The notion of graphic design being a form of public works regards the causal relationship between graphic design and its publics as an opportunity to engage with and enhance the lived experience.
Nick Adam has over 18 years of experience directing and designing across all mediums for civic leaders, visionary startups, cultural communities, and non-profits. Beyond design making, the projects that he has led have included collaborative work sessions, multi-stakeholder group dialogues, and public town hall presentations that involve residents, Mayors, governments, non-profits, academic institutions, and the leadership of businesses small and large.
Prior to Span, Nick Adam was Associate Principal at Thirst where he was mentored by the National Design Awardee, Rick Valicenti. Nick received an MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 2018, during which he taught a course on the intersection of typography and civics. Nick was Strategic Director at Firebelly where he held a hybrid strategy and design leadership role and was mentored by Dawn Hancock. Earlier in his career, he held in-house positions such as Art Director in a leading publication house, and Designer in a renown Chicago hospitality organization. His BFA from 2003 is in Visual Communications from the Illinois Institute of Art, (formerly known as the Ray Vogue School of Art). During the final year of his BFA, Nick held a full-time position as a designer for the school’s department of admissions while he also waited tables at a biome-themed restaurant. Nick Adam is still paying the loans on both of these degrees. Chicago’s underground punk, rave, and graffiti-writing subcultures of the 1990’s pointed Nick to a life in design.
His work is archived in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, the Newberry Library, The Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, Fleet Library at RISD, Design Museum of Chicago, and the Chicago Design Archive.
Nick Adam’s work has been recognized by Fast Company’s Innovation by Design, Core77, the Tokyo Type Directors Club, the TDC (Type Directors Club of New York), The STA (Society of Typographic Arts), Communication Arts, Print Magazine, How Magazine, Under Consideration, Brand New, FPO (For Print Only), Metropolis Magazine, and other awarding entities.
Nick Adam holds an MFA in Graphic Design from the Rhode Island School of Design
and a BFA in Visual Communications from the Illinois Institute of Art 
Types of Work
Identity Design, Custom Type, Campaigns, Book Design, Public Art, Lettering, Environmental Graphics, Naming, Digital, Editorial Design, Experiential Design, Human-Centered Design, Design Research, and Design Strategy
Types of Clients
Arts and Culture, Civic and Public, Design and Architecture, Education, Entertainment, Fashion, Financial, Healthcare, Non-for-Profit, Publishing, Real Estate, Retail, Technology, Transportation 
Clients 
AIA Chicago, AIGA Chicago, AIGA National, Blue Cross Blue Shield, CanTV, Cards Against Humanity, Chicago Cannabis Council, Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago Market Co-Op, Chicago Women’s Health Center, Chicago Design Museum, City of Berwyn, City of Chicago, Classic Color, Divvy, Elevarte, Full Eclipse, Graphic Arts Studio, Great Lakes Yard, Harper Court, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Humanities, Joyce Foundation, Krueck Sexton, Land and Sea Dept., Leo Burnett, Lightbank, McCormick Foundation, McGaw Northwestern Medicine, PechaKucha, Poetry Foundation, Project Nia, Rebuilding Exchange, RISD, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Sask Jazz, Silverroom, Society of Typographic Arts, Translife Center, The University of Chicago, Versteel, Veritiv, Vocalo, WBEZ, Wight & Company, You Are Beautiful, and others.
Background
Design Principal at Span
Associate Design Principal at Thirst (3st)
Strategic Director at Firebelly Design
Art Director, Designer at Publications International Ltd.
Designer, Ala Carte Entertainment

Volunteer
Former Great Ideas of Humanity Lead at Design Museum of Chicago (FKA ChiDM) 
Design Facilitator at Moving Design
Design Facilitator at Camp Firebelly (Center for New Communities, Project Nia, TransLife Center) 
General Assistance at Reason to Give

On the Side
Artist with You Are Beautiful
Graffiti Writer with the Three Hearts Club (THC)
Designer and Co-Founder of The UpSet
Permanent Collections
Art Institute of Chicago, Department of Architecture and Design
The Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, Visual Arts Foundation, New York.
The Design of Dissent, Mirko Ilic and Milton Glaser
The Newberry Library, Collection on the History of Printing
Cooper Hewitt
Cooper Union Lubalin Center
Design Museum Chicago
Chicago Design Archive
Letterforms Archive
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100
Joan Flasch Artists' Book Collection
Rhode Island School of Design, Fleet Library Thesis Collection
Awards and Honors
Tokyo Type Directors Award, Taste of Chicago, 2021
Tokyo Type Directors Award, Typecast, 2021
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: Taste of Chicago identity, 2020
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: Span identity, 2020
Communication Arts Typography, Short List: Taste of Chicago identity, 2021
Communication Arts Typography, Short List: Span identity, 2021
Communication Arts Typography: Typecast, 2021
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: Versteel identity, 2019
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: John Maus poster, 2019
Metropolis Magazine, NeoCon Must See Showroom, 2019
Rhode Island School of Design: Master of Fine Arts, Graphic Design, 2018
Rhode Island School of Design: Master of Fine Arts, Fellowship, 2018
Rhode Island School of Design: Master of Fine Arts, Fellowship, 2017
The Design Kids, Top Students and Graduates, 2017
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: Chicago Design Museum Catalogue, 2017
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: This That Yard Sale Campaign, 2017
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: Zach Lieberman poster for RISD, 2017 
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: This Isn't Us Poster, 2017
Print Magazine, Regional Design Annual, No Clear Goal Poster Series, 2016
Print Magazine, Regional Design Annual, Typeforce 4 Catalogue, 2016
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: Great Lakes Yard Identity, 2016
Society of Typographic Arts, STA100: Typeforce 7 Exhibition Identity, 2016
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, 2015
Under Consideration, FPO Awards: The Typeforce 3 Catalogue, 2014,
Fast Company, Innovation By Design Awards Finalist: Divvy Identity System, 2014
Core77, Design Awards Professional Notable: Archive 13 Poster Series, 2014
Type Directors Club, TDC60: The Typeforce 3 Catalogue, 2014
Society of Typographic Arts, Best in Show: The Divvy Identity System, 2014
Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago Design Archive: Archive 13 Poster Series, 2014
How Magazine, How International Design Awards: Archive 13 Poster Series, 2013
Type Directors Club, TDC58: The Typeforce 2 Catalogue, 2012
Type Directors Club, TDC58: Saskatchewan Jazz Festival System, 2012
Tokyo Type Directors: The Typeforce 2 Catalogue, 2012
Lectures Given
College of Creative Studies (CCS) — On Agency, 2021
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) — On Public Good, 2021
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) — on the Past, Present, Privilege, Power, and Proposals, 2020
San Fransisco University (SFU) — On Public Work, 2020
Western Michigan University (WMU) — On Public Work, 2020
Columbia College — Looking Forward, 2020
First Round 2019: Chicago, Underconsidoration — Lecture on Noodles, 2019
Typeforce 10, Co-Prosperity Sphere — Lecturer on Publicness, 2019
Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) — Type and Culture, 2019
Rhode Island School of Design, MFA Candidate — Public Thesis Defense, 2018
Rhode Island School of Design, MFA Candidate — Public Position Presentation, 2018
Chicago Design Week, The Nerdologues, Your Stories — Lecture on Practice, 2016
AIGA + STA student group, Art Institute Schaumburg — Conference Lecture, 2016 
Dominican University — Lecturer on Contemporary Political Branding, 2016
Veritiv Paper Show, Paper Persona Keynote — Presenter, 2015
Type Directors Club, Typeforce New York — Keynote Lecture on Typeforce, 2015
SAIC, Design Issues Class — Lecture on Graphic Design's Social Impact, 2014
Design Madison, Make Conference — Keynote Lecturer, 2014 
The School of Design at UIC — Keynote Lecture on Modes of Practice, 2014
Apple Store, Lincoln Park — Keynote Co-Lecturer on The Making of Divvy, 2013
PechaKucha, Chicago Volume 26 — Presenter, Shape, Symbol, Sign, 2013
Northern Illinois (NIU), Seek Conference — Co-Lecturer on Studio Practice, 2013
Center for Books and Paper Arts, Typography Symposium — Keynote, 2013
Center for Books and Paper Arts, Typography Symposium — Keynote, 2012
The Illinois Institute of Art, Spark Conference — Keynote on Studio Practice, 2012
Academic Engagements
Guest Critic, Sam Fox, Communication Design,
Spring 2021 Senior Capstone Reviews
Guest Lecturer, College of Creative Studies (CCS), Spring 2021
Program: Photo
(Guest Lecturer to Associate Professor William Valicenti)

Guest Lecturer, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Spring 2021
Program: Architecture, Interior Arch and Designed Obj (AIADO)
(Guest Lecturer to Assistant Professor Joseph Altshuler)
Guest Lecturer, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Fall 2020
Program: Graphic Design; Type 3 (Guest Lecturer to Associate Professor Elaine Lopez)
Guest Lecturer, San Fransisco University (SFU), Fall 2020
Program: Visual Communication Design; (Guest Lecturer to Associate Professor Ellen Christensen)
Guest Lecturer, Western Michigan University (WMU), Fall 2020
Program: Graphic Design; (Guest Lecturer to Associate Professor Yuanliang Sun (Leon))
Visiting Critic, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Spring 2020
Program: MFA Graphic Design; Type 3 (Invited by Bobby Joe Smith III and Aleks Dawson)
Visiting Critic, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Spring 2020
Program: BFA Graphic Design; Type 3 (Visiting Critic, for Professor Hammett Nurosi)
Guest Lecturer, Columbia College, Spring 2020
Visiting Critic, Western Michigan University (WMU), Spring 2020
Guest Lecturer, Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Fall 2019
Program: Graphic Design; Type 3 (Guest Lecturer to Associate Professor Elaine Lopez)
Instructor, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Winter 2018
Program: MFA & BFA cross disciplines — Course: Typography and its Public
Graduate Teaching Assistant, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Fall 2017
Program: BFA — Course: History of Graphic Design (Section Leader for Senior Critic Doug Scott)
Graduate Teaching Assistant, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Spring 2017
Program: BFA — Course: Design Studio 4 — DS4 (Graduate Teaching Assistant to Critic Diane Lee, core curriculum for Juniors)
Graduate Teaching Assistant, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Fall 2016
Program: BFA — Course: Design Studio 3 — DS3 (Graduate Teaching Assistant to Assistant Professor Paul Soulellis)
Guest Mentor, School of Design at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), Spring 2015
Programs: MFA cross disciplines;  Course: Civic Innovation Lab (Guest Mentor for Assistant Professor Matt Wizinsky and Adjunct Professor Jon Chambers)
Expert Advisor, School of Visual Arts (SVA), Fall 2015 
Program: MFA in Products of Design — Course: IDEO Design Research and Integration Studio (Expert Advisor on graffiti, street art, design in public to Adjunct Professor Lawrence Abrahamson)
Expert Advisor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Fall 2015
Program: BFA in Graphic Design — Course: Design Issues, Design as a Canon of Change (Expert Advisor on social impact design to Lecturer Tanner Woodford)
Expert Advisor, NC State College of Design (NC State), Fall 2015
Program: BFA in Graphic Design; Course: Branding, Interaction, and Service Design
(Expert Advisor on conducting and using research in branding to Associate Professor Kermit Bailey)
Guest Critic, DePaul University, College of Computing and Digital Media, Spring 2015
Program: BFA in Graphic Design; Course: Portfolio Workshop (Guest Critic to Adjunct Faculty Bud Rodecker)
Guest Lecturer, Columbia College, Fall 2010
Program: BFA in Art + Design Department; Course: Type as Image (Guest Lecturer and Facilitator to Associate Faculty Bill Linehan)
Mentorship
Co-Facilitator, Camp Firebelly, 2011 – 2014
Summer of 2011, Client: Center for New Community (CNC)
Summer of 2012, Client: Project NIA
Summer of 2014, Client: TransLife Center
Co-Facilitator of a 10-day, intensive apprenticeship experience that selects 10 talented young designers and pairs them with a Chicago nonprofit. This role involves guiding the young designers to collaborate as a group to research, concept, design and produce impactful design work, as well as, teaching them to engage with clients and manage the relationship.
Co-Facilitator, Moving Design, 2010 – 2013
Designed and facilitated initiative-based communications and workshops around Chicago’s most pressing social and environmental issues with teams of 10–50 designers. Worked with Moving Design founder Rick Valicenti and other facilitators to elevate the culture of communication and plan public initiatives.
Mentor, AIGA Chicago Mentorship Program, Summer 2010
Selected to lead and host a weekly design mentorship group.
Workshops Lead
Chicago Design Week — Riso Workshop, Poster System Design, 2016
Haile Foundation, People's Liberty — 3-day Workshop, Design Direction, 2016
AIGA National, Innovation Grant — Co-Facilitator, 2-day WorkShop, 2016
Printers Ball, No Clear Goal — Facilitator, Risograph Workshop, 2015
Archeworks, Winter Workshop — Facilitator, Conducting Social Impact Design, 2012 
Moving Design, Our Road a Call to Action — Co-Facilitator, 6-week Workshop, 2011
Exhibitions and Public Initiatives 
2020, Typeforce 11 — Co-Prosperity Sphere
2019, Typeforce 10 — Co-Prosperity Sphere
2018, The Society of Typographic Arts (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 — RI Convention Center
2018, Selections, Work by Graduating RISD Student — 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 Graphic Design Biennial — Sol Koffler Gallery
2017, Dismantled, Work by 2nd-Year Graduate Students — Sol Koffler Gallery
2016, Vernacular Spectacular, RISD Museum
2016, Fine Art of the Risograph, Chicago Design Museum
2016, Chicago Design Week, Chicago Athletic Association (Poster Series)
2016, Block 37 Pedway, Ordinary (Returning Exhibit of Hand Lettering)
2015, DESIGN OBSERVER, 50 Books 50 Covers (MAS Context)
2015, DESIGNER PRINTER MAKER, Chicago Athletic Association (Textile Design)
2015, 26th Annual Paper Show, The Chicago 50 (Truth Book and Invites)
2015, Block 37 Pedway, Ordinary (Exhibit of Hand Lettering)
2015, Printers Ball, No Clear Goal (2 Poster Series)
2015, Type Directors Club — Typeforce NYC (Title Wall as Art)
2014, CHGO DSGN, Expo Chicago (God Hates Hate with Bud Rodecker)
2014, CHGO DSGN, Chicago Cultural Center (Divvy, Vocalo, Herman, STA & Typeforce)
2014, 25TH Annual Paper Show, The Chicago 50
2014, Type Directors Club, TDC60, Cooper Union, TCDC in Bangkok Thailand
2014, Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago Design Archive, Best in Show
2014, Chicago Cultural Center, Paint Paste Sticker 
2013, Green Exchange, A Decade of You Are Beautiful
2012, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Typeforce 3
2012, Mission Cultural Center, Share Your Beauty, San Francisco CA.
2011, Chicago Cultural Center, Write Now: Artists and Letterforms
2011, Chicago Urban Art Society, WBEZ Winter Block Party for Hip Hop Arts
2011, Chicago Loop Alliance, Pop-Up Art Loop, The Century Building
2011, Flatcolor Gallery, Letter/Form, Portland Or.
2011, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Typeforce 2
2011, Comfort Station, Fair Warning
2010, Whistler, Printervention on Tour
2010, Open Lot, Printervention on Tour
2010, Expo72, Version Fest, Printervention
2010, Co-Prosperity Sphere, Typeforce
2010, Chicago Urban Art Society, The Daley Show
2008, Co-Prosperity Sphere, The Upset, Art Show
2004, Heaven Gallery, Select Fest 3, Little Utopias 
Publications
Creativity and technology in the age of AI, 2018
This is Public Work, Master’s Thesis, 2018
Print Regional Design Awards, 2016
Vamonde, 2016
Matthew Wizinsky Master’s Thesis Document, 2015
Viction:ary’s Nice to Meet You Again, 2015
Viction:ary’s Print Matters, The Cutting Edge of Print, 2015
MAS Context, Issue 23, 2014
The 2013 / 14 FPO Awards, UnderConsideration, 2014
UnderConsideration Quarterly, 2014
You Are Beautiful, 2013
Typeforce 3 Catalogue, 2013
Designing for Social Change, 2012
Typeforce 2 Catalogue, 2012
Call to Action, A Moving Design Initiative on Water, 2011
Typeforce Catalogue, 2011
Back to Top