Co-Founder & Director of Innovation
George co-founded Greater Good Studio with the belief that design can lead to positive behavior change. Previously, he spent seven years at global innovation firm IDEO before being hired as the first human-centered designer at the Chicago Transit Authority. Since founding Greater Good, he has worked across multiple social issues including autism, criminal justice, education, public health and health care. He has facilitated discussions with small executive leadership teams and workshops with 150+ participants to help uncover hidden opportunities for innovation. George is an adjunct full professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Pissed-off about: The rise of anti-scientific agendas in politics
Optimistic about: The fact that every major societal change used to look crazy
Inspired by: “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of optimism.” – Winston Churchill
Sara Cantor Aye
Co-Founder & Executive Director
Sara co-founded Greater Good Studio to apply her background in ethnographic research and design strategy to overlooked problems and underserved people. At Greater Good, she designs effective and inclusive engagements, guides the research practice, and develops partnerships with clients, peers and mentors. Sara speaks regularly on designing for social impact and has facilitated social innovation workshops around the world with a wide range of learners, from nonprofit executives to high school students. Sara holds a master’s in design planning from the Institute of Design at IIT and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Northwestern University.
Pissed-off about: Internalized oppression
Optimistic about: Human resilience
Inspired by: This compelling case for serving the Unexotic Underclass
Christina provides project and team support at Greater Good Studio. Previously, as managing director of special exhibitions at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she coordinated projects within a teaching gallery and gained appreciation for communication and design as tools for social change. Prior to SAIC, she worked for museums in the St. Louis area, including Laumeier Sculpture Park and Pulitzer Arts Foundation. Christina holds a bachelor’s in sculpture from Washington University in St. Louis and a master’s in history and museum studies from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Pissed-off about: Inhumane deportation programs
Optimistic about: Journalism
Inspired by: Agnes Martin
Design Research Lead
After years of using human-centered design to help clients make everyday products and services more meaningful, Maris discovered that making meaningful situations more effective was significantly more impactful. Her introduction to social innovation, experienced through her work at gravitytank in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, inspired Maris to focus on addressing underserved communities and join Greater Good Studio in 2014. She has taught research methods at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, studied architecture and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis and led volunteer teams around the world with Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village program.
Pissed-off about: Unnecessary deaths, injuries and fear caused by guns
Optimistic about: The incredible progress our clients are making
Inspired by: Thoughtful, physical, necessary change.
Kareeshma Ali Merchant
Kareeshma is enraptured by the mind-body-environment connection. She joined Greater Good Studio in 2016 with great excitement about bridging her experience in the built environment with the practice of human-centered design, and using design research to create positive, social and environmental impact. Kareeshma holds a Masters in Architecture and Urban & Regional Planning, and a Post-Professional Certificate in Social and Environmental Design from Archeworks. When not in the studio, you can find Kareeshma in motion through dance and yoga.
Pissed-off about: Skepticism over climate change
Optimistic about: The inherent “goodness” of people
Inspired by: On Being with Krista Tippett
For Kyle, design has always been deeply rooted in critical thinking and organic creativity. He has a strong interest in people, culture and how we create meaning in the world around us. Kyle studied communication design at Washington University in St. Louis, where he began exploring how human-centered design relates to his interest in anthropological research. Before joining Greater Good Studio, he worked at a local publication firm and a design innovation firm working on a range of commercial and social challenges.
Pissed-off about: The stigma surrounding mental illness
Optimistic about: The growing practice of mindfulness
Inspired by: Oh Boy Episode 42 with Helena Bala
Janessa strives to illustrate in her work that creative minds are one of the most valuable resources in solving crucial problems throughout the world. She previously worked in the nonprofit sector for four years before joining the Greater Good Studio as the Design Writer in 2017. Her prior experience includes crafting impactful digital communications projects for international environmental and human rights groups based in Washington, D.C. She also penned political writings on the intersections of gender, race and class published in The Guardian, Huffington Post, Salon and EBONY magazine. She holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in communication with a minor in philosophy from Tulane University. An artist at heart, Janessa writes, produces and performs music as well as poetry.
Pissed-off about: Experiences of identity-based inequality
Optimistic about: The growing number of people around the world who feel compelled to act towards creating restorative solutions for generations of injustice
Inspired by: This incredible resource for multiplying the Art of Peace
Director of Operations
Alvin endeavors to align vision to action and strategy to execution in social impact spaces. His previous roles include: director of HR at Youth & Opportunity United, director of planning & administration at UMI/Urban Ministries Inc., and global management associate at Abbott Labs where he held roles in both Chicago and Shanghai, China. Alvin holds a bachelor’s in political science from Morehouse College, a master’s in human resources & management from the University of Minnesota’s business school, and a post-graduate certificate in international studies from Cornell University. He is currently on the board of Chicago Freedom School.
Pissed-off about: Social inequity
Optimistic about: Humanity’s ability to do good
Inspired by: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Allison’s passion for social impact was ignited as a student working in residential life, where she had the opportunity to learn from a diverse and inspiring group of colleagues, opening up dialogue about identity, privilege, and equity. At the same time, she was studying design and exploring its capacity to inform human thought and behavior. Allison began her career in advertising and now seeks to use her design skills to act upon the inequities she sees in the world. She joined Greater Good Studio in 2017 and is excited about the potential for change rooted in the practice of human-centered design. Allison holds a bachelor’s in Communication Design from Washington University in St. Louis.
Pissed-off about: Being politically correct
Optimistic about: Being inclusive
Inspired by: Understanding the Complexities of Gender by Sam Killermann
Design Research Lead
Annemarie has always been noticing and making. She officially found her way to design research by both chance and study in architecture and American culture studies (bachelor’s from Washington University in St. Louis) and design for sustainability (master’s from Savannah College of Art and Design.) She has had more jobs than anyone can remember, but her previous work with Habitat for Humanity St. Louis is notable for focusing on engagement and communication with diverse community stakeholders. Annemarie believes that everyone makes choices based on their context, so that’s where we must begin.
Pissed-off about: Equating violence with masculinity
Optimistic about: Gender-neutral bathrooms
Inspired by: Evicted by Matthew Desmond
Learn more about how we got our start.
We work out of our own
co-working space, which we run in a great Chicago neighborhood, Logan Square.