Strategically Creative, Creatively Strategic

  • Photo of Melissa Ballate Melissa Ballate President Close
    • To Blue Daring, a Fearless Founder

      Early in her career, Melissa realized that everything that works, in business and life, is a perfect marriage of form and function. It was the inspiration for starting Blue Daring where she serves as our team’s leader and a senior strategist and thought partner to our clients—dedicated to helping them articulate their value and leverage their brands in meaningful ways.

    • To Chicago, a Homegrown Leader

      Melissa is passionate about business, education and travel and gives her time to organizations that nurture them. She is a member of the prestigious Economic Club of Chicago, serves on the local board of Junior Achievement and is a co-owner of two retail concessions at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

      She is a lifelong Chicago resident, a huge fan of boxing, a mother of two and an aspiring polyglot.

  • Photo of Ashley Kaneko Ashley Kaneko Creative Lead Close
    • A Rock Solid Creative Leader

      From branding to digital and print design to photography, lettering and illustration, Ashley has serious cross-media prowess, and it’s displayed and depended on, client after Blue Daring client. It doesn’t stop, though, with creative execution. Ashley manages projects, engages customers, and guides our creative team.

      She holds a B.A. in visual communications from Loyola University Chicago and minors in art history, psychology, marketing, and painting and drawing.

    • Whose Heart is by the Water

      Ashley was born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii, so Chicago was a big change. But she always returns “home” to the beach—to relax, refocus and become re-inspired. Whether it’s in-water photography and  videos, or illustration and calligraphy, she is constantly honing her creative craft and finding inspiration in the world around her. She even has her own brand, ink + ash, where she creates handmade gifts and stationery.

  • Photo of Vanessa Mentor Vanessa Mentor Ideation Lead Close
    • An Eye on Culture

      Over nine years with Blue Daring (she was our first hire), Vanessa has honed many skills and worn countless hats: creative ideator, researcher, daily operations manager, media maven and pop culture sage.

      Her two biggest specialties, though, are social media and messaging that sticks. Vanessa’s knowledge of trends, patterns, social media behavior and popular attitudes, is unparalleled and applied to every project here.

      Vanessa attended Harold Washington College in Chicago.

    • And an Eye for What Colors Work

      Outside of Blue Daring, you might say Vanessa is a personality in the makeup world—as in, the videos she shares on her VANEWPC YouTube Channel have been viewed well over 500,000 times all over the world.When not giving tips on video, Vanessa is seeing how they’re put to practice on awards shows, reality shows and in New York, her second favorite place on earth—her first favorite place being Chicago’s north side, where she was born and raised.

  • Photo of Shuky Leung Shuky Leung Designer Close
    • Endless Design Exploration…

      When it comes to helping find the most beautiful, strategic design work for Blue Daring’s clients, Shuky exudes natural talent. Shuky does it all, at all points of the creative process—from initial explorations on a sketch pad or onscreen, to ensuring the quality of a physical product.

      She attended Chicago’s Columbia College and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts.

    • Meets Effortless Fashion Sense

      Oh, but Shuky’s design skills go way beyond print and web—she also effortlessly raises the Blue Daring fashion bar with her own bold, colorful choices. She’s our resident fashionista (a title she modestly downplays, like most super stylish people).

      Outside of Blue Daring, Shuky follows fashion blogs and trends, creates her own art, savors elevated food experiences, and loves exploring downtown Chicago for hidden design gems and adventures.

  • Photo of Veronica Cruz Veronica Cruz Outreach + Execution Close
    • Moving Things Forward

      Veronica’s ability to get things done is a remarkable combination of being able to anticipate needs and genuinely wanting to help others. She applies it daily to help both clients—like Toyota and the Chicago and Illinois Departments of Transportation—and our team meet deadlines and achieve strategic objectives. Prior to joining Blue Daring, Veronica also honed her community outreach and coordination skills as part of the team that helped the Chicago Transit Authority launch Ventra.

      Veronica attended DePaul University where she majored in PR, Advertising and Applied Communications.

    • Organized Even in Oven Mitts

      When she’s not at work, Veronica relaxes (and indulges her sweet tooth) by finding delicious new recipes and baking treats for her family and friends. Seems perfectly fitting, since the qualities it takes to be a good baker—organization and exactitude—are the ones that make her such a great project leader.

  • Photo of Chris Richards Chris Richards Designer Close
    • Thoughtful design in every detail.

      Chris believes that great design isn’t just visually stunning, it’s rooted in clear thinking and deep understanding. As a member of the creative team, Chris combines this strategic lens with an impeccable eye for detail to visualize ideas across media—from print to web. Chris has spent a lifetime immersing himself in all things artistic, and moved to Chicago to attend Harrington School of Design.

    • Inspiration in every mile.

      Chris doesn’t just stretch his creative muscles—he’s also an avid runner, usually clocking between 8 to 16 miles per week. He has completed several charity races in Chicago, and says it’s his favorite way to destress, stay in shape and think of his next creative undertaking.

  • Photo of Oriana Oppice Oriana Oppice Video Storyteller Close
    • Seeing your story to life.

      From corporate strategy to community movements, Oriana knows how to tell a story through video. As an award-winning director, producer, screenwriter, and performer, she uses a seasoned cinematic eye and proven filmmaking techniques to tell value-driven stories in an authentic and compelling way – far beyond the typical corporate video. With a diverse background that includes journalism, government, marketing, and filmmaking, she’s got the perfect balance of strategy and creativity to truly bring our partners’ visions to life. Oriana has a Master’s in International Law from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor’s in International Affairs from McGill University, and studied journalism and writing at UCLA.

    • Bringing her stories to the big screen.

      When she’s not bringing vision to screen at Blue Daring, Oriana stays active on the independent film scene as a filmmaker and guest speaker. After years in LA and New York, she’s thrilled to be back in Chicago boosting the creative scene, and is the Director of Programming and Communications for Women in Film Chicago. Off set, you’ll find her in the vegetable garden and planning her next trip abroad.

  • Photo of David Palia David Palia Public Involvement Close
    • Focused on Commute Times

      David joined us after working for over 30 years at the Illinois Department of Transportation. As our Public Involvement Lead, he is responsible for coordinating local agencies, engineers and our creative team to manage public outreach efforts, facilitate community meetings and deliver unique but direct communications around projects affecting the public.

    • Kicking It on Island Time

      After a full day (and full career) concentrating on big city transportation, it’s no surprise that David turns to some of the most laid back hobbies and places to help him unwind: golf, fishing, hunting, reading (namely history books and political autobiographies) and traveling. A couple of his favorite destinations are Key West and the Bahamas, two places where no one’s in a hurry.