Nick Adam is a strategic, values-driven design director at Span with two decades of experience. Nick’s work focuses on the power of identity, through which typographic details, design maneuvers, and interactive gestures embrace qualities that are true to the entities he collaborates with. He has a reputation for exquisite typography and craft that is concept-driven, direct, and emotionally resonant. Through his work, Nick designs brand identities and interactive touch points that shift culture, build value, and create advocates.

Nick’s body of work — which spans the civic, cultural, innovation, and nonprofit worlds — reflects his commitment to the public realm, diverse cultures, and communities. The clients he partners with appreciate his inclusive process that builds ­­­a sense of co-own­er­ship and strengthens outcomes. Nick’s work is dis­tin­guished by an abil­i­ty to nav­i­gate com­plexity, bud­gets, and institutional bureau­cra­cy while ele­vat­ing deliverables ­to be mem­o­rable and inspir­ing.

Prior to Span, Nick was an associate principal on Rick Valicenti’s team at Thirst. In addition, Nick has taught both typography and graphic design history at RISD. Earlier in his career, Nick held a hybrid design leadership role as Strategic Director at Firebelly. In this role, he led research, strategy, design, and accounts of notable social impact projects for IDEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Chicago Women’s Health Center, City of Chicago, and NPR Music station Vocalo. 

His work has been published globally by The Economist, Smithsonian Magazine, CBC, The Telegraph, NPR, Associated Press, and other outlets. In addition, projects Nick has led have been internationally celebrated with recognition from the Type Directors Club of New York, the Tokyo Type Directors Club, Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award, and Core77. Work design by Nick exists in the permanent collections of the AIGA Design Archives, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, and the Newberry Library.
Nick’s career in design began within the diverse, underground subcultures of the 1990’s punk rock, rave, and graffiti-writing scenes. These life experiences provide a foundational awareness of cultural nuance, identity, and visual language. All of which pointed Nick to a life of graphic design focused on community, visual identity, and typography. He views graphic design as an integral form of public work that is communal, causal, and connects us all. He sees a designer’s role at its best as a mirror reflecting truth.
Dieline, September 11th, 2023
Print, Daily Heller, August 7th, 2023
Wired Magazine, March 15th 2023
Slanted, Posters Can Help, Feb 1st 2023

Creative Boom, October 4th 2022
Underscore, September 5th 2022 
Chicago Graphic Design Club, September 5th 2022
Communication Arts, September 2nd 2022
Indianapolis Star, July 27th 2022
NPR Illinois, July 26th 2022
The Economist, July 7th 2022
Print, Daily Heller, July 19th 2022
Creative Review, June 29th 2022
Smithsonian Magazine, June 28th 2022
Design Week, June 27th 2022
CBC, June 23rd 2022
The Telegraph, June 23rd 2022
U.S. News Weekly, June 22nd 2022
Ad Age, June 22nd 2022
Crain’s Chicago, June 22nd 2022
WTTW, June 22nd 2022
Chicago Sun Times, June 22nd 2022


AIGA Design Archives
Art Institute of Chicago Museum
Chicago Design Archive
Cooper Hewitt
Cooper Union Lubalin Center
Design of Dissent
Design Museum of Chicago
Letterforms Archive
Milton Glaser Design Center and Archives
Newberry Library
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100
Manuscript Library at Columbia University
RISD Fleet Library Thesis Collection
Ryerson and Burnham Libraries


2022, AIGA, 365
Inflorescence Brand Identity

2022, Society of Typographic Arts, STA100 — 2 Awards
Slow & Low Exhibition Design

2022, Communication Arts, Interactive Short List — 1 Award
South Side Home Movie Project 

2021, Society of Typographic Arts, STA100 — 5 Awards
South Side Home Movie Project (SSHMP) Nkemdiche Book Cover Design
Hot Chi Brand Identity
Silverroom Campaign
SunSurface Brand Identity

2021, AIGA, 50 Books | 50 Covers Nkemdiche Book Cover

2021, Tokyo Type Directors Award — 2 Awards 
Taste of Chicago Brand Identity

2020, Society of Typographic Arts, STA100 — 2 Awards 
Taste of Chicago Brand Identity
Span Brand Identity

2020, Communication Arts, Typography

2020, Communication Arts, Typography, — 2 Short Listed
Taste of Chicago Brand Identity
Span Brand Identity

2019, Society of Typographic Arts, STA100 — 2 Awards
Versteel Brand Identity
John Maus poster

2019, Metropolis Magazine
NeoCon Must See Showroom

2018, Rhode Island School of Design
MFA Degree, Graphic Design
MFA Fellowship

2017, Rhode Island School of Design
MFA Fellowship

2017, The Design Kids
Top Students and Graduates

2017, Society of Typographic Arts, STA100 — 4 Awards
Chicago Design Museum Catalogue
This That Yard Sale Campaign
Zach Lieberman poster for RISD
This Isn't Us Poster

2016, Print Magazine, Regional Annual — 2 Awards
No Clear Goal Poster Series
Typeforce 4 Catalogue

2016, Society of Typographic Arts, STA100 — 2 Awards
Great Lakes Yard Brand Identity
Typeforce 7 Exhibition Brand Identity

2015, Design Observer, 50 Books 50 Covers:
3st Directed MAS Context, Repetition

2015, Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago Design Archive:
Typeforce 4 Catalogue

2015 Type Directors Club, TDC61
Veritiv Keepsake Book

2014, Under Consideration, FPO Awards
Typeforce 3 Catalogue

2014, Fast Company, Innovation by Design Awards, Finalist
Divvy Brand Identity System

2014, Core77, Design Awards, Professional Notable
STA Archive 13 Poster Series

2014, Type Directors Club, TDC60
The Typeforce 3 Catalogue

2014, Society of Typographic Arts, Best in Show
Divvy Brand Identity System

2014, Society of Typographic Arts (STA), — 2 Awards
Divvy Brand Identity System
STA Archive 13 Poster Series

2013, How Magazine, How International Design Awards
STA Archive 13 Poster Series

2012, Type Directors Club, TDC58 — 2 Awards
Typeforce 2 Catalogue
Saskatchewan Jazz Festival Brand Identity System

2012, Tokyo Type Directors
The Typeforce 2 Catalogue


2023, Chicago Design Archive, 20th Anniversary
2023, AIGA Salt Lake City, The 100 Show, Judge
2023, Design Museum of Chicago, Risograph Workshop, Facilitator
2022, MIAD, Great Ideas of Humanity, Panelist
2021, DAAP School of Design (DAAP), Guest Lecturer
2021, Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), Guest Lecturer
2021, McHenry community college (MCC), Panelist
2021, College of Creative Studies (CCS), Guest Lecturer
2021, Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Guest Lecturer
2020, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Guest Lecturer
2020, San Fransisco University (SFU), Guest Lecturer
2020, Western Michigan University (WMU), Guest Lecturer
2020, Columbia College, Guest Lecturer
2019, First Round, Underconsidoration — Noodles Identity
2019, Typeforce 10, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Publicness
2019, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Guest Lecturer
2018, Rhode Island School of Design, Public Thesis Defense
2018, Rhode Island School of Design, Public Position Presentation
2016, Chicago Design Week, The Nerdologues, On Practice
2016, AIGA + STA student group, Conference Keynote
2016, Dominican University, Contemporary Political Branding
2016, Veritiv Paper Show, Paper Persona Keynote
2016, Chicago Design Week, Riso Workshop
2016, Haile Foundation, People's Liberty, Workshop
2016, AIGA National, Innovation Grant, Co-Facilitator
2015, Printers Ball, Risograph Workshop, Facilitator
2015, Type Directors Club, Typeforce New York, Keynote
2014, SAIC, Design Issues Class, Guest Lecturer
2014, Design Madison, Make Conference, Keynote
2014, The School of Design at UIC, Keynote
2013, Apple Store, Lincoln Park — Keynote
2013, PechaKucha, Chicago Volume 26
2013, Northern Illinois (NIU), Seek Conference — Keynote
2013, Center for Books and Paper Arts, Typography Symposium
2012, Center for Books and Paper Arts, Typography Symposium
2012, Archeworks, Winter Workshop, Facilitator
2012, The Illinois Institute of Art, Spark Conference, Keynote
2011, Moving Design, Call to Action, Co-Facilitator
2010, Columbia College, Type as Image, Guest Lecturer


2023, Kind Words 2, You Are Beautiful Gallery
2023, Great Ideas of Humanity,
Chicago Cultural Center
2023, Field Days, Design Museum of Chicago
2023, You Are | I Am, You Are Beautiful Gallery
2022, Free and Open, Design Museum of Chicago
2022, Kind Words, You Are Beautiful Gallery
2022, Great Ideas of Humanity, Brooks Stevens Gallery at MIAD
2021, Successful Failures, Chicago Cultural Center
2020, Typeforce 11, Co-Prosperity Sphere
2019, Typeforce 10, Co-Prosperity Sphere
2018, STA Chicago Characters, The Mart
2018, RISD Graphic Design Triennial, Woods Gerry
2018, Call to Action: The Design of Protest, AIGA Toledo
2018, Graduate Show, 2018 RISD Graduate Exhibition
2018, Selections, Sol Koffler Gallery
2018, Great Ideas of Humanity, Chicago Design Museum
2017, The Design of Dissent, Mirko Ilic and Milton Glaser — SVA
2017, Signs of Resistance, Poetry Foundation
2017, RISD MFA GD Biennial, Sol Koffler Gallery
2017, Dismantled, Sol Koffler Gallery
2016, Vernacular Spectacular, RISD Museum
2016, Fine Art of the Risograph, Chicago Design Museum
2016, Chicago Design Week, Chicago Athletic Association
2016, Block 37 Pedway, Ordinary
2015, Design Observer, 50 Books 50 Covers
2015, Designer Printer Maker, Chicago Athletic Association
2015, 26th Annual Paper Show, The Chicago 50
2015, Block 37 Pedway, Ordinary
2015, Printers Ball, Spudnik Press, No Clear Goal
2015, Type Directors Club, Typeforce NYC
2014, CHGO DSGN, Expo Chicago 
2014, CHGO DSGN, Chicago Cultural Center
2014, 25TH Annual Paper Show, The Chicago 50
2014, TDC60, Cooper Union, TCDC in Bangkok Thailand

2014, Society of Typographic Arts, Best in Show
2014, Paint Paste Sticker, Chicago Cultural Center
2013, A Decade of You Are Beautiful, Green Exchange 
2012, Typeforce 3, Co-Prosperity Sphere
2012, Share Your Beauty, Mission Cultural Center
2011, Write Now, Chicago Cultural Center
2011, WBEZ Winter Block Party, Chicago Urban Art Society
2011, Pop-Up Art Loop, Chicago Loop Alliance
2011, Letter/Form, Flatcolor Gallery, Portland Or.
2011, Typeforce 2, Co-Prosperity Sphere
2011, Fair Warning, Comfort Station
2010, Printervention on Tour, Whistler and Open Lot
2010, Printervention, Expo72, Version Fest
2010, Typeforce, Co-Prosperity Sphere
2010, The Daley Show, Chicago Urban Art Society
2008, The Upset, Art Show, Co-Prosperity Sphere
2004, Little Utopias, Heaven Gallery, Select Fest 3


2021 Spring, Sam Fox, Guest Critic
2020 Spring, RISD, Visiting Critic
2020 Spring, Western Michigan University, Visiting Critic
2020 Spring, RISD, Visiting Critic
2018 Winter, RISD, Instructor
2017 Fall, RISD, Graduate Teaching Assistant
2017 Spring, RISD, Graduate Teaching Assistant
2016 Fall, RISD, Graduate Teaching Assistant
2015 Fall, School of Visual Arts (SVA), Expert Advisor
2015 Fall, SAIC, Expert Advisor
2015 Fall, NC State College of Design, Expert Advisor
2015 Spring, School of Design at UIC, Guest Mentor
2015 Spring, DePaul University, Guest Critic


Associate Partner, Design Director at Span
Design Principal at Span
Associate Principal at Thirst
Strategic Director at Firebelly
Artist with You Are Beautiful
Graffiti Writer with the Three Hearts Club

Designer and Co-Founder of The Up Set
Art Director at Publications International, LTD
Designer, Ala Carte Entertainment


2022 – 23, Designer — Special Project for DMoC
2022, Designer, Laborer — Creative Grounds at Overton
2019 – 22, Designer — Daylight
2015, Lead — Great Ideas of Humanity at DMoC
2010 – 13, Facilitator — Moving Design
2010 – 13, Design Participant — Moving Design
2011 – 14, Facilitator — Camp Firebelly
2011 – 15, Volunteer — Reason to Give



This website incudes the curriculum vitae and a portfolio of projects Nick Adam lead, directed, and/or designed.
Much of the work was collaboratively designed in the internationally-awarded design studios of Span, Thrist, and Firebelly.
Some of these projects are personal explorations and some can be found in the permentant collection of museusms.