Frances Yllana


I was born in the Philippines and moved to Texas at age 2. I was raised in Dallas surrounded by my sister, parents, aunts, uncles and one hundred cousins. In 2001, I graduated from the University of North Texas Communication Design Program in the school of art, and I moved back to Dallas and stayed. One of the reasons was my sister having a baby, and after that both of my parents individually fell ill. By that time I had no excuse to stay, I had fallen in love with the Dallas non-profit community: the people, their purpose and their passion to make Dallas better however they could. Those day jobs over the last 18 years grew my skillset to include the full range of design — from branding, advertising, publications and video to strategy, research and enterprise software consulting. The last of which, is what I lead teams to deliver at projekt202. Prior to joining projekt202, I was an “ECD” at an ad agency, and it was a big (in my head) jump to make considering I had reached the glass. But I knew I was never going to break it; and by that time, the why behind what I do had evolved from “help client increase clicks …” to “make experiences better for …”.

Human-centered design had been fueling my volunteer work with Dallas community organizations and AIGA, and I wanted my day job to have the same motivation. projekt202 also walks the walk with community service; many of the volunteer opportunities are projects where we apply what we do every day to a nonprofit’s needs. That giving back is much more impactful, and it was also a big motivator in my joining the team here. Now, I’m an experience director (CD) by day, cochair of AIGA Design for Democracy, Incoming Presidents Council Chair, AIGA National Board and National Board Member of Creative Reaction Lab. Today, all the work I do aims to make someone’s life a little better.


I have always been a volunteer. My mom and sister were volunteers for everything as I grew up, and I assumed that’s what everyone did. When I started in the industry, I volunteered for DSVC — which grew my network and my passion for serving the Dallas design community and showed me the joy of creating events that bring people together and inspire them. The point at which I saw design having the power to change the world is shortly after I joined the AIGA DFW board. I can picture where I was sitting 8 years ago when Alissa Walker from GOOD answered an email ask to promote AIGA’s Design Week. She responded by proposing we weave Dallas into the GOOD Ideas for Cities project, and so did. We thought the event would spread the idea of design for good to our graphic design community — but it went farther than our primary audience — pulling in architects, city planners, community and non-profit, and those connections wove me into joining Dallas civic, arts and youth causes like Art Conspiracy, Youth with Faces, Café Momentum and Coalition for a New Dallas. That’s the “how” for me. The “why” has evolved over the last decade. Before, I did it because I wanted to lead, and I loved the feeling of doing good. Now, my love is growing future leaders, bringing them up, and seeing them experience that indescribable feeling when they see how their effort affects the people they’re serving. Hopefully it’s contagious.


The biggest urgency: designers entering the civic space.
The biggest challenge: traditional hierarchical bureaucracy and patience.
The biggest opportunity: remote collaboration and agile.

I have a naïve dream where small teams start engaging in design for good on a local level and share their small wins among our networks to inspire greater involvement and greater change in our communities. These networks produce collaborations across cities fighting the same issues creating a larger pool of resources that can chip away at those challenges from different angles. We don’t ask for permission. We collaborate, we iterate, we test, we share, we come together and we make things a little better for some people. We write down our wins, we start all over again and we hope we inspire others to do the same.