10 Female Leaders Shaping the Future of Design

International Women’s Day offers a powerful platform to celebrate the achievements of women across all fields, and the design industry is no exception. While the industry has historically been dominated by men, a growing number of talented women are breaking barriers and shaping the future of design with their creativity, innovation, and unique perspectives.

This article highlights the diverse and inspiring journeys of ten prominent women who are leaving their mark on various design disciplines. By showcasing their remarkable contributions, we aim to inspire others to pursue careers in design and advocate for increased representation and inclusivity within the industry.

1. Kavitha Iyer: Weaving Design Experiences at Intercontinental Hotels Group

Kavitha Iyer, a licensed architect and designer with over two decades of experience in hospitality, brings a passion for art and travel to her role as Head of Design, Americas, at Intercontinental Hotels Group. Kavitha leads brand design initiatives, shaping inspiring design experiences for each hotel brand within the Americas. Her extensive portfolio includes leading the reimagination of Marriott Hotels and the transformation of Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, along with several other renowned brands. Recognized for her innovative design solutions, Kavitha’s work has been featured in various travel publications, solidifying her position as a leading figure in the hospitality design landscape.

2. Eleftheria Deko: Illuminating the World with Artful Design

Eleftheria Deko, the creative force behind Eleftheria Deko & Associates, is a renowned lighting designer specializing in architectural, stage, and event lighting. Renowned for her expertise, Eleftheria’s design solutions cater to diverse projects, transforming spaces with tailored lighting installations. Her dedication to the craft has earned her numerous accolades, including the prestigious “Woman Artist of the Year” award in 2009. Eleftheria’s career highlight includes contributing to the lighting design of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies, an achievement that further solidified her international acclaim.

3. Tori Soudan: A Multifaceted Creative Pushing Design Boundaries

Tori Soudan, a self-described “multifaceted creative,” approaches design with a unique perspective. Through her signature brands and consulting services, Tori creates and elevates fashion products and experiences. Her keen eye for luxury, design, and business acumen has propelled her career, guiding her own successful brands and empowering others through her consulting practice. A testament to her innovative spirit, Tori consistently pushes boundaries, challenging the conventional notions of design, both visually and experientially.

4. Lilian González-González: Championing Social Design and Inclusivity

Lilian González-González, an industrial designer with a multidimensional career, wears many hats. She is the Industrial Design Coordinator at Anáhuac University of México, a board member of the World Design Organization, and co-founder of Pecha-Kucha Queretaro. She has curated and organized numerous international conferences, talks, symposiums, and exhibitions in the realms of art and design. Her influence extends to the judging panels of various international design awards, where her discerning eye reflects her deep-seated expertise.

5. Sooner Routhier: Lighting Up the Stage with Creative Brilliance

Sooner Routhier, a name synonymous with innovation in lighting design, has significantly shaped the industry. With an impressive collection of awards, including the Parnelli Award, the Live Design Achievement Award, and the Live Production Summit Pinnacle Award, Sooner’s talent has garnered recognition worldwide. Throughout her career, she has collaborated with renowned music artists like Coldplay, The Weeknd, and Imagine Dragons, creating visually captivating lighting experiences for major tours and television shows. Sooner’s commitment to fostering inclusivity within the industry is evident through her co-founding of EVEN, an organization dedicated to promoting diversity and equity in live events.

6. Cheresse Thornhill-Goldson: Cultivating the Next Generation of Design Talent

Cheresse Thornhill-Goldson, a footwear industry veteran, utilizes her design expertise to inspire future generations. With rich industry experience designing footwear for renowned athletes at Nike, Cheresse transitioned to education, teaching product design at various levels. She currently leads adidas’ S.E.E.D. (School for Experiential Education in Design), a groundbreaking program focused on empowering diverse women to pursue careers in footwear design. Cheresse’s dedication to fostering inclusivity within the industry paves the way for a more equitable future in design.

7. Sara Sheikh Akbari: Shaping Architectural Landscapes with Vision

Sara Sheikh Akbari, an Associate Director at Zaha Hadid Architects, has played a pivotal role in shaping some of the world’s most iconic architectural structures. Since joining the firm in 2007, Sara has contributed significantly to renowned projects like the Heydar Aliyev Center in Azerbaijan and the award-winning BEEAH Headquarters in the UAE.

8. Crystal Martin: A Rising Star in Interior Design

Crystal Martin, a student at Savannah College of Art and Design, has already begun to make waves in the design world. Earning the “Emerging Interior Designer of the Year” title for her project “Le Fer Plat V” showcases her exceptional talent and potential. Crystal’s unique vision and creativity mark her as a rising star to watch in the field of interior design.

9. Mrs. Mao Hua: A Design Visionary with Global Impact

Mrs. Mao Hua, a design professional with an international perspective, brings together artistic expression and life inspiration to create “perfect design.” Her design philosophy emphasizes theatrical and dramatic aesthetics, transforming spaces into captivating experiences that enrich and inspire. With a diverse portfolio spanning hospitality design, residences, and clubhouses, Mrs. Mao has garnered international recognition for her innovative and impactful design solutions.

10. Meghan Preiss: A Design Advocate Shaping the Future

Meghan Preiss, a Board Member of the World Design Organization and Manager of CX Design Integration at Delta Airlines, is a passionate advocate for design education and inclusivity. As the youngest board member in the WDO’s history, Meghan actively works to elevate design education opportunities and empower future generations of designers. Her diverse experience, encompassing design research, strategy, and business design, equips her with a holistic understanding of the design landscape. Meghan’s dedication to fostering inclusivity within the industry extends beyond her professional roles, as she actively volunteers and mentors within design communities.

These ten women represent just a glimpse of the countless talented women shaping the design landscape. Their diverse contributions and unwavering commitment to their craft inspire all of us to embrace innovation, advocate for inclusivity, and strive for a future where design empowers and uplifts everyone.