Next Chicago speaker

Ivan Vazquez

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September 25, 8:30am • • part of a series on Spectrum

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December was a busy month! On December 6th, our amazing 2017 partner, agencyEA, hosted a special evening event in partnership with CreativeMornings/Chicago, the Obama Foundation and Shutterstock. With just a few hours and a table full of supplies, five teams of Chicago creatives were tasked with creating and presenting concepts for campaigns to inspire active citizenship. The winners, the team called #CitizensIRL, walked away with Golden Tickets to a 2018 CreativeMornings/Chicago event, and plans for a private reception in the Savage Smyth space.

Last night's #clientcitizen event, put on by our 2017 local partner @agencyea in collaboration with @obamafoundation and @shutterstock, was amazing! -- Seeing what a few small groups of creative Chicagoans can come up with in a few hours is nothing short of inspiring. Congrats to the winning Team 4, who presented their campaign for inspiring active citizenship, called #CitizensIRL. The group will receive golden tickets to 2018 @chicago_cm events, and a private reception in the very cool @savagesmyth space we've enjoyed for many events this year! -- Special shoutout to our local sponsors who help us pull these events off month after month! @lyftchicago for providing discounted rides, @honeygrow and @darkmattercoffee for always-delicious goodies and caffeine, @greensheepwater for bottled water, and @palmerprinting for the clever nametags. CreativeMornings/Chicago thanks you! 💛

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On the 16th, we held our last CreativeMornings event of 2017: Audience Takes the Stage. Three members of the CM/Chicago community took us on interesting journeys into #CMContext. Bruno Pieroni talked about the creativity that emerges from constraints (and had some fun creating a presentation entirely in haiku format). Daniel Orbach talked about what designers can learn from fighter pilots, and Marta Cuciurean-Zapan discussed “design fictions,” and how designers can approach the challenge of designing for worlds, environments or circumstances that don’t exist yet. It was a fascinating end to a great year. Thanks for joining us, creatives– we’re so excited for what 2018 holds!

Tomorrow is our last event of 2018! We’re so excited to cap off the year with Audience Takes the Stage, featuring presentations from three of our very own community members– Bruno Pieroni, Marta Cuciurean-Zapan and Daniel Orbach

December’s global theme is Context, so, in that spirit, we reached out to Bruno, Marta and Daniel to learn more about them–namely, the things we can’t learn just by reading their bios. Check out what they had to say below, and join us tomorrow at Sprout Social. We’ll bring the coffee and treats. See ya there, morning people!

List three words that begin with the letter C to describe yourself/your personality.

Bruno: Curious, centered, Carioca (google it!).

Daniel: Candid, clever, and charming. 

Marta: Curious, cheerful, and interested in culture.

In one sentence, how does context (December’s global theme) play into your work?

Marta: In anthropology and human centered design, we look to the context of people’s lives to create impactful, relevant, and desirable experiences.

Bruno: Because I work with very different clients and very different teams all year long, context is key; what is a great idea/pitch/joke to one group of people may be seem completely off-brief/off-brand/inappropriate to another group.

Daniel: In consulting, context is everything. Understanding your client and where they’re coming from informs the work you do on a day-to-day basis. Additionally, we’re able to transpose useful insights and information from one industry to another. The industries themselves are contexts. Finally, knowing the right tools to use in a given situation is also dependent on context. For example, the tools you can use to do user research depend on where you’re doing research and a variety of other factors; the tools you use to actually build out a design depend on the geographic context of your developers as well. It’s all context.

How does Chicago influence you and/or your work?

Marta: The rich history of work and design, as well as cultural and neighborhood events.

Bruno: It would be enough if the city was simply the home of some of the world’s most talented creatives, which it is. What makes this city different, however, is how often those creatives are willing to share their process, their insights, and their stories in free events like this, lectures at the city colleges that are open to the public, and workshops led by any of those crazy talented people all over town. You could literally spend a whole week hopping from an inspiring talk by an artist at the MCA one evening, to a Chicago Humanities Festival panel the next, to a Second City class the following day, to a workshop with Jay Ryan the next morning, to a CreativeMornings event that Friday.

Daniel: Being from Chicago originally (okay, okay, the north suburbs) it’s difficult to separate Chicago from the rest of me because it’s such a foundational aspect of my identity. Growing up in Chicago has definitely fostered my love for all things sports, and all things food (especially the unhealthy type). The city’s identity is also the perfect fusion of midwestern friendliness and humility crossed with big city culture and impact. People move here because they love it, and the city is really a part of who they are. It keeps me grounded and excited for the future. Additionally, living here in the winters isn’t easy, but it’s always a good reminder to never give up! There’s always a spring around the corner.

What has been your most memorable CreativeMornings experience to date?

Daniel: I loved the CreativeMornings a while back with Susan Messing & Rachael Mason. It was also my first ever CM/Chicago, but that’s almost besides the point. They did such an unreal job captivating and energizing a room full of sleepy adults, and they did it all off the top of their heads. It was unreal, and gave me a deeper appreciation for the power of presentation.

Marta: Dawn Hancock for the trajectory of building a business with purpose, Sonnenzimmer for a unique presentation, and Rashayla Marie Brown for her striking work and insight into the Art Institute community.

Bruno: I saw Kevin Lynch, creator of @yearbnb, in 2015, and was so inspired by his self-imposed project (spending a year living in different Airbnbs around Hong Kong, one week at a time) and the funniest CM talk I had heard thus far, that I started following him on Instagram right away. We started commenting on each other’s photos, and last January met up for dinner in Shanghai, where I got to follow up with his project and career and get a million recommendations for Hong Kong. It was like having my own CreativeMorning — even though it was evening (wait, it was probably morning here in Chicago! It counts!)

What are the top three places you find inspiration?

Marta: Art installations to inspire the design of experiences, environments, and emotions; novels to put myself in someone else’s mind and how the story is told; the enthusiasms of other people.

Bruno: I get a lot of ideas while walking, so… sidewalks? I’m grateful to have very talented and creative friends, who are not only far more cultured than I am but are also very generous with their time and knowledge when I try to pick their brains (my talk, for example, wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t done some good, old-fashioned brain picking). Finally, I know there’s a lot of (fair) criticism of social media and what it does to us, but I’m a big fan of all the amazing photos, drawings, and art in general I can soak in just flicking my thumb over my phone screen for ten minutes (or maybe I’m just lazy).

Daniel: This first one is a weird one, but those moments right before I fall asleep are somehow SO inspiring. I keep a notebook/phone by my bed and frequently find myself having amazing, creative ideas when I’m about to hit the hay for the night. Second is probably reading. I read a ton of non-fiction (hardly any fiction, though) and love learning about those weird niche stories and histories no one has really brought together. My talk at CM is actually inspired by a book I read! I’m currently reading one about the history of energy and how it’s influenced the evolution of society. Endlessly interesting. Finally, for visual inspiration, I actually have a curated set of RSS feeds I check every morning. I had a professor say that your visual vocabulary is like a muscle, and looking at inspirational images is how you exercise that muscle. I try to look at 50-100 images a day from different blogs/channels/feeds that I find interesting and inspiring. I’m a big fan of Nick Felton, House Industries, Gather Home & Lifestyle (local fave), and AIGA’s Eye on Design Instagram account.

What’s one fun fact about you that’s not in your official bio?

Daniel: I’ve never had a hot cup of coffee in the morning. I always thought coffee tasted disgusting, and had never actually had a coffee in it’s entirety before I tried one over the summer. I’ve had sips here and there and always hated it. Hopefully I can stave off the addiction and keep living off of my natural energies.

Marta: I took swim classes this summer so I could learn the “put your face in the water” part that seems so important. 

Bruno: I can recite virtually every line in the movie “High Fidelity.” But I try not to.

In a humorous and enlightening talk, our November (#CMDeath) speaker, Jana Kinsman (of Bike a Bee), spoke about bees, why we should care about them, and about the amazing work she is doing in our own city to help them thrive. Enjoy some highlights captured by community members below– and a timely reminder from Jana’s talk— winter is the best time to sign up for a CSA!

Next Friday, illustrator and beekeeper Jana Kinsman will be presenting on November’s global theme of Death, touching on a less focused-on angle— the declining bee population and how bees’ survival is closely intertwined with our own. 

To give you a little preview– and because we’re so excited to learn more about the awesome work she does in our city–we reached out to Jana early with a few questions. 

Check out the interview below, and join us next Friday at Savage Smyth!

What three words that start with the letter “D” would you use to describe yourself/your personality?
Determined, diligent, defiant

I understand Bike a Bee’s workspace is based out of The Plant. Has being a part of The Plant’s community changed your practice or your business in any way?

If anything it reinforces it. We all encourage each other to be more sustainable, and support one another in that direction. Everyone there is also an incredible resource in every way—help, materials, ideas, friendship

What has been a surprising part of sharing your beekeeping with schools and community spaces?
How willing and excited many places are to host a beehive full of stinging insects. I thought it would be harder, but so many of the locations will do anything to get one!

What’s the first thing you like to share with people who are unfamiliar with the practice of beekeeping?
That you’re dealing with a wild insect super-organism, that it’s nothing like a pet dog or farm chicken. That it’s a craft, and a very challenging one, and that failure is part of the experience.

How did your portrait service Doodlebooth come into being?
I was invited to sell prints of my work at a designer-centric holiday fundraiser but I didn’t have any so I asked if I could draw people at the party for $10 each. It was a hit, and as I was leaving i said to the organizer, “I’m going to turn this jnto a business! I’ll call it doodlebooth, like photobooth but with doodles!” Two weeks later I had a business plan and a domain registered.

What’s one valuable thing you’ve learned from observing bees?
Countless things. Truly. It has been lifechanging. You see the interconnectedness of the entire world.

Given this month’s theme of death, what has beekeeping taught you about the circle of life?
Exactly that. That life is a circle. The seasons are a circle. everything has a purpose and a reason in nature and life.

I read that some cultures have mythologies that describe bees as a connection between the natural world and the afterlife. Does the practice of beekeeping vary greatly around the world?
Oh yes. Apis mellifera, the species of bee we keep in the US, is originally from eurasia. Many ancient civilizations kept bees. Many were honey hunters who took honey and bee larvae from wild colonies. To humans, ancient or modern, the idea of a social insect is fascinating and warrants deep respect.Other Apis species are kept in different ways in other areas of the world, like in India or China or south america. It’s a fascinating wide world of insect stewardship! But with Apis mellifera, the basics of the craft of beekeeping have changed very little. The hives and tools have been tweaked over the decades but the basic principles remain the same.

“Create a business plan when you’re seven years old… and then never create a business plan again.” - Saya Hillman (Mac & Cheese Productions)

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us for an incredible and hilarious morning with Saya Hillman for #CMPioneer! Each month, we love seeing what you enjoyed most and took away from each talk. Check out some highlights from Friday’s event below!

Wise questions for the would-be #pioneer from @sayahillman @chicago_cm

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Next week we’ll be joined by Saya Hillman, “Head Cheese-It” of Mac & Cheese Productions℠, who, in deciding to blaze her own path towards her “Life of Yes℠” through the creation of Mac & Cheese Productions, has helped countless others embrace their own Life of Yes, and all the positivity, self-efficacy, playfulness, & community that comes with. We couldn’t wait until next week to hear from Saya, so check out our brief interview with her below, and set your reminder to register for tickets Monday morning (10/23) starting at 11am!

Details and registration here.

Define what this month’s theme, PIONEER, means to you in one sentence or less.

Either I don’t fit in any of the already existing boxes or already existing boxes lack what I want so I’m going to create my own box and invite others to join me.

List three words that begin with the letter “M” to describe yourself/your personality.


In three words, describe how you felt when you first started Mac & Cheese Productions.

Go, don’t think.…

How do you come up with M&C’s Offerings (e.g. Sleepaway Camp, Idea Potluck)?

I question:

  • what areas of my life are stressful and could be made easier/more enjoyable
  • what am I nostalgic for
  • what do I envy
  • what do I want more of
  • what am I good at that others struggle with
  • what are sources of angst or sadness for others
  • how can I tweak someone else’s XYZ that would put a Life of Yes℠ spin on it
  • what can I create with what I have (physically and skills-wise)
  • how can I make myself feel good
  • how can I make others feel good
  • how can I monetize avenues to fulfillment and personal growth in ways that make sense for who I am and what I bring to the table
  • how can I act now

What is one daily practice/habit that helps you cultivate a Life of Yes?

I work from home so I clean right before I go to bed or right when I wake up (ideally, the former so that I can hit the ground running in the AM). My mind is much more likely to be inspired, relaxed, and motivated when my environment is serene, decluttered, and inviting. I also take cleaning breaks throughout the day, when I still want to be productive but need to get up from the computer and move my body. Some of my best ideas come when I’m scrubbing toilets. (Also why I now have a “housecleaner” branch on the Mac & Cheese tree – get paid to do something I love, am good at, and you hate? OK!).

What’s your favorite thing about being your own boss?

Autonomy – 10AM Tuesday yoga or Trader Joe’s, afternoon naps, wake up slowly via the sun not the alarm, no pants most days, take random days off and spontaneous trips, make decisions without having to run them by anyone, choose when I want to be “on” and interact with others and when I need Saya-Time, adding and subtracting branches to the Mac & Cheese tree when I want, no time-wasters (meetings, protocol, conference calls, office small talk, red tape, inefficient systems).

What is one piece of advice you’d share with someone who wants to blaze a new path for themselves, whether starting a business, going to school, accepting an exciting new role, or making another big life decision?

The Perfect Time Unicorn, and his cousins More Time and Better Time, don’t exist. Stop waiting for the perfect time, more time, or a better time to take that trip, quit your job, move to another city, ask that cute barista out. You will never win that game. All your ducks will never line up. Your future self will not have more time than your current self. There will always be an excuse not to jump. Just jump. Nike the bejeezus out of life and just do it. Whatever it is. You can always change course, you can always come back.

Last Friday at Savage Smyth, Rule29 founder and Creative Director Justin Ahrens joined us to talk Compassion. Justin shared the story of how “a few knucklehead friends with an idea” grew into Wheels4Water, and how Wheels4Water has evolved and come to raise more than $430,000 and help more than 10,750 people receive safe water, sanitation & hygiene training.

Check out some highlights attendees shared below, and stay tuned for news of this month’s speaker!

On September 29th, we’ll hear from Rule29 Principal and Creative Director, Justin Ahrens, presenting on September’s theme of Compassion. We reached out to Justin early to share a little insight with you, and he responded during a more than 3,000-mile bike ride! 

That bike ride, his project Wheels4Water, has, since 2014, aimed to bring awareness and funds to community water projects throughout Africa. With the help of communities across America, the 2014-2016 rides raised more than $230,000. In 2017, W4W is bringing clean water & sanitation to a school and village in Uganda, and hopes to bring the total number of people who have gained access to safe water through their work to 10,000. 

Join us on September 29th at Savage Smyth, and check out our Q&A with Justin below!

Define what this month’s theme, Compassion, means to you in one sentence or less.

    For me, compassion means the idea to give of oneself, or one’s possessions was never invented. It is an innate part of humanity. We give to share. We give to love. We give to make the world a better place.

    What does it mean to you to “make creative matter”?

      This is part of how I typically describe it:

      We understand design changes our experience.

      We know stories shape us.

      That wonder awakens us.

      And the only way that tomorrow will be better than today…

      Is if we help others see possibility more clearly.

      And this is why we make creative matter.

      List three words that begin with the letter “C” to describe yourself/your personality.

        - Curious

        - Collaborator

        - Caring

        Can you share a person or project that embodies your definition of compassion?

          Sister Mary Corita Kent: I loved her passion coming through in her art and how she wanted to influence others to see the world differently -

          What are the top three places you find inspiration?

            - Music

            - Making space to shoot images daily

            - Travel & Adventure

            How does your work with Rule29 influence your nonprofit/charity work?

              The work is really intertwined. Each type of work we do really informs and makes the other types of work better. Primarily in the way we ask questions and the posture we take whether its for profit or non-profit. In many ways the exploring, process and developing of the story for each now looks very similar but continues to evolve.

              Where did the name ‘Rule29’ come from?

                We wanted a name that would make people ask what the meaning was and then we tell them…

                “Real genius is about trying things.” - Nathaniel Salzman

                Last Friday’s event with Nathaniel Salzman was so much fun! Missed out? Check out some highlights attendees shared below, and join us next month when Justin Ahrens, founder and principal of Rule 29, presents on Compassion

                Nathaniel Salzman would be the first to admit he is not, in fact, a genius. He is, however, a jack of all trades, a master of some, a designer, an inventor and a tinkerer. We can’t wait to find out what Nathaniel has in store for us when he joins us next week on Friday, 8/25, at The Nerdery. Check out our Q & A with him below, and get ready for tickets to be released on Monday!

                In one sentence or less, define what this month’s theme, Genius, means to you.

                If luck is where opportunity meets preparation, then genius is where education meets persistence. 

                How does Chicago influence you or your work?

                Chicago is a city that speaks its mind and knows how to hustle. It’s also lousy with high-performing people. There is so much opportunity here for someone to connect with smart, driven people and do meaningful work. 

                List three words that begin with the letter “R” to describe yourself/your personality.

                Random, Rational, Relatable 

                Can you share a person or project that fits your definition of genius?

                I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert that genius is not something you are. It’s something you access. So no person is a genius. Instead, I believe that anyone is able to do genius work, and a great example of that is the sculptor Tom Sachs. He and his studio team make amazing pieces of art and propaganda, all of which must conform to the arbitrary boundaries of the Studio Code. These constraints create a consistent vocabulary that Tom then uses to explore everything from his love/hate relationship with consumerism, to cargo cult objects, to space exploration and even topics as heavy as slavery. 

                What are the top three places you find inspiration?

                1. Audiobooks and podcasts. For example, I use the book recommendations made on The Tim Ferriss Show podcast to feed what books I add to my Audible reading list. This has served me very well.
                2. YouTube creators like Alec Steele, Casey Neistat, The Nerdwriter, and Liza Koshy
                3. Spending time in a quiet room, in a comfortable chair, apart from my iPhone, having a good think