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Championing the future of design for all.

Unveiling Methods Behind Studio Growth
October 27–28 2022
Past Event
October 27–28 2022

Unveiling Methods Behind Studio Growth

October 27–28 2022

Unveiling Methods Behind Studio Growth

Join us for a two-day symposium with industry leaders on how to grow (or launch) your studio.

Whether you’re a seasoned agency leader, or just launching your studio, we’ve got you covered with real talk and inspiration on how to build a vision for your next stage of growth.

Over 2-days you’ll hear the behind the scenes stories and insights from industry leaders and break-out stars. We’ll cover pressing topics like how you can uncover new knowledge on how to position your agency, potential revenue streams, profitability, mergers and acquisitions, and more.

You’ll hear the behind the scenes stories and insights from industry leaders and break-out stars.

We’ll also provide opportunities to network to gain expertise and knowledge from others. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect, learn, and supercharge your game plan for growth.




Discounted all-access pass

  • You will have access to all panels and follow-up materials post-event.

All-access pass

  • You will have access to all panels and follow-up materials post-event.
  • This ticket allows us to make more sliding scale tickets available for folks who cannot afford to attend. It covers all speaker honorariums, printing, symposium materials, and snacks.

One day access pass

  • You will have access to attend one day of your choice for the event.
  • This ticket covers all costs associated with your attendance but does not provide support for others to attend. It covers some of the event expenses.

All proceeds from this event will support the mission of AIGA NY, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. If ticket cost is a barrier, please contact

Covid Protocol
This event is in person and in a large indoor venue in The New School, Parsons. In compliance with NYC COVID indoor gatherings, masks are optional.

  • 9:00 am Doors open & check-in
  • All-access pass $345.00
  • Discounted all-access pass $245.00
  • One day access pass $170.00
Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall 66 West 12th Street, The Auditorium,

66 West 12th Street
The Auditorium
New York, 10011


Felipe Rocha & Leo Porto, Porto Rocha

Felipe is a Brazilian designer and creative director based in New York. He began his career in 2008 and has since worked across different realms of design including branding, experiential, editorial, digital and advertising. Felipe has created culturally relevant work for global brands such as Snapchat, Airbnb and most recently Spotify, where he led the design of new brand initiatives and major artist collaborations. His past experiences also include working as Senior Designer at Sagmeister & Walsh; co-founding Arnold, a graphic design studio in São Paulo; and completing a residency at Fabrica, Benetton’s creative laboratory in Italy where he worked on the iconic COLORS Magazine. Twitter, IG,

Leo is a Brazilian designer and creative director living in New York. Prior to starting PORTO ROCHA, Leo was Design Director at COLLINS. Throughout his career, Leo has worked at a range of renowned studios including Pentagram, Mother, and Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv. Widely recognized by a number of major design awards and publications such as The One Club, Print Magazine and The Type Director’s Club, Leo was also recently named a “Young Gun” by The Art Directors Club. With a focus on branding and design systems, Leo’s work maintains a global presence through his designs for some of the world’s largest brands including Target, Nike and Twitch. Twitter, IG

Heather-Mariah Violet Dixon & Abigail Kerns, Studio HMVD

Heather-Mariah is an incessant maker of things, from typography to photography. Her work is an eclectic blend of vernacular & historical type, traditional graphic design and sensorial photography. As principal at Studio HMVD, she leads creative direction, photography and strategic projects. After receiving her BA in Design and Printmaking from Western Washington University in 2015, she moved to NYC and built her portfolio in-house and at agencies across the city. Although Studio HMVD started in 2018 as a one-woman, one-client, one-camera practice, it’s since grown under Heather’s direction and Abigail Kerns’ partnership to be a burgeoning practice on the cutting edge of New York’s design scene.

Abigail is a brand strategist, designer, producer, prop stylist, and currently a partner at Studio HMVD. She received her BFA in Dance and BA in Design in 2015 while studying at Western Washington University. A one-way ticket brought her to New York, where she worked with institutions such as NYU Tandon, Brooklyn Ballet, and Real Pilates, perfecting the balance of design, strategy and administration. Her work synthesizes process and creativity, building structures that effectively enable her team to produce their best work. Over the past four years, Studio HMVD has grown under her watchful eye to be a well-oiled machine producing high-end photography and considered brand identities.

Michael Ian Kay, SYLVAIN

As Chief Design Officer and Principal at SYLVAIN, Michael drives bold ideas with meticulous craft. He provides clear direction, ambitious vision and the cultural insights that drive teams and processes. He’s worked with brands across categories, including Target, Microsoft, Marriott, AB inBev/Stella Artois, Diageo, Oscar, IBM, Wired, Calvin Klein, IMG New York, Fashion Week and American Express. Michael specializes in culturally insightful strategies, dynamic marketing platforms and innovative creative executions that ground brands in culture and move them forward. He is most well-known for his iconic designs for Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, which have left an indelible impression on American culture.

Grace Robinson-Leo, Decade

Grace is a Creative Director and Co-Founder of Decade, a small creative agency. After various roles at IDEO, Project Projects, and RoAndCo, Grace co-founded Decade with Rob Matthews in 2017. Decade creates brand identities through graphic design, art direction, strategy, and copywriting. They have created new brands for clients such as Soft Services, Khaite, and Edie Parker Flower, as well as rebranded existing companies, including Banana Republic and Playboy. Grace received a BA in Architecture History from Barnard College (‘09) and an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University (‘14). IG: @decadenewyork


Aaron Shapiro, Dayforward

Aaron is Founder and CEO of Dayforward, a venture-backed digital life insurance company.  Previously, he was a founder and CEO of Huge, the global digital agency, and Founder/CEO of Silverpop, a marketing automation software company acquired by IBM. He is author of Users Not Customers (Portfolio/Penguin) and a frequent commentator on digital strategy and design.  He lives in New York City with his wife and three children.

Aaron Edwards, The Charles Group

Aaron is CEO of The Charles Group, a creative agency based in New York, Chicago and London with roots in strategy, design, technology and brand campaigns. The Charles Groups current client roster includes media and consulting heavyweights Bloomberg Media and Boston Consulting Group, time-honored prestige brands including Cartier, Omega, Russell Athletic and Aveda, hospitality favorites Marriott Bonvoy, Gurneys Resorts and real estate titans like JDS Developments and Greystar.

Originally hailing from Manchester, England – Aaron worked as a financial analyst at Barclays Capital, London, before moving to New York in 2010. Working as an agency account manager for clients that included Ferrari North America, Diageo and Pepsico, Aaron invested a large portion of his time learning about brand strategy, data driven marketing campaigns and digital technology. Transitioning from finance to creative came naturally to Aaron, due in part to his desire to provide data driven design insights and business strategy to the creative and digital industry.

“As kid I was always trying to figure out how to beat the AI in video games. I grew playing donkey kong on my Atari and I’m still an avid gamer. I have always challenged myself to beat gaming algorithms and I guess that’s why I love digital so much because there is no set formula for success, it’s trial and error, it’s iterative and its unforgiving.”

Partnering with his sister, Aaron wanted to create more than an agency, he wanted to create a brand and a work environment that never felt like work. This ethos lead to the creation of The Charles (a business name carried by all men in their family and rooted in a founding mission – ‘To Honor. To Inspire’. To Honor – their clients and do business with integrity. To Inspire – with the work created.

Andre Banks, A–B Partners

As the Founder and CEO of A—B, Andre brings his creativity and curiosity to help leaders find the courage and confidence to lead with equity and unlock transformational ideas.In this capacity he aspires to be the ultimate hands-on practitioner, working everyday between strategy, campaigning, operations and design to lead teams to the urgent breakthroughs our moment demands.

Over the past 20 years, Andre has been driven by a creative obsession to understand how power works and to change who it works for. In 2020 he incubated and led Win Black, a new model in political infrastructure that successfully convened and coordinated hundreds of organizations to inoculate against racist disinformation campaigns weaponized against Black and Latinx voters in 20 states. Andre also co-founded and led All Out, one of the largest organizations in the world focused on the global push towards LGBTQ equality. Previously, Andre was a Founding Partner and Director of Strategy at Purpose, a global strategy consultancy, creative agency, and social movement incubator; and Executive Vice President for Social Impact & Philanthropy at the national public affairs firm BerlinRosen. He currently serves as the chair of the board at Color Of Change, the largest racial justice organization in the U.S., where he was also an early staff member.

Andre lives in Brooklyn and when he’s not CEO’ing or luxuriating in Airtable, he spends as much time as he can escaping with his black lab Penny to his A-frame cabin in the Catskills.

Emmett Shine, Pattern

Emmett is from Eastern Long Island. He started a t-shirt & skateboarding company with his childhood friends while at NYU Tisch for photography. While there, he learned graphic design and web design and he started Gin Lane, a digital creative agency based out of Chinatown, NYC right into The Great Recession. Gin Lane ran for over a decade before becoming Pattern, which he co-founded right into Covid-19.

He also helped co-found JAJA Tequila, Fallen Grape Natural Wine Co., & RMX.PARTY in the web3 space.

In his free time he likes skating, surfing, walking, drawing + mentoring young entrepreneurs and designers. Emmett served on the board of AIGA NY in 2015/16. 🎨

Aron Fay, FAY

Aron is a graphic designer based in Brooklyn and the founder of FAY, a graphic design & creative technology studio.

He and his team specialize in the design of dynamic visual identity systems, often harnessing emerging creative technologies to create new platforms for communication. The studio works with a variety of clients, namely in the fields of technology, higher-ed, music, arts/design and architecture.

Prior to starting FAY, he worked for Michael Bierut at Pentagram for six years, ultimately as an Associate Partner. He has also taught at the School of Visual Arts and lectured at institutions such as Parsons, MICA, and SVA.

Deroy Peraza, Hyperakt

Deroy is a Cuban-American designer, husband, father, and Barça fan based in Brooklyn. As a founding partner and creative director at Hyperakt, a design studio dedicated to branding non-profits from the inside out, he has spent nearly two decades designing resonant brands and digital experiences that foster empathy, clarity, and equity.

Rachael Yaeger & Michael Ray, Human

Michael is a co-founder of Human, a creative and technology studio founded in 2013, with a Shopify ecommerce award. Michael has spent the last 15 years in the creative tech industry mainly with the likes of Gin Lane and Code & Theory prior to founding Human. Human was founded as a thoughtful full-stack development studio with a front-end focus, and this remains at its core today. Human’s go-to stack is Shopify, Sanity and Nuxt. Recent clients include: Sunnies Face, Dune, Cero, Thakoon, Hommegirls, Care/of, Beni Rugs, Paula Cooper Gallery, Interior, Piaule and Hilma. Human prides itself on being MVP focused and working closely with clients. When not building on the internet with his team Michael also co-owns Roscoe Motel, a humble fishing destination in upstate New York.

Rachael is a co-founder of and producer at Human alongside Michael Ray. Human, which started in 2013 after the two met at Gin Lane, as mainly a development shop, has since grown into a holistic studio which specializes in working closely with clients on creating meaningful brands. Human’s capabilities range from strategy, naming, messaging, art direction, branding, packaging, to content creation (copy, photo, video, illustration), ui/ux, digital design and full stack development. Human–currently nine years old–has a full-time team of nine and is proud to collaborate with venture partners Lakehouse and Gutter. Recent clients also include Bobbie, Two Front orthodontics, Hilma, Base, Ollie pets, Saie, Block Renovation, Package Free shop, Shopify’s Hydrogen, and Adi Goodrich. When not working for clients Rachael can be found building: Likeminds, The Working Pair, Wild Fruits, Roscoe Motel, homes+studios, Coop, Bagggy.

Catherine Clark, clarkmcdowall

Catherine is the Co-Founder of independent NYC-based branding agency, clarkmcdowall. A true pioneer in the business of branding and innovation, Catherine came to New York in the late 90s and quickly established her reputation as a thought leader in brand strategy, architecture and innovation. She joined forces with Paul McDowall in 2001, creating clarkmcdowall – an original agency built on the fusion of art and science, left and right brain… or what they call “intelligence and imagination”. Together, they have built a powerful team of talented individuals and helped shape some of the world’s biggest and most innovative brands. Catherine leads the strategic direction for the agency’s work and oversees the business. She is committed to supporting women in the pursuit of their ambitions, and is proud to have a long fostered women-majority leadership group.

Kat McCord, Thackway McCord

ECUAD educated, with her early career in London, Kat is creative director and co-founder of Thackway McCord, a Chinatown-based brand strategy and creation practice. Celebrating its 14th year in business, Thackway McCord focusses on corporate brand building plus work in the cultural and tech space. Kat is a visiting speaker, a mentor to early career designers and recently served on the board of AIGA NY, championing the future of design for all.

Mark Goldwell, Zero Studios

Mark is a Founding Partner of Zero Studios and serves as the studio’s Executive Creative Director. Mark possesses the innate ability to lead teams and guide the creative process, as well as contribute as a hands-on team member – designing and creating many of the projects at Zero. Mark has over a decade of experience, working at large traditional advertising agencies, small digital design firms and in-house in publishing companies. Mark has worked with a variety of notable clients ranging from major household names like Google and Conde Naste to startups and small businesses. All of which presented interesting and challenging problems to solve. Mark strives to make fresh and innovative work that actually works and have as much fun as possible during the process.

Liesje Hodgson, Aruliden

Liesje is driven by the belief that the interests of business, people and the planet are closer than we might think. She works in design and strategy to help clients and teams identify opportunities and take the right leaps. Over the last decade she’s held roles at Redscout, Interbrand and frog, and taught as an adjunct professor at NYU’s ITP. She currently leads Strategy & Innovation at Aruliden, the design and innovation studio within Material. Liesje’s experience includes leading transformation programs for Fortune 100 companies, creating brands for big businesses and startups, and bringing new offerings and services to market. She takes a collaborative, cross-disciplinary and sustainability-minded approach.

Julia Zeltser, Hyperakt

Julia has worked with some of the world’s most renowned changemakers, from the UN and the Ford Foundation to Spotify and Google. A native of Ukraine, Julia came to the U.S. in her teens, as a refugee — an experience that has deeply informed her mission of using design to catalyze cultural change and create democratic opportunity. Her creative vision is grounded in an eagle eye for detail, a fierce dedication to quality, and a knack for systems-level thinking.

Julia’s charisma and empathy brings people together, and her shoulder-to-shoulder leadership style inspires the Hyperakt team to deliver consistently exceptional work. She has received accolades from organizations such as Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts, Brand New, and How Magazine. Now residing in Park Slope with her husband and children, Julia is also known for her killer kitchen skills (ask her for her lemon-cheese pancake recipe!).


Shar Biggers, Provoke

Shar  is the creative director and founder of Provoke Design, a branding studio. In her extensive experience, she has worked with Fortune 500 companies, led design for Amazon rebrands like Amazon Fashion and Amazon Diversity, and helped more than 10 million Americans say “I’m with her” for Hillary Clinton.

Shar has a proclivity for communications design, from ideation and strategy to branding and digital design. While working in advertising, she was tasked with overseeing several design projects, fell in love, then left the advertising world for design. Dedicated to her craft from the start, she went from pulling all-nighters on a cot in design school to launching multiple businesses and designing for top brands.

Today, Shar is a visionary who has made problem-solving her business. Her passion is to help bring equality and increased opportunities for ambitious bootstrapped startups, women-led companies, and businesses owned by people of color. To that end, her ultimate goal is to design for good and those most undervalued. A native of Atlanta, by way of St. Louis, Shar holds an MBA in business management and is a graduate of Miami Ad School’s Portfolio Center of Design. She is thrilled to share her story and inspire others, especially the next generation of female and minority creatives.

Sarah Williams, Beardwood&Co

Sarah is Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Beardwood&Co, a branding agency based in New York City. She believes courageous creativity leads to big ideas that have the power to make the world more equitable, healthier, and more sustainable. By setting the vision for a multi-disciplinary design team at Beardwood&Co., she delivers award-winning work that brings strategy and innovation to life. Sarah has led branding and creative for clients such as Hyatt Hotels, Danone, Sperry, Hill’s, S’well Bottle, Honest Tea, Sabra, Eos, and Enterprise Community Partners. Sarah began her career at Landor Associates and graduated from Western Michigan University with BFA in Graphic Design.

Ritik Dholakia, Studio Rodrigo

Ritik is a product strategist, entrepreneur, and writer living in Brooklyn, NY. He is the founder and managing partner of Studio Rodrigo, a digital product strategy & design consultancy, and Amp Club NYC, an initiative to get creative folks more engaged with civic issues.

Yocasta Lachapelle, Talent Consultant

Yocasta is a Talent Consultant who specializes in talent acquisition, curating high-performing creative teams and delivering impactful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programming. She was previously the long-standing Director of Talent at COLLINS during which time the agency was named “Design & Brand Agency of the Year” by AdAge and the 2021 Design Company of the Year by D&AD. Prior to joining COLLINS, Yocasta was Partner, Senior Producer, Business Development at Ogilvy, where she managed interdisciplinary teams on projects including global campaigns and high-value new business pitches.

Yocasta currently lives in New York with her daughter––an amazing 11th grader, who is an accomplished artist in her own right.




Day 1
Launching a Design Studio
Insights on the play-by-play journey of launching a design studio, straight from a founder’s point of view. We’ll talk about the “why’s”, the “how’s”, the hurdles and successes that happen along the way. What it looks like to dream it and do it according to the best laid plans, and what it means to pivot for a new opportunity or shift in the industry.

Blueprints for Success
Launching a studio is a daunting journey, so where to begin? In this session we’ll discuss insights on creating a blueprint for success. Asking some key questions from the start can help you and your partners stay on the same page for making important business decisions. What does year one look like? How to build and structure a team for growth? How do we create financial stability? What are the pitfalls to avoid in projects and negotiations? We’ll touch on these topics and more with “duo founders” to talk about laying the foundation for future growth.

New Studio Realness
So you’ve launched your studio and have a few projects or a few years under your belt. This is the moment to reflect on what’s working, what’s not, and what your next set of goals look like. In this conversation we’ll talk about shifting from surviving to thriving, and codifying the tools and processes that can help get you there.

Day 2

The Growth Struggle
The same ways of working that got you “here” may not always work to get you “there” — A.K.A the next phase of growth. In this conversation we’ll chat about how studios have reinvisioned their methodologies and reprioritized their time to focus on growing teams and growing the business.

The Machine Behind the Studio
When you are shifting from “wearing all the hats” of running a studio to building a team of experts, it’s time to think about creating a well-oiled machine. The operations of running a studio, managing projects, and growing healthy client relationships require different areas of expertise. In this session we’ll talk about how those roles intersect with keeping creativity and culture thriving in your studio.

Mergers, Acquisitions & Restructurings Oh My!
Whether you’re early-stage or mid-stage in the life of your studio, it’s never too early to understand the “the end game” options. Gain a deeper understanding of the potential pathways and your long term vision. We’ll talk about what it means for you and for your business across mergers, acquisitions, transferring equity or shares, closing the doors, and the pros and cons that go along with each.


Day 1 

10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Welcome to INSIDE
10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Keynote Spotlight: Launching a Design Studio with  Andre Banks, A–B Partners
11:30 a.m.- 11:45 a.m.
11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
SESSION 1 / Panel – Blueprints for Success: Leo Porto, Felipe Rocha, Aaron Edwards, Mark Goldwell, and moderated by Sarah Williams
1:00 p.m.- 2:15 p.m.
Networking lunch
2:30 p.m.- 3:45 p.m.
SESSION 2 / Panel – New Studio Realness: Aron Fay, Heather-Mariah Dixon, Grace Robinson-Leo and moderated by Shar Biggers
3:45 p.m. – 4:00p.m.
Closing remarks

Day 2 

9:00a.m. – 10:00a.m.
10:00 a.m – 10:30 a.m.
Symposium Welcome
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Keynote Spotlight / Launching a Design Studio: Kat McCord of Thackway McCord
11:30 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
11:45 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
SESSION 1 / Panel – The Growth Struggle (it’s real): Andre Banks, Deroy Peraza, Rachel Yaeger, Michael Ray and moderated by Kat McCord
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Network Lunch
2:15 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
SESSION 2 / Panel – The Machine Behind the Studio: Michael Ian Kaye, Catherine Clark, Julia Zeltser, and moderated by Yocasta Lachapelle
3:30 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
3:45 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
SESSION 3 / Panel – Mergers, Acquisitions & Restructurings Oh My!: Aaron Shapiro, Emmet Shine, Liesje Hodson and moderated by Ritik Dholakia
5:00 p.m.- 5:10 p.m.
Closing remarks
5:10 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall 66 West 12th Street, The Auditorium,

66 West 12th Street
The Auditorium
New York, 10011