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Akilah S. Williams is a Chicago native who is dedicated to academic excellence, user-centered design, artistic expression, and youth development. Due to an instant thirst for the arts at a young age, she began taking art classes at Beverly Art Center, Palette and Chisel Art Gallery, and Marwen Foundation. It was through these programs as well as in school experiences such as those with Urban Gateways that peaked her interest. At Marwen, Akilah developed an entrepreneurial spirit while working on various mural projects, designing a holiday card, and painting furniture for their annual silent auctions.

Maturing her interest in the arts, Akilah attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Industrial Design. This user-centered curriculum created a strong design foundation that explored product design, human factors, and computer applications. Pursuing higher education and business innovation, she earned a Master of Design in Design Planning from the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Institute of Design. This world-renowned curriculum was also founded on user-centered research for framing problems, identifying opportunities and proposing strategic solutions.

While pursuing her academic goals, Akilah became a freelance graphic designer and worked as an intern with the Chicago Public Schools, Nia Architects, as well as Comadres Multicultural Marketing Firm. Utilizing her strategic planning and design skills she launched her own business venture. As the President of Saedi Inc., she provided identity design and business planning services to new start-ups.

Formerly working as the External Relations Coordinator with the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of New Schools, Akilah contributed to a pivotal movement to improve the quality of education across the city of Chicago. She was later employed by Urban Gateways as the Marketing and Communications Manager in which she unified design, built visibility, and increased support for the organization. Currently Akilah is the Communications Officer for Crown Family Philanthropies, works as a freelance design strategist, and serves as the Founding Vice President for African American Ladies Legacy Foundation.


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