2023: Ages & Stages — Studio Rodrigo Year in Review

Ritik Dholakia
11 min readJan 4, 2024


A year of strange calm & consistency. A year of deep collaboration across industries and teams. Building off the foundation of what we are great at — smart & efficient digital product design. Expanding our palette — more branding, more motion design, more content design, more curation.

Experiments in community. Experiments with AI. Staring into the middle distance — a new landscape of technology, with repercussions we are just beginning to understand.

Twelve years in for Studio Rodrigo. We’re great at some things, good at other things, and hungry for more. Looking back and looking forwards, exploring areas of creative evolution. Always thankful for the people who trust us with their work. Excited to share.

New Mantras
For the past few summers, we’ve invited current studio members, alumni, and friends to share their creative journeys — particularly as inspiration and guidance for our intern classes and younger designers.

Through that process of reflection and self-mythologizing, we’ve centered on a new set of mantras, for lack of a better term. The most central to our work — searching for ways to make impact on big ideas and big problems.

Always easier in hindsight, but it has shaped our work for twelve years, guiding our work with early stage start-ups, industries navigating disruption, and collaboration with mission-driven organizations working for equity, justice, and sustainable futures.

As we look forward, we hope to continue to shape our work around changing technology landscapes, particularly AI, creating platforms and systems to sustain creative work, and collaborating with organizations tackling big challenges in society, focused on climate, justice, and equity.

Deeper Into Movies — Cinema Rodrigo
Led by Aldo Juraidini, the studio launched Cinema Rodrigo. A simple concept — once per month, we pick a movie, extend an open invite to friends & our broader community, and host a happy hour after the film to discuss and connect.

An experiment in community-making around creativity, it has been one of the true joys of our year and an initiative we’ll carry forward into 2024. We hope you join us.

Scope of Work — A New Website for Studio Rodrigo
At the beginning of the year, we relaunched our own website for the first time in ten years. Helmed by studio creative director Greg Ervanian and in close collaboration with Diogo Dantas & his team, but truly a studio-wide effort.

The new website showcases 12 years of work, establishes our strengths across digital strategy, branding, UX/UI, and motion design, and charts paths forwards. Proud of our ability to make impact on big, thorny challenges across health care, fintech, creator economies, and the ever evolving media landscape.

Waymark Care
A wonderful team tackling one of the trickier challenges in US healthcare — helping communities and governments create better models of care serving Medicaid populations. Led by an all-star founding team, including Rajaie Batniji, Sanjay Basu, and Afia Asamoah, we were excited to partner with Waymark to develop a new brand and digital marketing platform.

Working closely with Iman Rahim, Heather Grates, Sonia Koesterer, and a great team of studio designers (led by Nick Emrich, Sabine Ostinvil, and Cathy Park) & collaborators (including Xavier Jones, Cold Cuts, Wednesday Krus, Faire Type, Shane Zucker, and Better Mistakes) we helped establish a new visual identity, brand system, new website, and supported the ongoing evolution of the brand and service design system.

Sika Health
We loved working with the team at Sika Health — they checked all the boxes for us! A mission-driven company trying to expand access and convenience of health benefits to both consumers and merchants, collaborating with a super smart & passionate, women-led team, and creating a thoughtful, vibrant, and useful brand identity & UX system.

Great work by Beckie Choe, Emogene Cataldo, Nathan Chen, Tara Banatwala, and Cold Cuts.

D2C companies that want to reach customers HSA/FSA wallet spend, check out Sika.

As the blockchain ecosystem goes through cycles of hype, expansion, and implosion, we’ve been fortunate to collaborate with founders building smart and sober pieces of DeFi infrastructure and services that leverage blockchain in ways that just make sense (like UMA, Aera, and Gauntlet).

Using blockchain to build a trading platform that allows for direct, non-custodial, bilateral trading between counter-parties is one of those financial use cases that just makes sense — and the team at Variational.io led by Edward Yu and Lucas V. Schuermann is building that platform.

We enjoyed a close collaboration to help formalize Variational’s brand and design their first trading platform. Great work by Greg Ervanian, Cold Cuts, Ardavan Arfaei, and Zach Scheinfeld.

Women’s healthcare is underfunded and under-focused, but there are some really smart and talented companies making progress in the space — and Evvy is one of the really great teams. We continued our collaboration with the Evvy team to help explore how their digital platform can better help users understand their lab results and access care options. Great work by Katie Shia, Timea Hopp, and Beckie Choe.

Congrats to the Evvy team on their $14M Series A funding!

We collaborated closely with Lauren Berson’s team at Conceive to help people navigating fertility and pregnancy, providing access to expert resources and care. Timea Hopp and Rebecca Brand worked closely with the Conceive team to evolve the digital platform, formalize digital marketing systems, and support business development across events and outreach.

Felony Murder Reporting Project
Felony murder is a uniquely American legal framework that allows states to impose unequal and often (in our opinion) unjust sentencing outcomes, contributing to the ongoing over-incarceration of people in the United States. While the law has many nuanced cases, it can be used to imprison people for murder when a crime results in a death — even if the person was not present when the death occurred and had no intention to cause physical harm. In practice, this results in disproportionate application for people of color, young people, and people in coervice domestic partnerships.

We embarked on a yearlong collaboration with investigative journalist Sarah Stillman of the Yale Investigative Reporting Lab along with Scott Hechinger and Khue Tran at Zealous, researcher Baji Tumendemberel, and creative technologist John Emerson to create a website that helps tell the stories of people incarcerated under felony murder laws. Perhaps more importantly, the website documents the breadth of research the team did to try and establish the impact of the felony murder law, which is often obscured by the systems and policies of state criminal justice bureaucracies. Our team included Connie Chu, Aldo Juraidini, Emogene Cataldo to help realize this project.

To learn more about felony murder, visit the Felony Murder Reporting Project website and read Sarah’s article in the New Yorker.

Center for Just Journalism
We worked closely with the Center for Just Journalism on a number of projects to highlight their work — including research they are publishing and tools they are creating to help journalists, teachers, and students reporting on criminal justice.

A highlight of our work this year was the launch of their Curriculum Resource Library, providing a wealth of teaching resources for journalism educators, which was led by Timea Hopp and John Emerson. We also helped create their People First Reporting Guide and other material for journalists and educators to build more justice-aware reporting practices.

Right to Education & School Policing Timeline
We continued our work supporting the Police Free Schools project at Advancement Project, helping to empower student activists to create self-determined learning environments and trying to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

Our work this year included a series of posters for workshops led by the Police Free Schools team, including mapping activism and events for students “Right to Education” and creating a timeline of social events, policy, and activism documenting the negative impacts when young people are forced to interact with a system of policing that views them as a threat and not as students and more positive, liberatory visions for education that reflects a society where young people are loved, and communities can determine and control the thriving schools they deserve.

Christina No, Xavier Jones, Cathy Park, and Sabine Ostinvil all contributed to our work this year.

As part of our initiatives to help early stage start-ups looking to build smart, safe AI tools, we partnered with the team at Cadea to establish an initial brand, website, and UI language while they build their product and platform through participation in an incubator program.

Amaranth Foundation
After helping launch the Amaranth Prize last year — establishing a new, philanthropic model for funding research into longevity, we formalized a brand for the Amaranth Foundation. Soyeon Kwon and Ardavan Arfaei drove this work.

Deeply Embedded
Our goal is to contribute to products, projects, and companies that meaningfully improve people’s lives. To make that contribution, we’ve evolved our studio model to allow us to deeply collaborate with teams inside companies — where we operate not as an external agency, but as a fully integrated part of the internal company team. This works at many scales — from large corporate teams to seed-stage start-ups.

While we can’t share the work that happens in these contexts, we’re always pleased to see the outcomes and the ability to impact people’s lives at scale when we are working with some of the biggest companies in the world.

In 2023, our work included close collaboration with Google, NBC Universal, Ramp, Flourish, WeWork, NTW and the Reading Reimagined project. Our entire studio helped drive this work, including Greg Ervanian, Nick Emrich, Aldo Juraidini, Timea Hopp, Beckie Choe, Soyeon Kwon, Nathan Chen, Katie Shia, Connie Chu, Ryan Consbruck, Ardavan Arfaei, Nathalyn Nunoo, Sabine Ostinvil, Rebecca Brand, and Cathy Park.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love AI
AIGA NY invited Ryan Consbruck, Soyeon Kwon, and myself to give a talk on how our studio has been navigating the rapidly changing landscape of AI. The talk was a lot of fun to put together and to give. We sit somewhere near the edge of the technology, getting asked to think about and work on projects where AI initiatives need to weave themselves back into more common user behaviors and needs. But we are by no means experts.

What feels clear, both from my experience and in talking with folks with deeper expertise, is that the next few years will be ones of rapid change and that the nature of the change created by AI is likely to be more consequential than any technology change in my lifetime.

I don’t really think we are ready for what is going to happen.

But as much concern as I have for the changes AI will bring to basic things like the labor economics of knowledge work and the nature of creative work, at the end of the day, we’re still anchored to the good and bad of what people do.

Navigating that intersection between AI and humanity is the space where we can make an impact. I hope.

Judy Chicago @ New Museum

The Widening Gyre
A year of strange calm & consistency. Was it deceiving?

A year in which we carry on, through moments of helplessness and despair. That feeling that no one is in control, and those in charge lack character and conviction. Unnecessary cruelness, unnecessary violence. Another year like this, stacked on top of another year like this.

Looking back, across twelve years of really good work, sometimes I wonder how much has really changed. How much difference do we really get to make?

Looking forward, I hope that we get asked to make impact on the bigger challenges that face us — to not just improve lives by being more entertained or a little more wealthy or making it a bit simpler to start a company or launch a website.

But to pour our talent into efforts to make the world more just, more equitable, more resilient, and more safe. To use design and technology in support of art and creativity, to sustain meaning and connection in our relationships, and to bring modern aspirations in line with the needs of our environment.

The Days of Our Nights
The one small, good thing we do control is our day to day — who we work with, what our days are like, how it feels.

Given that we still do the proverbial 9 to 5, the materiality of our days is really about as good as it can be. We’ve got mantras for that, too.

Here’s to 2024.