Denzel Washington once quoted the Roman philosopher Seneca and said, “luck is where opportunity meets preparation.” As a DFA Fellow Julian Bongiorno seized opportunities when they arose. In his first year as a Fellow, Julian received the PAVE Fellowship to attend The Feast Conference along with a $10k investment in his future, attended The StartingBloc Institute for social innovators, has been a guest lecturer at a variety of universities including Duke and most recently began working as an innovation workshop facilitator for a large healthcare firm after being approached while at a pitch event with DFA team. For twelve weeks, Julian will apply the design, mentoring and user-focused skills he’s learned in DFA to three innovation teams in Chicago.

“Chicago’s really great because there’s a lot of things going on and a lot of support, but it’s not a super saturated environment. It’s just enough so everyone knows everyone and there are a lot of resources, connections and money available.”

For Fellows coming to immerse themselves in the Chicago design environment, Julian says that to make the most of the experience they should get to know everyone in the DFA office and those associated with it including the research team upstairs lead by DFA’s founder, The Delta Lab. “They’re awesome and whatever you do, if you do it with them helping you, it’s going to be 10 times better.”

Julian also suggests living in one of the young, interesting neighborhoods downtown and finding a winter coat and steel-toe boots because when Fellows aren’t traveling to mentor various DFA studios around the U.S., they are in Chicago making strategic decisions about DFA’s growth, going to events and helping to develop DFA as an organization.

“I didn’t realize how much of the design process could be applied to organizational growth. For me my users are DFAers.”


Julian’s favorite part of being a Fellow is mentoring studio leads and members and “helping everyone create an impact with their projects or their studios projects.” After Julian’s Fellowship wraps up this August, he wants to use the experience he’s gained and work for a social impact oriented design firm. He’d also like to revive the road trip culture in the U.S. so that it’s on par with that of Europe and Australia. This fall Julian will spend some time in Italy and says he’ll then “come back and start career-ing again!”