AIGA Houston

Keynote Speakers


Alex Center

Design Director, The Coca-Cola Company  @THEALEXCENTER

Alex Center is a Brooklyn-based designer who currently works as Design Director for the global beverage leader, The Coca-Cola Company. He grew up in the town of Oceanside NY, home to the world's second Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs. He once worked for the New York Knicks as a designer where he worked with both his childhood idol, John Starks and his nemesis Isiah Thomas. He has spent most of his professional hours being creative on behalf of the beverage brand vitaminwater. Over the years, he has designed packaging that has been in hands across the globe, created breakthrough marketing campaigns, launched innovative new products and once met rapper 50 Cent who told him “You must think you're pretty special.” He got nervous and instantly started sweating.

In 2011, Alex was named one of the 200 Best Packaging Designers by Luerzers Archive. In 2013, he started sharing his story with speaking engagements at The Dieline Forum, AIGA INitiative, HOW Design Live and as a guest on Debbie Millman's famous Design Matters podcast. In 2014, Alex was named a Person To Watch by GDUSA Magazine. In 2015, he became a columnist for HOW Magazine, writing about the expanding landscape of In-House design. In 2016, he joined the AIGA In-house Initiative Steering committee, working to address the unique opportunities and challenges faced by the in-house community. Today, he leads the strategy and design vision for brands at Coca-Cola that include vitaminwater, smartwater & Powerade. In his personal time he enjoys rooting for New York sports teams that wear orange/blue, editing instagrams for far too long and searching for the freshest prosciutto in New York City.


Andy Epstein

HEAD, THE BOSS GROUP, Cella Consulting
Former leader, AIGA INitiative

Cella Consulting   @cellaconsulting

Andy Epstein is a veteran in-house design manager, having created and grown in-house design teams of various sizes for multiple companies.  He started his career as a freelance designer and illustrator. Jumping into the world of in-house in 1992, Andy created and grew in-house design teams for Commonwealth Toy and Gund. He later restructured and expanded the hundred-person creative team at Bristol-Myers-Squibb and consulted at Johnson & Johnson. After a three year stint at Designer Greetings leading an in-house design team responsible for the company’s product lines and Point Of Sales materials, Andy has moved back into pharma heading up a 65+ managed services team for The BOSS Group at Merck.

Andy has written and spoken extensively on in-house issues and published “The Corporate Creative”, a book on in-house design, in partnership with F&W Publications in the spring of 2010. He is a co-founder of InSource, an association dedicated to providing support to in-house designers and design team managers and recently completed a 4 year engagement as head of INitiative the AIGA In-house Design program where he continued his efforts to empower in-house teams and raise their stature in the design and business communities.

He edits and contributes to the HOW “InHOWse Designer Blog,” authored The Corporate Creative, and recently completed a four-year commitment heading up AIGA’s in-house INitiative.


Jeany Ngo (AirBnB)

USER EXPERIENCE Designer, AirBNB   @gojeanyn

Jeany is a designer and illustrator currently at Airbnb. Her work focuses around creating and improving user experience from everyday products to explorations of futuristic UI.

Off (the computer) screen, she expresses her love for fiction and pop culture through illustrating and painting, showcasing her work in gallery shows. She can also be found caped crusading in homemade cosplay.


Breakout Speakers


Amber Atkins


Lead Organizer, Relationships
Design Strategy Lead for Client Services at IBM

Amber Atkins is a Lead Design Strategist at IBM Design for Services where her team delivers on delightful experiences for clients who are curious about becoming a design lead entity and breaking free from "business as usual". For almost 10 years, she has helped build communities for creative education and design as the Vice President of Education and Mentorship for AIGA Colorado and now in her role on the AIGA Austin board. Amber believes in the power of what a diverse group of humans can do when they challenge one another to think - and then do.

Follow Amber on Twitter at @theambermeister

Senior Director, 
Product Experience at P97

Kelsey Ruger is a 16 year veteran of digital technology using web and mobile technologies to build award-winning products for business and organizations that have been used by more than 5,000,000 people around the world. Kelsey is widely regarded as an authority on user experience, design thinking, digital marketing, web development and mobile strategy, whose presentations have received nearly 2,000,000 views on Slideshare. He is the former President of the Houston Interactive Marketing Association and currently chairs the Energy SIG for Houston’s AMA chapter.

Kelsey who has lent his expertise to projects with Prodigy, AT&T, Yahoo, Microsoft, Invesco, Myspace, Schlumberger, and Halliburton is currently the Senior Director of Product Experience for Houston based P97 Networks. He has been a professor in the Bauer School of Business at the University of Houston where he taught User Experience and Design Thinking. Kelsey earned his B.A in Management Information Systems from the University of Houston.

Kelsey was named one of Houston's 40 under 40 in 2012 by the Houston Business Journal.



Kelsey Ruger

Kenzie Creative


Frances Yllana



Frances Yllana is Executive Creative Director of Imaginuity and President Emeritus of AIGA Dallas-Fort Worth. Since 2001, she has worked for some of Dallas’s most reputable design and advertising firms, and been recognized in some of the industry’s most noted print publications and interactive collections including Print, Graphis, Communication Arts, Black Book AR100, Creativity34 and The Dieline and has won awards from the AIGA, AAF, Houston Art Directors Club, DSVC, the Press Club of Dallas and the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts. Frances also continues to serve AIGA on multiple national initiatives including Women Lead, Design For Democracy and the Ambassador’s Taskforce.


Follow Amber on Twitter at @francesy