About me

Hi! I’m Michael Ortlieb.

I work across teams to embrace and execute user-centered design, and build products and design systems that unify brand and product vision.

I design. I run. I sing karaoke.

And I belong to a group that discusses poor kerning.

I’ve been creating pictorial things as long as I can remember. As early as the first grade, I was drawing panel comic strips, and dreamt of being a cartoonist for my local paper, the Chicago Tribune. As we approached middle school, my brother and I pooled our allowance and lawn-mowing savings for our first computer, and while he wrote most of the game code, I oversaw art direction.

I’m still that kid fascinated by art and design. By the beauty and force of thoughtfully rendered work, and the mechanics that power and sustain it. I’m excited by both the art and the science of everything I design.

But I’m not just an art and tech geek, I’m also an extrovert: communicative, collaborative, transparent, with an ace track record in customer service. I take every project seriously but keep the creative process lively, satisfying a client’s targets while fostering a spirit of symbiosis and fun. Be that client a major film or television studio, a national nonprofit, a boutique hotel, a political candidate, or a tech startup, I shine in making the client a part of the conversation… on time, on budget, and on the strategic mark.

I love sharing knowledge with others, and have taught quarterly classes in HTML and CSS, Sketch, Invision, and currently Figma fundamentals, guiding students with a design background to elevate their skills. I’ve mentored interns and new entrants to product design to deep dive into user research and interviews. And I’ve run design thinking workshops in the United States and India to move engineering-forward mindsets towards creating products that advocate for the customer voice and provide a feedback loop for continuous improvement.

Having relocated to Chicagoland from Seattle in mid-2016 (just in time for the Chicago Cubs historic World Series win), I’ve been inspired by the tech renaissance in the Windy City, coupled with its Midwest ambition and upfront communication. I’ve also been a proud member of 1871, Chicago’s Center for Technology and Entrepreneurship.

When I’m offline I enjoy running (three Chicago marathons, a Marine Corps Marathon and an MCM 50k so far!), biking, illustrating, exploring Chicagoland with my family, and belting out a ballad or three at karaoke.

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Download my resume.