Since founding Firebelly in 1999, Dawn has focused on producing innovative, sustainable design and building stronger communities.
Firebelly’s work has earned recognition in various journals and design archives, but more importantly it’s earned trust from both clients and the local community.
In the years since she started the studio, Dawn has built on this trust to broaden Firebelly’s reach and impact. In 2004, she began offering the Grant for Good, a charitable award that supports one nonprofit for a year. The grant now includes photography, social media, printing and space planning, making it a comprehensive service package with the potential to transform an organization.
In 2006, with the fearless work of her team and plenty of local support, Dawn launched her own nonprofit organization. Reason to Give, providing basic needs alongside a 5 month education program to help underserved individuals motivated to change their situation. Shortly after, she launched Camp Firebelly, an intensive 10-day apprenticeship for young designers.
Upon joining the board of AIGA Chicago as Community Outreach Chair in 2009, Dawn seized the opportunity to create a free mentorship program for Chicago designers. The program attracts nearly 300 individuals each year who gather in small groups to share their success stories as well as their missteps, and to seek and offer guidance to their peers.
And still Dawn wants to do more. She has been honored to speak at TEDx, AIGA national design conference, Brand New conference, Pratt Institute, among other schools, workshops and conferences. Her writing has appeared in Computer Arts magazine, and she’s always looking for the next opportunity to try to change the world, one good idea at a time.
Dawn holds a BFA in Visual Communication from Northern Illinois University and was named one of The 11 Most Generous Designers by Fast Company.
Will came to Firebelly in 2007, adamant that each day presented not just the opportunity but the obligation to make or do something worthwhile. As Creative Director + Partner, Will upholds a standard of quality that reflects the passion and perseverance inherent to the Firebelly philosophy.
He moved to Chicago in the early aughts, armed with a degree in Graphic and Interactive Communication and a desire to explore new territory. Between freelancing jobs, he studied typography and lettering and managed to fit in running a marathon.
Eventually, he designed his way into a position as Marketing Director for a luxury lifestyle magazine that grew significantly during his tenure. After 2.5 years, his impulse to keep moving forward led him to Firebelly.
In his early days at the studio, Will focused on the boundaries of unique print materials and processes. When web and mobile became increasingly prevalent, he turned his attention to interaction and usability design.
Where most people see obstacles during design projects, Will sees opportunities to re-evaluate and and revitalize. Design is, after all, a hands-on exercise, a marriage of art and technology. Like any marriage, it requires constant dedication, practice, understanding and play.
In his role as Creative Director, Will holds himself and his team accountable for delivering inspiring and memorable design. In both his traditional design work and art installations, he takes a ground-up approach that treats every challenge and constraint as an opportunity to explore, experiment and see what happens.
Will received his BFA in Graphic and Interactive Communication from Ringling College of Art and Design, where he also minored in Photography.
As our Strategic Director, Nick is essentially a translator. An intuitive and conscious communicator, he specializes in figuring out how audiences relate to messaging, environments and each other.
He follows a project from start to completion, helping all involved parties understand its progress and communicating what’s needed from whom as we move from research and discovery to design and development.
An active participant in Chicago’s vibrant artistic community, Nick is particularly interested in street art and public installations. His own work strives - in true humanist fashion - to respect the complexities of the individual’s inner life while seeking the common ground that unite all people through positive, powerful messages.
Before joining the Firebelly family, Nick worked as an Art Director for a publishing house, moonlighting as a designer with various art collectives. Whatever free time he found, he spent creating art that encouraged honest conversation and mutual respect to catalyze positive social change. Believing in the potential of good design to improve and simplify daily life, Nick eventually - inevitably - found a home at Firebelly, where he could finally reconcile his personal ethos with his professional work.
In his time here, he’s facilitated countless conversations between our staff and our clients and cultivated a positive energy throughout the studio that inspires better communication and, ultimately, better solutions.
Put simply, he makes people happy.
Nick received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication at the Illinois Institute of Art - Shaumburg.
As one of two Web Developers, Nate translates static content into the pristine code that turns a design mock-up into a fully functioning website.
Like any other facet of design work, coding is a rigorous and hands-on task that requires creativity within constraints. Nate particularly enjoys the challenge of manipulating complex language into clean, user-friendly products that are as beautiful and sophisticated as they are effective and intuitive.
Nate’s path to Firebelly was - unlike his code - a bit circuitous. Having had enough of the weather and seeking midwestern adventure, Nate moved to Chicago from Oregon, by way of Los Angeles, in 2008. An avid cartoonist, he found an immediate home in Chicago’s comic arts community and joined a local collective that hosts weekly drawing events around town. (You can find some of his work in New City, McSweeney’s, Papercutter, the Portland Mercury, or right here.)
It was through this group that he learned about Firebelly and soon enough, made his way through our door. You can find him behind a giant monitor, sipping on tea and making things work.
Nate studied Computer Science at Virginia Tech and lived in the woods of Washington without electricity for a while.
Education, empowerment and continued growth: these are the cornerstones of Shannon’s career and ethos. As Executive Director and the first full-time employee of Reason to Give, she nurtured the nonprofit from its infancy into a full-service organization serving Humboldt Park.
After finishing her undergraduate degree, Shannon left her native Chicago to travel the world while researching and advocating for women’s issues and human rights. Upon her return to the midwest, she refocused her energy on her local community and joined the Americorps Public Allies program.
She learned about Reason to Give - at the time just a simple website and a good idea - through Public Allies. Compelled by its mission and attracted to the challenge of building a successful organization from the ground up, Shannon took the helm in 2008.
Under her thoughtful leadership, the organization has grown significantly and successfully, due in large part to the time she takes to cultivate trust and personal relationships with the people she works with and serves. Her passion for learning, teaching and making space for those who often go unseen and unheard guides her as she continues to strengthen the organization’s services and opportunities for underserved families in Humboldt Park and beyond.
Shannon’s always looking for new ways to help her community. After spending a year and a half renovating her house on her own, she was inspired to put her new skills to use. In 2012, she recruited an army of friends, volunteers and generous sponsors to complete a full-scale home renovation for a local family in a single week.
When not set on community outreach, her heart belongs to the Pittsburgh Steelers and to running a fantasy football league. (She collects championships like she collects degrees.)
Shannon earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Illinois at Chicago, with a minor in Women’s Studies. She also studied Art & Architecture and Language at the University of Florence, and received a Masters in International Studies, with a certificate in Women’s and Religious Studies, from DePaul University.