Zeke Franco


About Zeke Franco



I have been designing for over ten years. My specialties are interaction design, research, and strategy. I’m driven by a passion for meticulously crafted products and services that work to improve a user’s experience. As a strong supporter of human-centered design methodologies I believe user research and behavioral insights are fundamental to crafting exceptional services and products. I love conducting and synthesizing user and design research and taking those insights and creating futuristic designs that can be implemented today.

I have worked in both fast paced and agile startups as well as on multi-touchpoint initiatives for complex enterprises. My approach to experience strategy revolves around user-centered research, concept validation, cross-functional collaboration, and flexible processes that make ideas actionable not just conceptual. Being able to recommend the right process to define and satisfy the strategy is key to effective design leadership.

During the day I’m employed as a Managing Director of Experience Strategy and Design at Pandera Labs, a startup incubator and software development agency in Chicago.

My role at Pandera Labs is two-fold: to provide design strategy for projects and to lead design within projects. The ability to both be strategic and tactical helps me provide vision to clients during the project definition phase as well as lead the design vision through the delivery of design artifacts such as research report-outs, journey maps, wireframes, prototypes, and user interface design. This is done by collaborating with all the essential roles within Pandera Labs such as data scientists, UI designers, product managers, UX designers, and developers.

Prior to Pandera Labs, I played a key role as the first dedicated interaction designer at GrubHub. Starting with the company when it had less the 50 people and eventually leaving after a successful IPO 3.5 years later. My efforts were focused on service design on digital transformation of the processes and touchpoints across the experience. I designed innovative restaurant-facing technology such as OrderHub and DeliveryHub in order to improve the service experience. On the diner-facing side my attention focused on creating experience enhancements like Yummy Rummy, Track Your Grub, and the 2016 complete redesign of GrubHub’s and Seamless’ iPhone and Android mobile applications.

As an experience strategist I’ve worked with Google, Google Fiber, Salesforce, Motorola Solutions, DeVry, Jacuzzi, Double Good, Quora, Glassdoor, Thrivent Financial, TransUnion as well a handful of startups.

Passionate about interaction design and research I cofounded Designation in 2013 – a 16 week design bootcamp. Nearly three years later over a 300 students have graduated from the program. 94% of graduates who sought a new design job got one, with an average salary increase of 62%. In 2016 Designation quadruple its classroom size with its expansion within 1871, the nation’s largest digital startup hub.

Midwest UX 2018

I’m on the organizing board for the 2018 MidWest UX conference which for the first time will be hosted in Chicago.


I love running workshops and giving interactive lectures to the design and technology community. Please contact me if you’re interested in having me run a workshop or discuss a topic for your team or organization. Beside having developed curriculum and teaching 100s of student at Designation I have given talks at World IA Day, WordPress Meetups, local bookclubs, and for organizations. Most recently I develop the content below for a venture capital portfolio group.

Dash Dash

Home bartending. Making my applwooed smoked cocktail called Such Great Heights

One of my favorite hobbies is creating original cocktail recipes as well as recreating classic and modern cocktails. The process of concepting a new flavor combinations and cocktails is exhilarating. I like all the prep and planning that goes into creating and carving crystal clear ice and making bitters/tinctures, syrups, and infusions to create a cocktail that I can share with friends. This hobby has also inspired me to return to my photography passion. I’ve been working on improving my product photography skills to share my cocktails on Instagram.


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