Amy Nicole Schwartz: Making Great Work and Building Community

Amy Nicole Schwartz
Photo by Brent Knepper.

Talented, funny, and incredibly busy Amy Nicole Schwartz is leading a new design revolution in Chicago.

I was first introduced to Amy Nicole Schwartz and her work in a shotgun approach, along with a couple thousand designers attending the AIGA Conference in New Orleans in October. She was one of seven contestants in Command X, AIGA’s own reality game show that plays out during the conference. The contestants are given design assignments each day to complete and then present the next day. They are judged by an esteemed panel onstage, but the audience ultimately gets the final vote, eliminating contestants each round. Schwartz’s quick wit, great design solutions, and seemingly boundless energy helped her survive, and ultimately, snag the coveted title. I was impressed by the way she composed herself throughout the competition, and even moreso when I learned that she is creative director at Cards Against Humanity (CAH), one of my all-time favorite games.

Schwartz created an identity system for CAH’s Science Ambassador Scholarship, an award that will cover the cost of tuition for women majoring in STEM.

Of course, as she points out, titles are relative and self-picked at CAH, as she also goes by “Design Troublemaker,” or whatever she is feeling that day. She also isn’t a creative director in the traditional sense. “Cards Against Humanity has eight founders who co-own and run the company equally; two of them have design backgrounds, and are heavily involved with the design needs of the company,” she explains. “My role is to project manage the design aspects of the company, while working with our small team of designers to create everything we do– game expansions, websites, holiday promotions, convention booths, internal projects, etc.”

Amy Nicole Schwartz

Prior to joining CAH, Schwartz started Liminal Space after receiving an AIGA Chicago “What’s Next Grant.” Liminal Space hosts events that are free or very cheap to attend, focusing on giving a platform to emerging designers, and encouraging experimentation and dialogue in design. “I had just completed graduate study at the Cranbrook Academy of Art, and wanted to bring the best aspects of that community structure back here to Chicago. We’ve had a gallery exhibition featuring emerging talent from around the U.S., hosted various small-group workshops, hosted panel discussions on interdisciplinary work and content-creation, and begun a residency program,” she explains.

Amy Nicole Schwartz

And if that isn’t enough, she cofounded The Makers’ Social with Jen Serafini. This quarterly social gathering brings together creatives in a fun atmosphere to just hang out, get inspired, and meet like-minded people. The last event, themed “Camp Edition,” was sponsored by Basecamp and CAH, which provided the snacks and drinks, while attendees were encouraged to wear campy attire, share horror stories around the campfire, and roast your worst work. Schwartz says, “It was a big success, and we decided we wanted to continue bringing the incredibly talented people in Chicago together to meet each other, hang out, and have a good time while making some connections.”

Amy Nicole Schwartz

Did I also mention that she teaches graphic design at DePaul University? It makes you wonder what’s next for this creative visionary.

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Emily J. Potts has been a writer and editor in the design industry for more than 20 years. Currently she is an independent writer working for a variety of clients in the design industry.