Ryan Lothian is a versatile human.


I love telling stories that inspire, inform and lead to action. I'm always thinking about user experience and target audience. I thrive at building consensus around good ideas (no matter who came up with them).

I mainly do these things:

...and depending on the project, I do these things: graphic design, photography, video editing, front-end web development, social media management, etc.

When I'm not doing all that, you can find me:

Also: Here's my LinkedIn profile. I'm available for freelance work.


bird banding & research storymap

An interactive map, videos and photos tell the story of the Forest Preserves of Cook County’s ongoing research into birds.

See it: Launch the interactive storymap

My role: I developed the concept, wrote the copy, built the map, produced the videos, and captured some of the video footage and photos.

Impact: This project led to coverage for the Forest Preserves’ research efforts from WTTW, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times.

what is restoration? web page

A web page explains the Forest Preserves of Cook County's process of ecological restoration.

See it: View the What is Restoration? web page

My role: I developed the concept, wrote the copy and created the page.

Impact: For the first time, visitors to the Forest Preserves' website could learn about the basics of ecological restoration and the organization’s approach to restoring land. It also allowed the Forest Preserves' communications department to easily deploy consistent messaging around ecological restoration by using this page as a starting point for blog posts, print materials, media pitches and social media posts.

bird the preserves marketing initiative

The Bird the Preserves campaign used social media, blogs posts and printed marketing materials to connect new audiences to birding in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

See it: Timberdoodles Have Moves blog / Wood Ducks Make Unique Parents blog / Photo of the printed marketing materials

My role: I developed the “bird of the month” concept, acted as art director and wrote the blog and marketing copy.

Impact: The campaign led to a nearly 600% increase in birding-related visits to the Forest Preserves website and supported more than 220 birding events that attracted an estimated 2,400 people. It won a National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials Marketing Award.

forest preserves website

The new Forest Preserves of Cook County website (fpdcc.com) represents a huge step forward in user experience and access to information about the hundreds of places to go and dozens of things to do in the Forest Preserves.

See it: Visit the Forest Preserves website

My role: I planned, designed and developed the website on the Wordpress CMS. Tasks included: project management, UI/UX design, content development and architecture, front- and back-end development, and user testing.

Impact: From 2014 to 2022, improvements to the old website and the launch of the new website helped increase annual visits from 350,000 to 1.7 million. The website won a Gold Davey Award from the Academy of Interactive and Visual Arts.

forest preserves web map

The Forest Preserves of Cook County interactive web map helps visitors plan trips, navigate forest preserves and discover new opportunities to get outside.

See it: Visit the Forest Preserves web map or explore the project's GitHub page

My role: I sold leadership on using open source software as a starting point and creatively funded the project through a grant, plus an in-kind donation from Smart Chicago (a former civic technology nonprofit). I built a team using one of Smart Chicago’s consultants and two members of the Forest Preserves' internal mapping team. I managed the project from a one-page outline to finished product, while also contributing to front-end development, UI/UX design, user testing and data collection/QA.

Impact: The web map has helped hundreds of thousands of people connect with a forest preserve. It won a Special Districts Awards Program Technology Innovation Award from govtech.com.

blog posts on various topics

attention deer! sign

A playful sign tells visitors to the Forest Preserves of Cook County why it is harmful to feed deer... instead of just telling them they shouldn't.

See it: Photo of the sign

My role: I developed the concept, wrote the content and designed the sign.

Impact: After adding two signs to known deer feeding locations and receiving positive feedback from visitors, signs were installed at dozens of locations. The signs have educated thousands of visitors, increased reports of "problem locations" for animal feeding and given visitors the opportunity to provide feedback about how to tackle this tough problem. The sign also had quite a day on Reddit.

forest preserves centennial poster

A poster created for the Forest Preserves of Cook County centennial celebration.

See it: PDF of the poster

My role: I designed the poster, then adjusted the design for street banners at the Cook County Building/City Hall of Chicago.

Impact: Thousands of people received a free poster, and dozens more have tracked me down on the internet to get their hands on one.

oh, and...

People seem to like this profile of the "Shawon-O-Meter guy" I wrote (way back in 2011) while in graduate school at DePaul University.


Contact me at rlothian@gmail.com. Connect with me on LinkedIn.