand personality, as well as create their in-house art department. Prior to this, she spent 10 years in New York City as an Art Director for Atlantic Records. While at Atlantic, she designed album packaging for Tori Amos which received a grammy nomination. Beyond her design studio, Brenda runs Get Fueled, a blog that explores the creative process. She also advises companies in cultivating their in-house art departments, co-hosts creative retreats, and is on the advisory board for the Till School. She holds a BFA from the University of Illinois, with a minor in Japanese culture; and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Valerie Craig is a designer who is fueled by ideas, passion and people. She thrives on process, ideation, experimentation, execution and, apparently, lists. She is honored to be a part of this rich creative community.
She has worked for businesses small to large. To diversify her skills, she ventured out on her own for a number of years, working with some of the most interesting clients near and far. Following that, she served as Senior Designer at Acquity Group, a part of Accenture Interactive, where she transformed the brand’s passion into pixels and paper. Today, she works as a Brand Designer for data-driven insights startup Uptake. In this role, she helps to shape and bring life to this exciting new brand.
Aaron Fazulak began his career as a CPA in forensics. He worked as a researcher gathering data and synthesizing it into a cohesive storyline that could then be storyboarded for litigators to present in corporate fraud cases. After several years at Ernst & Young, Aaron left his position with a Big 4 accounting firm to fulfill his entrepreneurial dreams and become a co-founder of DESIGNATION, a bootcamp-style continuing education program devoted to digital interface design, user experience and front-end development.
He has leveraged his background in forensics, data analysis and applied learning to help build a platform for designers, developers and committed professionals to accelerate their creative careers. He’s extremely active in the Chicago design community, and is a Co-organizer for Service Experience Chicago, the service design conference of the Midwest. He believes that the design and startup community will combine to make Chicago the next major technology hub, and that education is the fuel to the Chicago fire.
Aaron grew up in Cleveland and believes that their sports teams are the greatest in the world, despite never winning…anything.
Vice-President of Diversity & Inclusion
Antonio is Portfolio Lead at Northern Lab, Northern Trust’s internal innovation accelerator focused on client and partner experience design. Before that he led gravitytank’s interaction design discipline and social innovation practice. Prior to working in innovation, Antonio was strategic director of Firebelly Design. He holds a BFA in Advertising Design from the Atlanta College of Art (now SCAD) and attended the Harvard Business School AIGA Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders Executive Education Program in 2007. Antonio teaches Visual Storytelling and Communication Design at Northwestern University’s Segal Design Institute and previously taught Customer Discovery as part of University of Chicago’s Polsky Center Entrepreneurship Essentials. A frequent contributor to community conversations on the topics of diversity, culture and creativity, Antonio believes design’s sole function is to create change. Antonio’s side projects include DJing, illustration and an upcoming book on 8-bit and 16-bit video game iconography.
Co Vice-President Member Experience
Amy believes design has the power to provoke thought and create positive change. Currently, she is a communication designer at Salesforce Ignite (formerly gravitytank), where she collaborates on multidisciplinary teams to help clients define new products and experiences. She worked on teams to redesign patient health records with the VA and immunization records with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—recognized internationally through IxDA, FastCo and Wired. Before joining gravitytank, Amy founded Knowtify, a startup focused on making complex information clear for the common good. She also puts her passion for social change and design to work by serving on the EPIC Board of Directors.
Previously, Amy was the lead designer at a financial services company, where she honed her skills in information design by visualizing financial strategies. She received a BFA in visual communications from Washington University in St. Louis and completed a fellowship with Firebelly University.
Vice-President of Design for Good
Erin Huizenga is Co-Founder and Principal at Borough + Block. She’s always thinking about how to design strategies that will lead to more equity, access, and dignity for all. She’s most recently been working as a Senior Design Strategy Consultant at Gensler, leading partnerships with Chicago Public Libraries and Housing Options by facilitating workshops and guiding project vision. She’s got entrepreneurship in her veins having successfully launched and grown both EPIC (iamepic.com) and Till School (tillschool.com). For Borough + Block, she guides research methods, creates partnerships, and provides creative direction. She’s worked with companies such as Motorola, Converse, Best Buy, SC Johnson, OfficeMax, and PNC Bank at firms gravitytank, VSA Partners, and IDEO and created the Innovation Narratives graduate course for Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design and designed curriculum she teaches for graduate-level design and social entrepreneurship courses at Northwestern University.
Kevin Leahy is an Editorial Director at VSA Partners, and specializes in B2B writing across a variety of industries. From print brochures, annual reports and websites to brand platforms and video, his work spans a broad range of print, digital and experiential communications. Ongoing client engagements include GE, IBM and First Data.
Outside of work, his writing has appeared in The Chicago Reader (Pure Fiction Issue, 2015), Slice Magazine, The Briar Cliff Review and Best American Mystery Stories (2013 edition).
Jen is an idea generator with an infectious passion for design, who builds and motivates dynamic teams to solve design problems in unexpected, original 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. Her background includes roles leading designers, developers and writers as Creative Director with companies large and small, including Vis-à-vis Creative and Revelry Agency.
In 2012, Jen founded the Chicago chapter of SheSays, providing mentoring opportunities and educational / networking events for women in the creative industry. She’s also been known to break the ice at conferences such as HOW Design Live by inviting attendees to turn her into a “walking typography” experiment. When she is not being a crazy creative, you can find Jen biking the streets of Chicago, playing and writing original songs (often about her bike), or simply melting into the couch watching Netflix.
Interactive Media Chair
PJ Macklin is an interaction designer who likes making complex systems feel simple and intuitive. He uses his background in digital product design and illustration to create human-centered interfaces that solve problems and are fun to use. At Salesforce Ignite (formerly gravitytank) PJ has led projects in tech, consumer genetics, and consumer electronics.
Before gravitytank, he co-founded Soundslice, a music education platform that renders music notation in the browser. Before that, he designed interfaces for EveryBlock, a website that helped people interact with and learn about their neighborhood.
PJ holds a BS in art and design from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught HTML & CSS at The Starter League in Chicago.
When PJ isn’t designing, he’s probably playing music, learning a language, or finding a better cup of coffee.
Lauren Meranda is a designer and educator engaging in creative pursuits with good intentions. She teaches at Judson University in Elgin, IL. She strives to make design education and the design profession more accessible for under-served students and to empower students to find their personal voice in their work. Her research interests are in the role of design after loss and the design of public memory.
Lauren’s research and teaching output has been presented at AIGA Design Educators Conferences in 2014 and 2016 and TypeCon in 2016. Her work has been displayed at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, in the Chicago Design Archive, Typeforce, Chicago Design Museum, Reykjavik Art Museum, Hyde Park Arts Center, and National Public Housing Museum.
Lauren received her MDes from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2013 and BFA in Visual Communication from Northern Illinois University in 2009.
Danyelle is an experienced graphic and architectural designer who has worked for businesses large and small. She is currently a Designer at Selbert Perkins Design, specializing in print, packaging, environmental and electronic media. Alongside her work at SPD, she creates print and marketing collateral for the Chicago-based podcast network, Dynasty Podcasts.
A true believer in the Chicago design community, she acts as Volunteer Coordinator for the Chicago Design Museum and pays it forward by serving as a Design Mentor for the Chicago Architecture Foundation, guiding students through the design process, talking through design problems and encouraging design thinking.
Outside of the design world, she spends much of her free time attending concerts and cuddling with her cat Ellie. Her Printer’s Row apartment boasts a geodesic dome, which is great for hanging a hammock in the coldest Chicago months.
Co Vice-President Member Experience
Amy Schwartz is a designer specializing in branding, digital experiences, and games. She is currently the Design Director at Cards Against Humanity and Blackbox. She was the winner of Command X at the 2015 AIGA National Design Conference; other recognitions include the Emerging Designer Award by AIGA Chicago, Finalist for Young Designer of the Year by the Net Awards, and the recipient of the AIGA Chicago What’s Next Grant in 2014. She has been featured in numerous publications, including Frame Publisher’s Masterclass, Fast.Co Design, Print Mag online, HOW Design and Brand New. Amy founded Liminal Space, a design initiative that promotes experimentation, community, and dialogue within Chicago’s thriving design, art, and technology scenes. She has also been an adjunct professor at DePaul University. Her past clients and collaborators include the Cranbrook Art Museum, Google, and Bright Bright Great. Amy holds an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BA from DePaul University.
Jen is a graphic designer and art director living and working in Chicago. After attending the Syracuse University Communications Design program, she spent four years working at TracyLocke, an advertising agency based in CT, and a year at Pinch Provisions, a beauty and personal care brand based in Chicago. She now runs her own boutique creative firm, Serafini Creative, where she works with her clients to build memorable brands through intentional design and art direction. Jen has wide and varied experience with clients and agencies of all sizes, from Leo Burnett, to international brands including Gatorade and Pepsi, to local entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Jen is also the co-founder of Be Free, Lance – an online course for designers interested in freelancing, as well as the co-founder of Makers’ Social – a quarterly get together for Chicago creatives.
David solves design problems, makes pictures, keeps analog creative practices alive, and teaches students both young and old to care about all of the above.
He currently lead’s the design discipline at One Design Company, an independent Chicago studio focused on brand strategy and experience design. In 2007 he co-founded the Post Family, an independent Chicago-based collaborative focused on creating experiences that engage communities through art and design. An adjunct faculty member within DePaul University’s School of Design and a visiting instructor at Marwen, he considers engagement in the educational field to be an essential part of his practice.
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. She still thinks secret handshakes are cool too.
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, Kelly is busy advocating for Chicago’s creative community and arts education through her work with the EPIC Board of Directors and as Content Director for the Hike Conference. Kelly also sits on the AIGA National Diversity and Inclusion Task Force. She is slowly fulfilling her dream of hiking and photographing every single U.S. National Park. Feel free to drop her a line and say hello!