What Now? ~ 2020 Keynote Review

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Join us and our inspired speakers of the past as we explore “What now?”. Since 2014, the DESIGN WEEK RI Keynote Speakers have brought context, spirit, provocative thought and reflective inspiration. This year, we asked these speakers to join us again - to capture the moment of today. In the year of COVID-19, our personal lives have changed, our professional lives affected, our societal systems are breaking down, and our global relations are underscored. Design is at once called upon to find solutions, and also grapple with our own systemic challenges that are part of this amazing time in history. Where do we go from here? How does design lead? And perhaps, when does design follow? In this dynamic conversation, our keynote panelists will help us capture what’s defining this remarkable journey and ultimately shaping the years to come.


Ashleigh Axios

2018 Keynote Speaker

Ashleigh Axios is the Chief Experience Officer and a Partner at &Partners, a digital consultancy and design studio that understands that technology, policy, and a critical eye to society’s challenges can help bring about equality and improve ways of life. As of July 2020, Axios is chair of the national board of directors for AIGA, the professional association of design.

Prior to her role at &Partners, Axios formed and led the in-house creative agency for marketing, communications, and brand identity solutions at Automattic, a technology company on a mission to democratize publishing and commerce. Axios previously served as the creative director and a digital strategist for the Obama White House, bridging two presidential terms in the Office of Digital Strategy. She is also a past president of AIGA Washington D.C., where she formed DotGovDesign, an initiative connecting and empowering government designers with regular meetings, a yearly conference, and online course.

Ashleigh is a graduate from, and an alumni advisor to, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She lives and works in Washington, DC with her husband, Nathaniel Axios, and their cat.

Sophie Weston Chien

2019 Keynote Panelist

Sophie Weston Chien is a designer-organizer who is committed to creating inclusive spaces and building strong, equitable communities. She is currently organizing for the 2020 Democratic Coordinated Campaign in North Carolina, a member of the Design as Protest Collective and founding member of Just Practice. She recently graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, majoring in Architecture. At RISD she was supported as an AIA Diversity Advancement Scholar, served as Student Body President and was recognized as RISD’s Class of 2020 Warren Family Social Engagement Award Winner. She has worked at the National Park Service in Alaska, City Hall in Providence, Oualalou + Choi in Paris, and LA-Màs in Los Angeles.

An advocate and leader, Sophie is driven to work toward justice and to support people in becoming agents of change for themselves and others.s a designer-organizer who is committed to creating inclusive spaces and building strong, equitable communities.

Amy Devers

2019 Keynote Speaker

Amy Devers is an artist, designer, maker, educator, host/producer of design-related media and Emmy Award-winning television personality. She earned an MFA in Furniture Design from RISD, served as chief prototype fabricator and machine shop foreman and has worked for years as an independent designer/builder of furniture, art and interiors. Her work has been exhibited internationally in galleries and museums.

Devers also made a name for herself on the small screen, demonstrating her skills and know-how as the host of several television series focused on home improvement, international design, architecture, culture and food. In 2016 she launched Clever, a podcast about design produced in partnership with Jaime Derringer. Consistently among iTunes’ top design podcasts, Clever offers a window into the humanity behind the design that shapes our world through candid and revealing conversations with leading creatives from all disciplines.

A professor of Furniture Design at RISD and an active member of the global design community, Devers travels the world as a speaker, design juror, and guest critic and lecturer at academic institutions.

Janet Echelman

2015 Keynote Speaker

Janet Echelman is an artist who creates experiential sculpture at the scale of buildings that transform with wind and light. The art shifts from being an object you look at, to something you can get lost in.

Her work defies categorization as it intersects across disciplinary boundaries, from Fine Art, Architecture, and Urban Design, to Material Science, Computer Science, and Structural and Aeronautical Engineering. Using unlikely materials from fishnet to atomized water particles, Echelman combines ancient craft with original computational design software to create artworks that have become focal points for urban life on four continents.

Recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Harvard Loeb Fellowship, Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellowship, and Fulbright Lectureship, Echelman was named an Architectural Digest Innovator for “changing the very essence of urban spaces.” Her TED talk “Taking Imagination Seriously” has been translated into 35 languages with more than one million views. Oprah ranked Echelman’s work #1 on her List of 50 Things That Make You Say Wow!, and she recently received the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts, honoring “the greatest innovators in America today.”

R. Michael Hendrix

2014 Keynote Speaker

R. Michael Hendrix is a Partner and Global Director of Design at IDEO. As a member of the senior executive team, he collaborates with the firm’s studio leaders and teams to advance IDEO’s creative culture and world-class design capabilities.

A natural trailblazer and collaborator, he co-founded an art school for high schoolers, a professional design curriculum for undergrads, two professional design clubs and three small businesses, the last of which, Tricycle, was recognized by Businessweek and Fortune as a thought leader for sustainable design, and purchased by Shaw Industries, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, in 2017. This diversity of experience has informed his leadership roles at IDEO and his work with leading brands and organizations including Target, Converse, Tempur+Sealy, Steelcase, the DIY Network, and the Department of Homeland Security. In 2015 he served as an advisor to the White House’s global entrepreneur initiative, SPARK.

He is currently co-authoring a book about the shared mindsets of musicians and designers, to be published April 2021 by Public Affairs, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.

Sara Ossana


Sara Ossana is Founder of Studio MO, focused on R&D and cross-industry connectivity exploring initiatives balancing business development and social responsibility. She is a Founding Partner and was the former co-owner of O&G Studio for a decade, an award-winning design studio focusing on American-made contemporary furniture and accessories with a mission of adding to the collective American Design identity. Her design work has garnered International acclaim being featured in the London Design Museum as a Beazley Design of the Year recipient in 2017 and was also a Best of the Year Award finalist with Interior Design Magazine for product design in 2018 and nominated for a Best of Year award by the German Design Council in 2018.

She is a member of the New York based Female Design Council and is on the Board of Directors at DESIGNXRI a non-profit supporting design business and entrepreneurs. Sara has been published extensively both domestically and abroad in shelter and design magazines including: The World of Interiors, Architect’s Newspaper, Dwell, The New York Times, Interior Design Magazine, Architectural Digest and named one of Ten Contemporary Designers to Collect Today by Vogue.

Anthony Pannozzo

2017 Keynote Speaker

Anthony Pannozzo is chief design officer for Frog’s North America and Asia studios. He is responsible for driving innovation within the discipline and ensuring that Frog’s clients have access to a world-class team of curious, empathetic, imaginative, creative and diverse designers who are eager to improve the human experience through design.

James Wynn

2016 Keynote Speaker

James Wynn is director of Gensler’s Intelligent Places division. James was previously Chief Marketing Officer of Oxeon Partners, a firm that invests in, starts, and provides growth services to innovative healthcare firms in the US. Prior to that James was the Vice President of SYPartners, which joins systems thinking and creativity to help organizations in times of seismic change. In addition to a degree in Graphic Design from RISD, James holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.