The Redesigners | The Design Observer Twenty
We are all redesigners now.

The Redesigners

The Design Observer Twenty | Sponsored by IDEO

The Design Observer Twenty is our curated selection of twenty remarkable people, projects, and big ideas solving an urgent social need.

Design Observer’s mission has always been simple: to expand the definition of design in the service of a better world.

Design comes to life in exactly this way: embracing disciplines other than our own. Life comes to design in exactly this way: meeting the moment with openness, urgency, and hope.

And yet, lists are tricky things.

As we considered the occasion of Design Observer’s twentieth anniversary, we spent time with past — sifting through our archives; talking with community members, contributors, and trusted advisers — and thought deeply about what it has meant to bear witness to the world through design for two decades.

Where we landed was where this list begins: with what comes next.

The redesigners on this list are showcasing new ways of addressing big problems sustainably, by challenging key assumptions about how the world can and should work. Some are well established, other projects are relatively new. But all are drawing our attention to new tools applied in new ways in service of a better, fairer, healthier, and more beautiful world.

Some, like Games for Change, a global community creating innovative games that deliver measurable social impact, started as an attempt to bring people together to make something meaningful. “Designing a game is a lot like creating a whole world,” says G4C president Suzanne Pollack. “When you think about it that way, it’s easy to see the connection between game design and impact — because isn’t making an impact really about designing the world we want?”

Others, like Edwin Keh and Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel, are applying cutting-edge research and deploying unusual collaborations to rid the fashion industry of waste and carbon. “Real-world problems are multi-disciplined problems,” says Keh, the company’s CEO. “That desire to be useful and the privilege of being involved in — and trying to solve — interesting, complex, and consequential problems has always been something that motivates and fascinates me.”

We think of these twenty redesigners as beacons, not icons, shining a light on the next best version of the next best idea. But what comes next is everyone.

If the future is to benefit from the current promise of these ideas, then it’s on all of us to become redesigners — to think through the inequities around us, embrace ideas and perspectives not our own, and insist on full civic participation from everyone.

And shine the light.

Ellen McGirt

IDEO's CEO Derek Robson on why this list is important, now.

Alison Mears + Jonsara Ruth | Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons
Giving architects and designers the tools they need to remove toxic chemicals in affordable housing and beyond.

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein | Cosmologist, professor, author, advocate
A stargazing particle physicist is a powerful force for equity in science, academia, and society.

Cindi Leive | The Meteor
A feminist media collective dishing up gender and worker equity at scale.

Deanna Van Buren | Designing Justice
Eliminating mass incarceration through architecture and design.

Dr. Dima Gazda | Esper Bionics
Bringing elegant design, inclusion, and responsible AI to the field of prosthetics.

Edwin Keh | Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel
Preparing the fashion industry for a sustainable future through breakthrough research and collaboration.

Games for Change

A global design community focused on games fearlessly collaborates to create real-world impacts.

Haraldur “Halli” Þorleifsson | Ramp Up
An Icelandic designer and entrepreneur making the world more connected through design.

Henry Timms | Lincoln Center
Expanding the canon of classical art to become affordable, relevant, and accessible to everybody.

Dr. Ismail D. Badjie | Innovarx Global
An innovative model delivering dignified, community-centered preventive health services in The Gambia.

Judy Samuelson | Aspen Institute
Bringing together diverse players in business, science, government, design, and the arts to tackle the most urgent problems facing the planet.

Lata Reddy | Prudential Financial
Bridging the racial wealth gap with initiatives created with and for Black and brown communities.

Mariana Matus, PhD + Newsha Ghaeli | Biobot Analytics
An unusual collaboration yields a new tool to detect public health threats and redesign cities.

Massoud Hassani + Mahmud Hassani | Mine Kafon
A childhood toy grows up to become a tool to end the scourge of landmines.

​​New Red Order
A public secret society of Indigenous artists and filmmakers using art, humor, and provocation to respond to settler violence and recruit non-Native accomplices to the cause of returning stolen lands.

Niiyokamigaabaw Deondre Smiles, PhD | The Geographic Indigenous Futures Collaboratory
A global, distributed Indigenous-led geography lab supporting Indigenous communities doing political, cultural, and climate-based work.

Suzanne Ishaq, PhD | The Microbes and Social Equity working group
A community forms to advance social equity at the microscopic level.

Timnit Gebru | DAIR
Turning AI into a responsible and joyful tool for real people.

Tynesha McHarris, Hakima Abbas, + Amina Doherty | Black Feminist Fund
Showing the philanthropic sector how to fund Black feminists like we want them to win.

Wemimo Abbey + Samir Goel | Esusu
An innovative fintech firm serving previously invisible customers once facing homelessness.

The Redesigners

The Design Observer Twenty

The Design Observer Twenty is our curated selection of twenty remarkable people, projects, and big ideas solving an urgent social need.

Mariana Matus, PhD + Newsha Ghaeli
Cindi Leive
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein
The Design Observer Twenty

IDEO IDEO is a global design company. We create positive impact by taking a human- and planet-centered approach, by applying creative mindsets and skills, and by teaching others to do the same, because a better future is for all of us to design. Find out more here.