Lightning Talks

Shruthi Manjula Balakrishna

Senior Designer, FÖDA

Shruthi is the legitimate love-child of strategy and creativity. With more than 12 years of design experience, Shruthi’s background is as varied and diverse as the work she produces. Since 2006, she has been many things: a strategist, a brand manager, a student, an educator and an award-winning designer. Today, she has evolved into a creative who observes, listens, investigates and experiments through design. 

Her diverse portfolio of work has been internationally recognized by Lürzer’s Archive, GD USA, Graphis Design Annual, The One Club for Creativity, Art Directors Club Denver and AIGA. Shruthi has also participated as a speaker and judge at festivals, conferences and schools. She is currently based in Austin while working globally. Shruthi also serves as an adjunct design instructor.

Favorite professional resources for learning or inspiration:
The Library, Under Consideration, 99% Invisible

Clare Drummond

Landscape Designer, dwg.
Proprietor, Spend Time Zine Mart

Clare is a landscape designer and visual artist based in Austin. Committed to the practice of thoughtful placemaking, she is a passionate believer in the power of environment and context to shape experience. She currently works at dwg. as a landscape designer and runs Spend Time Zine Mart with Marlon Hedrick.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
The Creative Independent

Caroline Gray

Student, St. Edward’s University

Caroline Gray is an illustrator and graphic designer from Austin, Texas. Her work largely takes the form of zines and comics, with themes stemming from personal narratives and mental health.

Leslie Harris

Student, Texas State University
Product Designer, Nano

By day, Leslie is a Product Designer at Nano, an intelligent wellness platform. At night, she is a graduate student at Texas State University studying Communication Design. During her time in Austin, Leslie has served as the Diversity Co-chair for Ad 2 Austin, an affiliate of the American Advertising Federation. In this position, she leveraged her platform as a means to start conversations about diversity and inclusion in regards to the Advertising industry. Leslie enjoys researching, creating innovative products, and utilizing technologies to understand how society might envision the future.

Favorite professional resources for learning or inspiration:
NPR, Skillshare

Angie Heverly

UI Artist, Bioware

Angie Heverly is a user interface designer currently working as a game developer at Bioware Austin. Over three years as the UI artist for Star Wars: The Old Republic she has been credited in eight update releases and one game expansion on the story-based multiplayer game. Her focus on the gamedev team has been improving the user-experience by creating intuitive, game-immersive interfaces for new game systems and working within the game’s legacy style to improve existing features. Outside of video games for work, she drinks too much coffee and hosts a horror book club.

Favorite professional resources for learning or inspiration:
Adobe's Wireframe podcast is great, 99% Invisible is a perfect workday listen, and I've gotten a lot out of the Rosenfeld published "User Experience Team of One" by Leah Buley and "Make It So: Interaction Design Lessons from Science Fiction" by Nathan Shedroff (though the latter is pretty specific to my job)

Jennifer "Houli" Houlihan

Instructor, General Assembly

Jennifer (Houli) Houlihan is deeply curious. As a UX instructor, researcher, service designer, and facilitator, she loves to follow threads, connect dots, identify patterns, and organize information to drive action. Her previous careers include lobbying and nonprofit management, and she’s an award-winning speaker, actor, and writer. Houli currently serves as an organizer for Austin Design Jam and the Austin chapter of OpenIDEO. She holds a bachelor’s in communications from Northwestern University and a master’s in social psychology from Pepperdine University. Her sweet spot is the space where doing good meets a bit of mischief.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
The War on Kindness: Building Empathy in a Fractured World by Jamil Zaki

Rahul Ramath

Product Designer, Dell

Rahul is an engineer-turned-user-experience-designer based in Austin, Texas. He grew up in India and came to the US in 2015 to pursue his master’s degree in human-computer interaction from UC San Diego. Being a tech geek and always inspired by human behavior, he loves solving complex problems by creating delightful experiences that are relevant, adoptable and highly user-centric for its intended audience. Prior to working at Dell, he worked as a researcher at The Design Lab in San Diego, where he worked on multiple projects in the field of healthcare and education.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
High Resolution

Gerardo Silguero

Multidisciplinary Artist

Gerardo Eliud Silguero dissects the varying roles and expectations of assimilating into a society that actively marginalizes and mutes the Mexican-American experience. Through vulnerable paintings, sculptures, and design he demonstrates how communities are nurtured by their respective environment and that the quality of these environments determine whether we feel spirited or alienated.

Favorite professional resources for learning or inspiration:
Website: YouTube | Book: The Influencing Machine

Jordan Steyer

Student, The University of Texas at Austin
Digital Fellow, Texas Freedom Network

Jordan Steyer is an El Paso, Texas native and an Austin, Texas transplant. She is currently a senior at The University of Texas at Austin where she is studying Journalism and Studio Art. Her passion begins at the intersection of graphic design and politics. She is a Digital Fellow at Texas Freedom Network where she gets to yell about politics in a creative way.


Keynote Presentations

Deborah Lee

Owner, Deborah Lee Studio LLC

Deborah Lee is an Oakland-based Korean illustrator and author. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon in 2018, she has pivoted from UX design into freelance illustration working with clients such as NPR, The Verge, Scientific American, Procreate App, and is currently illustrating three graphic novels with HarperCollins and Macmillan Publishers. Her debut graphic memoir, In Limbo, is scheduled to publish with Macmillan in Fall 2021. When her wrists aren’t deteriorating from constant drawing, she enjoys weightlifting, long-distance running, and recovering from her dog allergy.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:

Ian Lynam

Principal, Ian Lynam Design
Faculty, Temple University Japan, Vermont College of Fine Arts, CalArts

Ian Lynam works at the intersection of graphic design, design education and design research. He is faculty at Temple University Japan, as well as at Vermont College of Fine Arts in the MFA in Graphic Design Program, Meme Design School in Tokyo and is 2019 Visiting Critic at CalArts. He operates the design studio Ian Lynam Design, working across identity, typography, and interior design. Ian writes for IDEA (JP) and has published a number of books about design.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
Japanese design books from the 1930s


Industry Panelists

Natalie Armendariz

Partner and Design Director, Funsize

Natalie is a Partner and Design Director at Funsize, a digital product design agency that creates impactful products with organizations like Toyota Connected, Credit Karma, Volvo, AT&T, EA, and Oracle. Before co-founding Funsize, she held senior design positions at FJORD and R/GA NY, where she was responsible for designing some of the earliest smartphone solutions for influential companies like Verizon, Citibank, AT&T, Foursquare, Formula 1, and the NFL.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
Hustle Podcast by Funsize

Andy Bossley

Head of Marketing, HCL Software

Recognized by Forbes on the 2017 “30 Under 30” list for marketing and advertising, Andy is the Head of Marketing for HCL’s software business unit. He is responsible for global marketing of HCL’s portfolio of collaboration products—from email to chat to web conferencing—used by millions of people globally.

Previously Andy oversaw marketing for Watson Work, IBM's AI-based collaboration portfolio, and ran integrated marketing for National Instruments, a multi-billion dollar engineering technology company.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
Harvard Business Review

Ben Brown

Principal Software Development Engineer

Ben Brown is an entrepreneur and product designer with more than 20 years of experience as an internet pioneer. He was the cofounder of the city blog Austinist, the pre-social social site Consumating.com, and most recently the AI/chat startup Howdy.ai. He joined Microsoft in 2018 through an acquisition, and works on open source AI projects.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:

Kenzie Haynes

Founder and Creative Strategist, Legendary Future

As the daughter of a teacher and a technologist, Kenzie was encouraged to ask questions and build answers. Now as a creative strategist, she uses that same mindset to drive outcomes across industries by helping businesses ask critical questions and build market-leading answers using design and technology. When she’s not creatively strategizing, you can find her learning tarot, listening to the Hardcore History podcast, and collaborating with friends on creative projects.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:

Brittney Williams

Designer, McCray&Co.

The deep passion Brittney Williams has always had for creating spaces has led her to a career in interior design. She takes pride in telling stories through her design, shaping emotional arcs through the sourcing of lighting, furniture, fixtures, textiles and more, all invoking unique sensory vibes when experienced by her clients or the community at large.  She believes it’s her job to ensure all the notes played in a spaced create a harmony.  Born and raised in Austin, Brittney began her career in New York City working for BDDW, an American design, fabrication and furniture company. That experience gave her the chance to immerse herself fully in design in a new way and begin to understand that in design there are no rules -  you play by your own.


Workshop Leaders

Sarah Acevedo

Freelance Illustrator

Sarah Acevedo is a freelance illustrator and hand-letterer based in Austin, Texas. She loves working on projects for the greater good of others, their businesses and for her own personal creative fulfillment. Sarah’s work utilizes an organic, illustrative and hand-lettering style to tell stories and evoke deeper meaning to a project. She had had the opportunity to work on print, digital and product projects mostly in the Austin and Chicago areas. Between client and personal work Sarah loves flamenco dancing, gardening and crafting with wine and all the cheese.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
The Creative Pep Talk Podcast, The Perspective Collective Podcast, The LetterWest Conference

Jay Esteves

Experience Strategist, GSDM

Born and raised in Brazil, Jay Esteves moved to the U.S. to study advertising at UT Austin. Now he’s an Experience Strategist at iconic Austin ad agency, GSD&M. The epitome of merging tech and creativity, Jay’s creative perspective on how technology affects storytelling is integral to the future of creative industries. He’s worked around the globe, with award-winning brands, but it doesn’t stop there—Jay’s short film featuring Alexa was selected for four film festivals in 2018, and he’s now spearheading GSD&M’s innovation hub for technology including VR, AR and of course Voice Assistants.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
Books – The Design of Everyday Things, Magic Theory

Alex Lang

Senior Art Director, GSDM

Alex Lang is an award-winning senior art director and designer with a focus on combining new technology with graphic design. Currently working at GSD&M, he is also an active freelancer who art directs campaigns for musicians and creates augmented reality filters for clients around the world. Past clients include IBM, Google, Pepsi, Pizza Hut, Universal Studios, and U.S. Air Force.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
Adventures in Design Podcast

Tuan Phan

Assistant Professor, St. Edward’s University

Tuan Phan is a graphic design freelancing dabbler, off-time semi-socio-political graphical activist, & a full-time graphic design teacher. El Paso, Tx. Omaha, Ne. Pasadena, Tx. Kingwood, Tx. Seabrook, Tx, Houston, Tx, Valencia, Ca. Austin, Tx.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
Dead Pundits Society

Alexandra Robinson

Associate Professor, St. Edward’s University

Alexandra Robinson grew up in the military and has lived all over the world. Because of the semi-transient nature of moving every two years she has a longing for place and truth and explores these themes in her work. Robinson grew up with her immediate family and the intersection of her Mexican and Jewish heritages has cultivated a complexity in how she sees and experiences the world. In 2012 she moved from Kansas City to Austin with her husband and two daughters. She received her MFA from the University of Cincinnati and currently teaches at St. Edward's University. Robinson has exhibited throughout the country and internationally.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
WITHPOD with Chris Hayes, 1619 project podcast, Rebecca Solnit Essays +Wanderlust and A Fieldguide to Getting Lost, Borderlands by Gloria Anzaldúa, anything about racism in America, cookbook: Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, visual artist Eva Hesse, Instagram: @rijksmuseum following the restoration of the Nightwatchmen by Rembrandt, @erdem design house, @the_art_of_dress, @pietoudolf garden designer

Madisson Staires

Designer, thirteen23

Madisson Staires is a multidisciplinary designer and creative currently pushing pixels at thirteen23, a product design agency in Austin, Texas. She is passionate about illustration design systems, using design for good to facilitate change, immersing herself in new experiences, and Oxford commas. She is happiest when she’s exercising her love of visual storytelling and design to solve for real human needs, and any opportunity to challenge the conventional.

Favorite professional resource for learning or inspiration:
The Dieline, Typewolf, The Creative Pep Talk Podcast, The Perspective Collective Podcast

Steven Smith

Product Designer and Education Facilitator, USAA

Steven Smith is a product designer, educator and mentor. He leads the development of a design language system for the Human-Centered Design Practice Team at USAA and teaches undergraduate design students at St. Edward’s University. He is passionate about helping junior designers deepen their craft, develop an authorial approach to their work and use their powers for good.