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. She’s since come to love the people, the food, the art and architecture, and everything (except the winter) that it offers.

      But she always returns “home” to the beach—to relax, refocus and become re-inspired…or to simply walk her dog, Kila, and gaze out over the water.

  • 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
    • Detailed in Every Project

      Veronica joined the Blue Daring team as a Marketing & Outreach Coordinator, to serve a variety of our clients, including Divvy, inQUEST, Chicago Innovation Awards and more. She uses her organizational and communication skills—and her general positivity—to keep our projects on track and our staff on-task. 

      Before entering the branding and strategy field, Veronica attended DePaul University here in Chicago, majoring 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—being organized, exact and very into the details—are the ones that make her such a great marketing coordinator.

  • Photo of Diane Johns Diane Johns Designer Close
    • Serious About Logos

      While she relishes everything that makes art direction a creative challenge, Diane’s first love is branding. She passionately transforms brand personalities into visual identities. Diane’s expertise in logo development, strategic concepts, and branding design is an invaluable asset to Blue Daring’s clients.

      Diane earned a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Michigan, and honed her design skills at the Chicago Portfolio School.

    • Striving for Peace and Quiet

      No, not so much literal quiet. Diane enjoys the bustle of the city too much for that. But to unwind, recharge and balance her work life, she practices yoga and meditates, striving to achieve a more quiet mind.

      When she’s not working or searching for quiet, Diane finds pleasure in the rich and earthy. Whether it be the perfect summer tomato or the crooning of an old soul record.

  • Photo of Courtney Griffin Courtney Griffin Writer + Strategist Close
    • Carefully crafting your every word

      The style books around her desk aren’t just for show. When Courtney puts pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, she’s thinking about the meaning behind every phrase, word and punctuation point. With a background in journalism and media planning, Courtney’s writing is  supported by thoughtful strategy, working with partners to find the perfect way to communicate their vision. Courtney graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in broadcast journalism and business.

    • A meticulous scribe… and an unscripted performer

      While she’s much more comfortable carefully planning her stories, Courtney has ample experience making them up as she goes along. She’s a graduate of Second City’s improvisational comedy program, and has performed numerous times at the famed comedy theater. She has also penned dozens of pitches and sketches for Second City and iO Chicago’s writing programs.

  • Photo of Oriana Oppice Oriana Oppice Video Storyteller Close
    • Champion for the Impeccable Word

      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.

    • From Red Ink to Red Carpets

      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.