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: Winona LaDuke
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. He also serves as a member of the CreativeMornings Chicago volunteer team.
Pissed-off about: The stigma surrounding mental illness
Optimistic about: The growing practice of mindfulness
Inspired by: Oh Boy Episode 42 with Helena Bala
Director of Operations
Alvin believes that a collaborative culture and sound operational processes are the key to a firm achieving its mission. Previously, he was director of HR at Youth & Opportunity United, where he was responsible for setting the HR strategy and operations for over 180 workers. Before Y.O.U., Alvin was director of planning and administration at UMI/Urban Ministries Inc., and he began his career at Abbott Labs, holding roles in both Chicago and Shanghai, China. He is currently on the board of Chicago Freedom School and holds a bachelor’s in political science from Morehouse College and a master’s in human resources from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
Pissed-off about: Social inequity
Optimistic about: Humanity’s ability to do good
Inspired by: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
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.