Stop. Look. Listen.

This is an archive page of our September 2012 event which took place in Chicago. We're driven by deadlines, controlled by clients, and tied to our desks. How do we stay sane and, most of all, inspired when we're so hurried? What can replenish our creative reservoirs? It's time to get re-inspired.

For these talks, we’ll have you sit down with creatives that have accomplished the ultimate trifecta—they imagine, execute, and inspire others. How to keep your own faucet of inspiration at full stream? Come fill your cup at RE:DESIGN/Inspire. Our small-scale discussions will take on the ultimate goal of any creative type—to be consistently and innovatively inspired.

To be on our mailing list for the Inspire event, send us a note at


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Dana Arnett
CEO, VSA Partners, Inc.
[ Show bio ]

RE:DESIGN Inspire presents a conversation with Dana Arnett

Dana Arnett is a founding Principal and CEO of the internationally recognized firm of VSA Partners, headquartered in Chicago, with offices in Minneapolis, Detroit and New York City. Arnett, along with his eleven partners, leads a group of 180 associates in the creation of design programs, digital and interactive initiatives and brand marketing solutions for a diverse roster of clients, including: Harley-Davidson, IBM, General Electric, Coca-Cola, Thomson Reuters and Nike.

Over the course of his 28 years in the field, Dana and the firm have been globally recognized by over 60 competitions and designations including; Communication Arts, AIGA, Graphis, The Type Directors Club, the American and British Art Directors Clubs, ID, The LA Film Festival, theAR100 and the American Marketing Association. Arnett was a 1999 inductee into the Alliance Graphique Internationale, and holds the honor of being named to the ID40 — who has cited him as one of the 40 most important people shaping design internationally. Arnett is a former member of the AIGA National Board of Directors and he currently serves as a board member of the Architecture and Design Society of the Art Institute of Chicago, and The Chicago Children’s Theater, and has been a guest lecturer at Yale School of Business. In addition to industry work, Dana is also active as an advisor and member of the business development and capital group, Cueball Collective, who help fund and incubate consumer and socially driven ventures. These current and past accomplishments have helped to define a career steeped in design leadership, business consulting and policy making.

Lawrence Azerrad
Creative Director, LAD Design
[ Show bio ]

The Wilco Loft Exploration **Limited Number of Spaces**

Lawrence Azerrad’s, studio LAD has produced work in film, print, and digital media since 2001. Creating comprehensive visual identity systems for a wide range of clients including, surf legend Laird Hamilton, The Foo Fighters, The Clinton Foundation, UCLA Live, Oliver Peoples Eyewear, hotels, spas, and over thirteen years of creating art and design for the band Wilco, LAD continues to design album packaging and artwork for recording artists including Herbie Hancock, Wilco, The Silversun Pickups and The Beach Boys.

John Bielenberg
Co-Founder, FUTURE
[ Show bio ]

When Wrong Is Right

In his career, John has won more than 250 design awards, is an AIGA Fellow, has been featured in the ID 50, and teaches at California College of the Arts in San Francisco. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art staged a solo exhibition in 2000, and John was awarded the Skandalaris Award for Design Entrepreneurship from Washington University in St. Louis in 2009 and an honorary doctorate degree from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2011. Also in 2011, John was awarded the NASAD citation for outstanding work as designer, author, educator, social activist and overall impact on the fields of art and design.

In 2003, John created an immersive program called Project M that is designed to inspire and educate young designers, writers, photographers, and filmmakers by proving that their work can have a significant impact on communities. Project M has developed projects in Alabama, Baltimore, Connecticut, Costa Rica, Detroit, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, Maine, Minneapolis, and New Orleans.

John collaborated with Alex and Ana Bogusky, and Rob Schuham in 2010 to form COMMON, a brand that supports, connects and celebrates those designing a new era of socially minded enterprise. And most recently, John has partnered with long-time collaborator Greg Galle to launch a new firm called FUTURE that engages with organizations, institutions and companies that believe benefiting people, communities, society, and the environment is the new advantage in business.

Jennifer Chong
Designer and Photographer, J.Chong Studio
[ Show bio ]

My Antidote to Inspiration Overload

Designer and photographer Jennifer Chong has a big heart (and stomach) for all things food! A Georgia native, Jennifer graduated with a degree in graphic design from the Savannah College of Art and Design and made the move to Long Beach, CA in 2009, where she enjoys playing beach volleyball and shopping at the local farmer's market. She loves simple design, typography – especially the "&" – reading blogs, eating, traveling and posting things that inspire her on her blog {} and Pinterest {}. Jennifer's passion for photography has never been far behind her love of design and she loves to intermix the two whenever the opportunity arises. When she isn't working or on the beach, she can be found continent hopping (four so far!) or exploring new restaurants for pretty edibles to photograph and eat.


Shannon Downey
Founder, Pivotal Production
[ Show bio ]

An Unlikely Muse: How a little absurdity can go a long way

With an instinct for people and a passion for what’s new and next she has built a career innovating new techniques to communicate in an increasingly complex and ever expanding universe. She launched Pivotal in 2007 in response to the need for a responsible, transparent, forward thinking and agile marketing company.

Shannon has trained hundreds of top-level marketers at leading ad agencies in digital and social media marketing and is known for her mad skills as a trainer.

She loves Chicago + strives to do right by the city she loves. To that end, she is the mastermind behind TEDxWindyCity + regularly brings together the best and brightest to network, inspire and disrupt.

Shannon believes in the power of doing good, spreading happiness, sharing a good laugh, and in living the adage, "If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life."

In her spare time, she sits on the Board of Directors for the Firebelly Foundation and is an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University. She blogs for Crain’s Business on Women in Entrepreneurship and she had the privilege of doing a TED talk at the 2012 TEDActive Conference in Palm Springs. Shannon is a proud trekkie and geek.

Renata Graw
Principal/Co-founder, Plural
[ Show bio ]

Thinking About Thinking

Renata Graw is a founder and managing partner at Plural Design and the AIGA Chicago vice-president. She also teaches graphic design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work has been recognized by the Art Directors Club, Type Directors Club, AIGA, and the Society of Typographic Arts. Print Magazine, Eye Magazine, and Communications Arts have published her work.

Renata was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she received a BFA from Pontificia Universidade Catolica. She studied typography under Wolfgang Weingart at the Basel School of Design and graduationed with an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dawn Hancock
Managing Director + Founder, Firebelly Design
[ Show bio ]

The Journey From Junk Mail To Inspiration

Since opening in 1999, Firebelly has produced solid work they believe in and clients trust. Work that has merited mention in a journal here and a design archive there. While certainly proud of the studio’s history and accomplishments, Dawn feels no need to rehash the past.

She prefers to live and work in the present, to make of it something rich and sustainable that can make a lasting impact.

Though the studio remains Dawn’s focal point and her center of gravity, Firebelly has expanded into a bustling little world that she hustles across daily. A world built with her own two hands, the fearless work of her team, and an abundance of neighborhood support. Already coordinating the annual Grant for Good, a charitable award that supports one non-profit for a year, she decided to launch her own organization, which evolved into an entire socially minded enterprise.

The Firebelly Foundation, established in 2006, includes several programs, each a reflection of Dawn’s passion and ethic. Under the Foundation’s umbrella, she established the Humboldt Park non-profit Reason to Give and runs the 10-day intensive Camp Firebelly for hungry young designers. Most recently, she started Firebelly University, an entrepreneurial incubator that emphasizes taking risks and doing good. Yet Dawn continues to ask what more could she be doing.

Dawn knows that sustainable innovation and social responsibility are not simply badges or buzzwords. They are principles. Ways to live. Through the Foundation’s work and her civic and social engagement, Dawn is ceaseless in her dedication to building and inspiring, to connecting ideas to individuals, and individuals to each other.

Upon joining the board of AIGA Chicago as Community Outreach Chair in 2009, Dawn seized upon the opportunity to create a free mentorship program available to the entire Chicago community. Each year, nearly 300 individuals from all areas come together in design therapy groups. They share their success stories as well as their missteps and questions, seeking and offering guidance regardless of career level. Together they form a community that believes, as Dawn does, that we are all in this together.

And still more. Always more. Dawn is thrilled to occasionally speak at design schools, workshops, and conferences near and far. Presenting at TEDxWindyCity in February 2010 was an honor and a challenge – terrifying, uplifting, and wholly exhilarating. As most things are. She is ready.

Colleen Hill
Art Director, MRM
[ Show bio ]

Beyond The Studio: The Importance of Community

Colleen Hill has been living and working in Detroit for ten years. She studied at the College for Creative Studies and in the Netherlands as a participant of De Program, a three-week long intensive graduate course studying with studios Lust and NLXL. Professionally, she spent three years working at Elevator, a small design studio specializing in web, identity, and print work. She also worked as an in-house designer at Washtenaw Community College managing the look and feel of the website and art directing photography. She currently works at MRM as an art director.

Hill is President of the AIGA Detroit chapter, and works closely with the National Organization to ensure the mission and vision of the chapter are upheld. During her tenure on the board she has helped the chapter double their membership, triple the number of partners and sponsors, and raise their profile within southeast Michigan. She also serves on the advisory board of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, a business accelerator dedicated to serving the needs of creative professionals.


Jason Katz
Story Supervisor, Pixar Animation Studios
[ Show bio ]


Jason graduated with a degree in Character Animation from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), and soon joined Pixar Animation Studios as a storyboard artist for Toy Story. He continued to storyboard on many of Pixar’s subsequent films including A Bug’s Life (of which he also did character design), Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Cars and Up. Jason served as story supervisor on the Academy Award winning Toy Story 3, and was a co-writer and story supervisor for the Toy Story Toon animated short Hawaiian Vacation. He was also a co-story supervisor on Finding Nemo and Ratatouille.

Jason is currently working in development on a future Pixar film. He lives in Oakland, California with his family.

Wally Krantz
Executive Creative Director, The Brand Union
[ Show bio ]

In The Eye Of The Beholder: Inspiration from the Ubiquitous

Wally Krantz is a graphic designer who has been developing corporate identity systems for nearly twenty years, starting as a designer at Landor Associates in San Francisco up to today as Executive Creative Director at The Brand Union in New York. He has always loved the collaboration of the team he is working with to create ideas and craft them to serve an organization across multiple touchpoints long after it is out of his hands.

From leading the brand refresh of Time Warner Cable at The Brand Union in 2010 to cutting his teeth as a designer on the FedEx identity program at Landor in '93, Wally has led or been a designer on programs for The Wildlife Conservation Society, Avid, Shazam, The NFL, SuperBowl XL, MasterCard Worldwide, Japan Airlines, Chevrolet, The American Red Cross, LG Electronics, YBCA, and the International Rescue Committee.

Wally grew up in a suburb of Detroit, received his B.F.A. from Western Michigan University, and has lived in Brooklyn for the past eleven years. He will occasionally tweet @wallykrantz, and more frequently, post pictures at

Mike McQuade
[ Show bio ]

Trading Inspiration For Investigation

Mike McQuade currently lives, works and plays in Chicago. He believes that hard work, persistance, insane optimism and mistakes lead to better work. Mike describes his graphic design and illustration methods as a raw and always transforming. He gathers most of his inspiration from everyday happenings. “I am obsessed with visual communication, sometimes it's strange & awkward, other times beautiful & moving, most of the time it's outrageous and full of insults. Nevertheless, it's fun to observe and it indirectly informs all of my work.” Mike believes strong concept in design is as important as the the visuals themselves and says, “No matter how good the execution or style of a piece, it will not work without a great idea.”

Brian Singer
Creative Director, 1000 Journals
[ Show bio ]

Engage Through Inspiration

Until recently, Brian Singer was the creative director and founder of Altitude Associates, a San Francisco based creative agency that helps consumer brands engage people through inspiration. Altitude has worked on programs with companies such as Apple, Adidas, Stanford Lively Arts, and Chronicle Books, among others. He is now the Head of Creative for B2B Marketing at Facebook.

His work has garnered recognition from Communication Arts, AIGA 365, Print, How, Graphis, Step, AR100, and he has work in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Brian is also the creator of The 1000 Journals Project, a global art experiment where journals are passed from hand to hand. The journals have traveled to 40 countries, and through every US state. They've come to rest in hostels, cafes and law offices; been the subject of treasure hunts, brought to remote mountaintops, abandoned at airports and stolen at gunpoint.

The project has been covered in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Better Homes & Gardens and many others. It is the subject of a book published by Chronicle Books, a feature length documentary by Andrea Kreuzhage, and was exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2009, and the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles in 2011.

Brian is the former President of the San Francisco chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design, and has taught in both the CCA Extension and Academy of Art University programs. He also serves on the Advisory Board for the San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery.


John Stevenson
[ Show bio ]

If it isn't fun, why are you still doing it?

With more than three decades of experience in filmed entertainment, filmmaker John Stevenson brings a full and varied skill set to every project, all of which bear the stamp of his keen eye and unending creativity.

Stevenson co-directed Kung Fu Panda, which starred Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie. Released in the summer of 2008, Kung Fu Panda has grossed over $600 million worldwide. In 2009 Stevenson was nominated for an Academy Award with Mark Osborne, and both won the Annie for best direction of an animated feature.

Stevenson has lectured on the creative process in relation to story development in China, Malaysia, Korea, Australia, and New Zealand and at schools such as USC, UCLA, Oklahoma Arts Institute, Ulster University of the Arts, Ireland, the University of Andong, Korea, and for companies such as Sony PlayStation, Lego, and Valve.

Prior to the release of Kung Fu Panda, Stevenson directed four episodes of the DreamWorks prime time television series Father of the Pride and held the post of Head of Story at PDI/DreamWorks serving as story artist for the DreamWorks worldwide blockbusters Shrek, Shrek 2 and Madagascar. While there, he also created storyboards for the animated features Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. A core member of PDI/DreamWorks' creative review committee, Stevenson had input on a variety of projects and also taught classes on the story process to artists at PDI and the San Francisco-based Wild Brain Productions.

The mid- to late-'90s saw Stevenson working between multiple feature and television animation projects. John provided the lead voice for the pilot of the series Mr. Baby; designed characters for DreamWorks Television's Toonsylvania; and worked as a storyboard artist and character designer for DreamWorks/PDI’s Antz, Pixar’s Toy Story 2, and Nickelodeon’s pilot Fathead. During this period, he also acted as an independent creative consultant to CBS, NBC, Walt Disney Productions, Colossal Pictures and Protozoa Pictures. He worked with Henry Selick as head of story/creative development for Twitching Image, Inc. as puppeteer for the animatronic rhinoceros in Disney's James and the Giant Peach (also drawing storyboards) and directed an episode of Film Roman/CBS's The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat.

As Staff Designer/Director for Colossal Pictures from '91 to '95, Stevenson worked in multiple capacities on the animated series Back to the Future and Moxy—Pirate TV Show; created advertising spots for Cheerios, Little Caesars and Parker Bros. and developed show formats and concepts for Nickelodeon/CBS. He served as art director, character designer and storyboard artist on the Central Television series The Dreamstone.

His previous freelance career as an artist, illustrator, character designer and art director exposed him to myriad projects in nearly every medium, working on theme parks, museums, album covers, commercials, and various feature films and television shows. Films included Little Shop of Horrors, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Great Muppet Caper. Stevenson’s entree into entertainment began with character/product design, storyboarding, show concepts and background puppetry on the seminal The Muppet Show.

Joe Stewart
Global Creative Director, Huge
[ Show bio ]

Starting From Scratch: Finding Inspiration in a Brand New Medium

Joe Stewart is Global Creative Director at Huge where he oversees digital creative and design for some of the world's largest brands. Guiding the work of handpicked creatives in offices from New York to Los Angeles, London and Rio de Janeiro, Stewart pushes Huge’s team to create solutions that simultaneously solve business problems and improve people’s lives.

Joe started his career at Huge as the agency’s first art director after cutting his teeth at boutique agencies and digital consultancy firms during the dot-com era. While at Huge, Joe has directed some of the agency's most influential work for clients including JetBlue, Target, Pepsi, Reuters and The City of New York. In 2010, he was appointed to the company’s management team as a partner and head of creative.

Joe lives in Brooklyn with his son Ace and wife Natasha.

Michael Surtees
Principal and Creative Director, Gesture Theory
[ Show bio ]

Turning Serendipity Into Predictable Patterns of Inspiration

Michael is the Principal & Creative Director of Gesture Theory where he has had the opportunity to help in the creation of compelling and engaging digital experiences for such companies as Forbes, Thomson Reuters, the AIGA, Etsy, and Undercurrent among others. He publishes the well know blog Design Notes and can be found sharing photos everyday under the hashtag #walkingtoworktoday.

David Usui
Director/Co-Founder, Lost & Found Films
[ Show bio ]

Taking Time: The value of slowing down in professional and personal work

David Usui lives and works in New York. Originally from Seattle, he moved to NYC to pursue a career in music and discovered a new passion for telling stories through film. As an undergraduate, he studied philosophy and environmental studies at Western Washington University. Most days he can be found surfing in the Rockaways.

Lost & Found Films is a non-fiction film production company dedicated to telling stories that explore cultural and social issues and finding new ways to engage audiences. Founded in 2009 by Ben Wu and David Usui, Lost & Found has collaborated with many outlets including the NY Times, Wired, Wallpaper, Food+Wine, Vice and GOOD magazine. Their previous commercial work has included campaigns with Pepsi, Nike, Lexus, MoMA, Chandelier Creative, Martha Stewart Living and the 2012 Obama Campaign.


Martin Venezky
Founder and Mastermind, Appetite Engineers
[ Show bio ]

It's All About The Next Step

Martin Venezky is a San Francisco-based designer and Associate Professor in the Graduate Design Program at California College of the Arts. His studio, Appetite Engineers, is known for its dedication to handcrafted processes and intricate detail in posters, books, and print material. Venezky’s client list includes the Sundance Film Festival, Reebok, and Capitol Records as well as institutions like the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Tulane School of Architecture, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Venezky’s work has appeared in international publications, and in 1997, he was listed among I.D. magazine’s “ID40” list of influential designers. In 2001 the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art honored Venezky with an exhibition of his collected design work, Martin Venezky: Selections from the Permanent Collection of Architecture and Design. A monograph of Venezky’s work, teaching and thinking, It Is Beautiful...Then Gone, is published by Princeton Architectural Press. In 2011 the American Association of Museums awarded Venezky its prestigious Frances Smyth-Ravenal Prize for Excellence in Publication Design for the International Center of Photography’s Mexican Suitcase catalog.

Ben Wu
Director/Co-Founder, Lost & Found Films
[ Show bio ]

Taking Time: The value of slowing down in professional and personal work

Ben Wu is an award winning documentary filmmaker from San Francisco, CA. He went to school at UC San Diego, received his MA in Documentary Film & Video from Stanford University, and is currently based in Brooklyn, NY. He loves a good deviled egg, and has a pretty decent jump shot.

Lost & Found Films is a non-fiction film production company dedicated to telling stories that explore cultural and social issues and finding new ways to engage audiences. Founded in 2009 by Ben Wu and David Usui, Lost & Found has collaborated with many outlets including the NY Times, Wired, Wallpaper, Food+Wine, Vice and GOOD magazine. Their previous commercial work has included campaigns with Pepsi, Nike, Lexus, MoMA, Chandelier Creative, Martha Stewart Living and the 2012 Obama Campaign.

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The Conference Site

The conference will take place at the PUBLIC Hotel in Chicago. An incredible canvas for talks on creativity, the venue is the newest inspired hotel by Ian Schrager.

The Conference Hotel

We have a block of rooms at the PUBLIC for $175/night plus taxes. Additional information will be sent upon registering.