Design Council

Charting the Future of Design

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s (SAIC) Design Council provides guidance for the Department of Architecture, Interior Architecture, and Designed Objects (AIADO) and philanthropic support for the annual Design Council Awards given to graduating master’s degree students.

Made up of AIADO alumni and friends, the council is a professional network of advisors and mentors for SAIC students and alumni in design. The council raises the visibility and prestige of the department and highlights the contributions of SAIC artists and designers to the Chicago, national, and international design communities; serves as a networking base for AIADO with industry partners, furthering connections between SAIC and the design community; and supports the department’s priority initiatives.

Join the Design Council

The Design Council is made up of members from the design professions and cultural institutions in design. There are two primary requirements to join the Design Council:

  1. A small commitment of time to advise and mentor SAIC students in design through the Design Council Award
  2. A tax-deductible $5,000 corporate contribution or a $1,000 personal contribution for the Design Council Fund

Design Council members also enjoy special tours, celebrations, and other VIP events.


Meet the Design Council Members

Zurich Esposito (MS 1998)
Executive Vice President, AIA Chicago
Zurich Esposito is the executive vice president for the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago. Esposito holds a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from SAIC.  He has taught architectural history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and has participated on many design-related juries for academic institutions, organizations, and awards programs, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Schiff Foundation Fellowship of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Architectural Club.  

Gordon Gill
Co-Founder, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture
Gordon Gill was a part-time lecturer at SAIC in the spring of 2008 and 2009 where he taught in the graduate architecture program. Gill also taught design studio at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He cofounded Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture with Adrian Smith in 2006 after they left the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP. They both serve on SAIC’s Board of Governors. Gill also serves on the Latin School of Chicago Facilities Committee, the Harvard Graduate School of Design Facilities Committee, and serves as a trustee for the Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Todd Heiser
Design Principal / Creative Director, Gensler
Todd Heiser is a co-creative director of Gensler’s Chicago office. Heiser’s design process champions partnership with his clients, which include Matter, Google, Kohler, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Le Meridien Hotels, and Nickelodeon. He is also a major design voice in re-imagining Chicago’s Willis Tower. He was named Contract magazine’s 2016 Designer of the Year and Interior Design magazine’s 2015 HiP Leader for Workplace. He holds bachelors and master’s degrees in architecture and a bachelor’s degree in interior design. He also received the Henry Adams Medal from the AIA. 

Sarah Herda
Director, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
Sarah Herda is the executive director of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. In addition to the funding program, Herda oversees a public program of exhibitions, lectures, and publications produced at the foundation’s headquarters in the historic Madlener House in Chicago. Herda is active in the design community and serves on numerous advisory boards and review panels related to architecture, art, design, and related fields. 

Deirdre Jordan (MFA 1993)
Design Director / Founder, Troscan Design
Deirdre Jordan obtained her Master of Fine Arts in Interior Architecture from SAIC, where she also taught for eight years. After working as the design director at Holly Hunt, Jordan married her partner Bob Robinson, and the same year they founded Troscan Design.

Tom Kerwin
Principal, bKL Architecture LLC
Founding principal of bKL Architecture, Tom Kerwin leads a team of talented architects based in Chicago and Shanghai who share his passion and determination for creating places which positively contribute to shaping the urban environment. In a relatively short time, Kerwin has established bKL nationally and internationally with an impressive portfolio showcasing a variety of project types and scales including: Wolf Point West and MILA in Chicago, GEMS World Academy Chicago, Miami Midtown 6, The Selby in Toronto, and Animation Cultural City in Beijing.

Kerwin is a fellow of the AIA and past president of AIA Chicago. He is on the board of directors of the Chicago Sports Commission. He is an active member of the Commercial Club of Chicago, the Economic Club of Chicago, Chicago Sister Cities International, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Urban Land Institute, Executives Club of Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, and Lambda Alpha International.

Brian Lee
Partner at Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM)
Brian Lee, FAIA, is a design partner at SOM. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley and his Master of Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. After practicing in the SOM San Francisco office for 28 years, he joined the Chicago office in 2007.

Lee has lectured, taught, and participated in studio reviews or dean’s committees at Harvard University; University of California, Berkeley; Stanford University; California College of Arts; SAIC; Virginia Tech; and Delft University of Technology. His award-winning domestic and international projects are widely recognized and have been exhibited in the Venice and Beijing Architecture Biennales, World Architecture Festival, and Chicago Architecture Biennial. Lee is a registered NCARB architect in multiple states, and is a LEED accredited professional. He is a member of the AIA and was named to its College of Fellows in 2008.

Tom Lee
Design Principal, HDR Architecture                                           

Tom Lee serves as design director for the Chicago office of HDR Architecture. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Prior to joining HDR, Lee spent eight years at John Ronan Architects and has worked at other firms such as Goettsch Partners, JAHN, and Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

Zoe Ryan
Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design, Art Institute of Chicago
Zoe Ryan is the John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago. A curator and author, her projects focus on exploring the impact of architecture and design on society. Ryan has taught graduate seminars on design history and theory at SAIC and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a member of the Design Trust International Advisory Council, Hong Kong. 

Tim Swanson
Office Practice Leader, CannonDesign
Tim Swanson is an advocate for smart growth and sustainable development, working with leaders at the intersection of urban planning, public health and education, identifying new ways design and strategy can positively influence socioeconomic conditions.

Angie West
West Supply
Angie West graduated from Vanderbilt University with majors in human and organization development and fine arts with a minor in studio art.  She worked for Holly Hunt in Chicago as an executive assistant coordinating visual and branding matters for the showroom and in-house collections. After pursuing photography for several years, West was invited to return to Chicago and rejoin Holly Hunt as the marketing director, eventually moving on to become design studio director. In 2009, her father transferred ownership of the business name of West Supply, a 70-year-old Texas-based family company, and one year later, she purchased a small foundry in Chicago with plans to reinvent the business.

Nate White (MArch 2015)
Associate, bKL Architecture LLC
Nate White has experience in conceptual design through design development on a variety of mixed-use and residential projects throughout the United States. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture, with a minor in business, at the University of Nebraska, and a Master of Architecture with a certificate in Historic Preservation from SAIC. He is the chair of the AIA Chicago Young Architects Forum, a member of the Chicago Central Area Committee Young Leaders, Landmarks Illinois, and is an associate AIA member. White is a past recipient of AIA Illinois Student Design Honor Award.

Tanner Woodford
Founder and Executive Director, the Chicago Design Museum; Lecturer, SAIC
Tanner Woodford is founder, executive director, and bartender of the Chicago Design Museum. He teaches at SAIC, makes iterative work, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Design from Arizona State University. As a designer, educator, and entrepreneur, he has taught, lectured, and led workshops on design issues, social change, and design history in classrooms and at conferences. He is irrepressibly optimistic, believing design has the capacity to fundamentally improve the human condition. He lives and works in Chicago.