Hi, I'm Annie Swank.


I am a videographer, writer, editor & UX designer.

I apply narrative and design tools to help people and causes articulate their messages. I create content that's legible, compelling, and entertaining for all kinds of audiences. I use various formats to help people communicate their ideas in a relevant and useful way.  Using these tools, I can help you talk to your audience.

Thank you for visiting my website. On this page you’ll find more information about my background and the perspectives and philosophies that inform my approach. Some of my previous work can be found here. A more substantive outline of my services and capabilities is on this page.

I like to collaborate and I'm happy to help. Should you care to get in touch, by all means please do:

A Brief, Autobiographical Summary of
Experiences & Perspectives.

Co-Founder of Drink Tank

I founded Drink Tank (a "recreational think tank") with Kate Garmey in 2014. Our goal was to create a space where  it was possible to use one's creative talents to make a positive community impact in a while connecting with other people looking to do the same -- all in the course of one evening.

For our first event, we asked people bring an idea for how to make Chicago better, along with a willingness to be open to new ideas and, perhaps, a six pack of their favorite beer. With our facilitation, groups were formed, design thinking strategies were employed, new solutions were discussed, and a good time was had by all. At the end of the night, people told us how lucky they felt to have been invited. This was flattering, but exclusivity wasn't the goal; more than anything, we'd wanted to make a place where people felt welcomed to share their ideas and left reassured that their talents and collaborative instincts could make things better.

Over time, Drink Tank grew from a lightweight "pickup game of design thinking" to a consultancy specializing in local market activations. With the help of community partners, we piloted a new approach to corporate community investment. Most recently, we teamed up with Goose Island to travel from coast to coast designing and facilitating locally relevant collaborations.

I'm proud of all that Drink Tank made possible but I was particularly excited by the challenge of telling a brand story that showcased specific community questions (and how different partners contributed to the whole) while also communicating overall campaign strategy.

Stories / Strategies for Communities & Campaigns

In fall 2008 I took a leave from the University of Chicago to work for President Obama's first presidential campaign's Scheduling and Advance department. In 2012, following my 2010 graduation, I worked with same web design team in the White House, this time on the re-election campaign. Cumulatively, these projects taught me:

  • Lasting change comes from inspiring and sustaining a sense of commitment in ordinary people
  • Success often depends on persuading individuals that they can make a difference

Fascinated by projects of persuasion, I then worked as a research assistant for writers Ana Marie Cox and Thomas Frank.  Though their formats, personas and subjects were quite different, I developed a knack for picking the right pull quote, finding the most illustrative statistic, and for sourcing the voices and perspectives that would add to a discussion. Working for these respected writers, I was able to study the interplay between audiences, pundits, narratives and facts from many different perspectives.

I later joined a team at The United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand whose mission was to empower youth around the world to hold their governments accountable for achieving the Millennium Development Goals. I helped design a community organizing curriculum for young political activists through the Asia-Pacific region.

User Experience Research & Design

I wanted to use technology to scale these principles of inclusion, empathy and empowerment, and I learned that there is a name for this: “User Experience Design”. After studying the field, I went on to teach User Experience Research and Design at The Starter League (now Fullstack Academy), The American Design and Master-Craft Initiative and Experience Institute. In my role as UX Practice Lead at Table XI, a digital consultancy, I observed again and again how the most effective solutions come from listening in order to understand people's context, experience, and aspirations.

Add'l. & Misc. Information


Though quick to identify as a proud (and persistently homesick) Californian, I feel lucky to have called Chicago home since I moved here to study at The University of Chicago.

From my dad (an econometrician) I got a love of historical trivia tempered with a bias toward data. From my mom (an ecologist) I got deep concern for natural resources and also a fascination with disaster movies.

From the Declaration of Independence, I got the conviction that we are all created equal. And from the sum total of this country's history, I get that this will be a reality for all of us only when we are sufficiently moved to demand it.