De Nichols

Artist-activist, De Nichols, is a cultural producer whose experiences, tools, and artworks highlight and confront pressing social injustices of our time. She serves as the Director & Principal Designer of Civic Creatives, an impact design organization that helps communities champion and innovate ideas addressing racial inequity, food insecurity, youth development, civic involvement, and social conflict. As an artist, Nichols creates works that foster empathetic activism in support of historically marginalized groups. In her service to communities, Nichols is a national keynote speaker and lecturer, and she leads as the youngest member of the Board of Directors for Forward through Ferguson.

Ashleigh Axios

Ashleigh Axios is the Design Exponent at Automattic, a company with the mission to democratize publishing and a passion for making the web a better place through products including She is also an executive board member for AIGA, the professional association of design, and an editorial board member for Design Observer. Ashleigh served as the creative director and a digital strategist at the White House, where she led design from within the first-ever Office of Digital Strategy as part of the Obama administration. She is also the president emeritus of AIGA Washington D.C., where she formed and leads DotGovDesign, an initiative and annual conference connecting and empowering government designers.

Steve Hartman

Steve’s 20-plus years of experience include a variety of roles, such as Creative Director, entrepreneur, published author, and even an amateur chef. Steve’s dynamic portfolio of design work has been recognized by HOW Magazine, Communication Arts, Print Magazine, Graphic Design USA, and several other publications. Steve has submissions displayed in the National Design Archives at the Denver Art Museum, and he has published a handful of books on design. His work has won numerous awards at design competitions, including AIGA St. Louis, the Communications Arts Design Annual, HOW Magazine’s International competition, and Print Magazine’s regional annuals.

In his spare time, the accomplished designer can be found painting or cooking for his three active boys and his wife, Shawna.

Eric Thoelke

Eric is founder and executive creative director of TOKY, a branding and design firm with offices in St. Louis, Denver and Boston (yeah, “Thoelke” is pronounced “toky”). TOKY has been selected for publication in more than twenty different Communication Arts creative competitions, most recently in this year’s 2017 Design Annual. TOKY has been profiled in a sixteen-page feature story in Communication Arts magazine, and Eric was also selected to serve as a judge for the 2014 Design Annual. Eric and TOKY have brought home platinum, gold and silver awards from GRAPHIS Design and Logo annuals, the Type Directors Club, AIGA Design annuals, and national ADDY awards. Eric is a co-founder of St. Louis Design Week, a co-founder of the “Not Just An Art Directors Club” (which became the AIGA St. Louis), creator of “St. Louis Design Legends” biography video series (, and co-founder of St. Louis’ “Midtown Alley” design district. He is a past board member of the AIGA St. Louis and the AdClub of St. Louis, including leadership of the St. Louis ADDY competition and awards gala for the past three years. He is an avid student mentor and teacher at various universities and high schools, and has served as lecturer and competition judge at design conferences across the country.