30 Design Leaders Shaping The Creative Industry

Get inspired by this incredible list of design leaders! They are shaping the creative industry all across the world for influential brands such as Adidas, Wise, IDEO to name a few. They share the most important lesson they have learnt about leadership, what are the key skills or traits every design leader should have, and what excites them about the future.

Mashael Alyahya, Creative Director at Misk Art Institute

A Saudi female with a strong belief that everything and anything has a form or beauty. Carry love and passion for Art and Design.

Victoria Schneyer, Senior Director of Global Retail Design at Adidas

An innate sense of adventure has defined Victoria's life and shaped her understanding of design. She creates powerful narratives that are the guiding principle of any creative endeavour, and the core essence that she strives to find in each project.

Dava Guthmiller, Founder and CCO of Noise 13

From sustainability to diversity, to empathy & humanity, Dava and Noise 13 want to continue to craft more brands that are doing good for people and for the planet.

There are so many more than three skills for any leader, but the top ones for me would be: 

1. Compassion and humanity for your team, your clients, and those you are designing for. 

2. Willingness to try new things and experiment. 

3. Humility in knowing you do know it all, your way is not the only way, and you can learn from others as much as they can learn from you.

Jade Tan, Senior Design Lead at Wise

“From maker to manager, I love solving complex problems. I help designers do good work by inspiring a bold vision, shared values, and new ways of collaboration.”

Rachel Young, Senior Director at IDEO

“I co-lead IDEO’s learning portfolio and am committed to a more just and equitable future for all learners. My experience is as a designer, storyteller, teacher, product manager, graphic designer, and researcher.”

Martina Chaconas, Executive Creative Director at Wondros

I got my start at a boutique agency where I learned through experience that there are no small assignments. That philosophy has pushed me to deliver my best. No matter the budget. No matter the medium. No matter the deadline.

Sebrina Smith, Creative Director at Mazars US

The value I bring to every assignment comes from my skill in translating design into business impact, a passion for high-quality, cost-effective and innovative execution, and effective collaboration with internal clients and vendors.

Steph Curran, Group Creative Director at Merkle

“With a background in user-centred design, user research, and product management, I bring an extensive range of knowledge and the ability to craft a tailored design and build approach for my clients then lead cross-functional teams to deliver.” 

"I believe the most effective leadership happens through listening, inspiring our teams, and empowerment and autonomy, rather than heavy-handed management and overt directives. However, in some circumstances, particularly under duress of time, I'll give explicit direction and make the calls on the entire team's behalf. So, it's really about learning how to balance the two approaches."

Terry Redfield, Creative Director at Niantic

“I am a passionate and creative leader with a lifelong love of games. My focus is on creating fantastic, innovative and engaging collaborations with talented people.”

Boyoung Lee, Founder & CCO at Citizens of Now Here 

“I am passionate about creating branded content and stories for omni channel fashion, beauty, and lifestyle direct-to-consumer brands. I am an expert at building in-house creative organisations and integrated processes for brand development and management.”

Anne Tran Minh, Creative Director at Riot Games APAC

A detail-oriented and always seeks the consumer's benefit/experience in whatever we are creating.

Tescia Deák, Creative Director at TBWA\Chiat\Day

“I’m a multi-disciplinary artist and thinker. I absolutely love the challenge of solving a big problem with a big idea — enough to make a positive impact.”

"I think the most important lesson that I have learned about leadership is to listen. Listen to your team and listen to your clients. We are all humans and I feel a lot of creative problems solving can happen through understanding each other better."

Larissa Vaz, Creative Director at Zendesk

“Whether working independently or managing a creative team, building experiences that are based on the true understanding of the audience while blending strategy, and good design will make me fulfilled and inspired. If I’m lucky, they're technology-driven.”

Cecilia Blakeley, Creative Director at Business Chicks Australia

I am the Creative Director for Australia's most engaged women's professional development company - Business Chicks. With 15 years of experience, I have designed visual branding, digital products and content for Business Chicks and their events including 9 To Thrive, Leadership Gathering at Necker Island with Richard Branson and the exclusive Australian tour of Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson.

Lauren Goldsmith, Associate Creative Director at Thrasio

“Gumbo is often used as a metaphor for the mix of cultures that exist in southern Louisiana that have influenced each other and melded together to create new traditions and cuisine. Beyond my New Orleans roots, I am a mixed bag of tricks with a little bit of everything, along with a vast range of experiences that have influenced the creative I am today.”

Reema Bhagchandani, Creative Director at Viacom 18 Media Private Limited, MTV India

Imaginative and passionate Creative Director with a vast experience of 13+ years in the creative and production processes focusing on conceptualising, designing and executing unscripted and scripted television shows and events by creating riveting and unique content for feature films and India’s biggest shows.

Sarah Dunleavy, Design Director at Deliveroo

Experienced designer of digital products and services for small and large brands.

Meredith DeLeon, Creative Service Director at National Instruments

Meredith DeLeon is an accomplished creative strategist with proven results. As the Director of the Global Creative Group at NI, she led the company’s rebrand execution and new campaigns to broaden industry recognition across multiple markets and advance the brand’s strategic growth initiatives.

“The most important lesson in leadership is trust. When a team trusts you and each other, problems are resolved easier, new ideas and productivity flourish. Trust has a lot to do with mutual respect, honesty and being willing to be vulnerable. When the team knows you are real and genuinely care and support them, trust is built.”

Michele de la Menardiere, Creative Director at Nylas

"I build beautiful brands, products, and experiences that help companies launch, grow, evolve, and thrive."

Orlagh O'Reilly, Design Director at Pepsi Global

“Simply put Orlagh is a must-have. She is deeply connected to the pulse of today, identifying trends and creating new ones. Inspiring internal and client teams. She brings creative, intelligent solutions to every situation and excels at storytelling.”

Anne Laborde, Creative Director at Holmes & Marchant

“I truly believe in creating value and impact through the design of meaningful and relevant brands, products, and experiences, for customers to engage with, impacting cultures and lifestyles of the future.”

Mary Rockwell, Director of Design, Research, and Innovation at Carrier Digital

“Curiosity has driven me across diverse verticals and contexts over my career — from retail to consumer goods to industrials. I love design because it lends a flexible toolset to surface new possibilities, regardless of the challenge at hand.”

"A Design Leader should have courage, resilience and compassion."

"I’m super optimistic about the next generation of designers and creative professionals entering the workforce. These folks are entering the workforce ready to tackle big societal challenges using human-centred design. They are ambitious and unafraid. I’ll be so excited to be a part of how they change the world."

Marisol Dahl, Founder & Brand Director at Together

Marisol is the founder of Together, a creative studio specialising in brand design and digital experiences rooted in strategy and thought. Marisol has worked on a number of projects across a variety of industries including education, real estate, financial tech, food, furniture, health, and career development.

Katie Wilson, Creative Content Director at Depth of Field LLC

Katie Wilson is a Creative Director, Multimedia Director & Lead Motion Artist with over 15 years of experience serving cutting edge studios, agencies and brands in the advertising, live entertainment and broadcast design industry.

Laura Salván, Creative Director at Richline group

Creative Director with over 18 years of experience working in fashion, beauty, luxury goods, cultural institutions and design firms.

Mollie Wilkie, Senior Creative Director at Hasbro

A fearless and inspiring storyteller, Mollie uses strategic thinking and a sophisticated design sense to innovate, challenge and motivate.

Erika Saca-Schader, Creative Director at Walton Isaacson

“I work to make things matter, crafting messages and telling stories to influence perceptions. I work to make a statement, provoke, and transform brands from meh to badass.”

Ninotschka TitchkoSky, Co-CEO at Architect BVN

More than 25 years' experience leading major architectural projects, and developing innovation and research opportunities working with architects, academics and industry partners.

Kerry Krasts, Executive Creative Director at Shipyard

“My job is to manage a vibrant creative department and to foster the creation of strategic, compelling and effective storytelling whether we're making a $3million TV spot, a $150k piece of branded entertainment, a $30k sizzle video or a Facebook slideshow. I love what I do.”

Lauralee Sheehan, Founder & CCO at Digital 55

Lauralee is a design thinker, a digital addict, but above all an artist. With years of experience working in the creative and digital product development sector. Lauralee is a trailblazer in the digital space, pushing forward how creative and tech intersect. 

As a Design Leader, there are a lot of skills that should, could, would be key but for me, I think these are super important: 

1. Curiosity - You have to be curious about the world around you in order to be a good Design Leader. You have to be curious about how people are experiencing the world, how the world interacts with humans on an individual level but also on a societal level, you have to be curious about the things that drill down deep for all of us in terms of the human condition. 

2. Grit - You have to have grit. And it doesn’t have to be this hard-hitting, aggressive thing, it needs to be the type of grit that makes you stay and come up with solutions when everything is going sideways. You need grit to wake up before the sun and go to bed well after it has set. You need grit to produce and deliver at high levels and care about the work. 

3. Intersectional Thinking - As a Design Leader you have to think across a spectrum of variables constantly. Not only time, budget, outcome, purpose, inspiration, relevance, coolness, impact but also how what, where when who, and how to collaborate, inspire, review, iterate. It just goes on and you have to think across all these things constantly so not being siloed in your thinking is supercritical!

Want to learn from more great minds in the creative industry? Take a look at our Executive Programme For Design Leaders 


Unfortunately, the browser you use is outdated and does not allow you to display the site correctly. Please install any of the modern browsers, for example:

Google Chrome Firefox Safari