(Dis)Assembly. (Dis)Connection. (Dis)Trust.

7th annual HarvardxDesign Conference

Thank you for a great conference!
February 10, 2019

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Sponsored in part by a generous gift from J.W. Kaempfer, Jr. MBA ‘71

We are Social by Design

The xDesign conference is Harvard University's annual exploration of all things design. In a world at once together and apart, this year's conference explores the theme SocialxDesign. We'll engage with thinkers, doers, and leaders from across disciplines and sectors. Along the way, we'll discover what it takes to design for social assembly, connection, and trust. Let's get social, by design.


Sunday, February 10, 2019


Harvard Business School, Klarman

Photos from the Conference

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SocialxDesign conference
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SocialxDesign conference
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SocialxDesign conference
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SocialxDesign conference

Live Doodles of the Talks

SocialxDesign conference
SocialxDesign conference
SocialxDesign conference
SocialxDesign conference

Saturday, February 9


Welcome Happy Hour

Pre-registration social with DJ, drinks and appetizers

Graduate School of Design (48 Quincy St), Room 122-123 (Porticos)

Sunday, February 10



Klarman Entry


Opening Remarks

Klarman Auditorium


(Dis)assembly: Lightning Talks & Panel

Klarman Auditorium

Bas Van de Poel


Bas is Creative Director at IKEA’s research and design lab SPACE10. Together with a team of architects, engineers, technologists and designers he works on creating better and more sustainable ways of living. Current explorations are focused on shared living, solar energy, augmented intelligence and open fabrication.

Nigel Jacobs

New Urban Mechanics

Nigel is the Co-founder of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, a civic innovation incubator and R&D Lab within Boston’s City Hall. Nigel’s work is about making urban life better via innovative, people-oriented applications of technology and design. Prior to joining the City of Boston in 2006, Nigel worked in a series of technology startups in the Boston area. He was also previously the Urban Technologist in Residence at Living Cities, a philanthropic collaboration of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions. Nigel has been awarded Public Official of the year and Whitehouse Champion of Change.

Harley DuBois

Burning Man

Harley has been involved with Burning Man for more than 25 years, and was the originator of many of the Black Rock City institutions we all know and love today - theme camp placement, Greeters, Playa Info, Burning Man Information Radio (BMIR), and the rest of the Community Service teams. She was the City Manager for Black Rock City for over 10 years, and was a founding member of the Black Rock Arts Foundation. Beyond Burning Man, Harley also serves on the board of Illuminate and is one of four Founding Board Members of the Nation of Makers independent nonprofit.

Manish Vora

Museum of Ice Cream

Manish Vora is the President and Co-founder of Museum of Ice Cream. MOIC has opened five locations In two years and seen over 1M visitors. He has launched nationwide partnerships with American Express, Target and Sephora. He was named in Ad Age’s 50 Most creative and Fast Company’s Most innovative. He was previously CEO of experience-tech startup, Lightbox and co-founded the contemporary art platform GREY AREA. He was a regular culture correspondent on NBC New York and is involved with numerous non-profits including on the founding Board of UNICEF Next Generation and as an Arts Advisor to Times Square. He is from Wayland, Massachusetts and is a graduate of Yale University.

Andrew Lee


Andrew is a Project Manager of Architecture and Planning at Equinox. At Equinox, Andrew works closely with Real Estate in the development of new sites for the Company. With previous professional experience in large international and boutique architectural practices, Andrew has experience in institutional, commercial, retail and residential projects in the US, Central America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. Andrew has a Masters of Architecture from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

Panel Moderator

Courtney Sharpe

City of Boston

Courtney Sharpe is the Director of Cultural Planning for the City of Boston. In her role she focuses on advancing equitable access to resources and supporting the needs of the city's creative communities from a systems level. Prior to joining the city, she served as a Senior Planner with the Boston Planning and Development Agency in the Community Planning division. An alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Courtney co-chaired the inaugural Black in Design Conference.


Lunch with Speakers

Spangler Hall


(Dis)connection: Lightning Talks & Panel

Klarman Auditorium

Alda Ly

Alda Ly Architecture

Alda is the New Zealand–born, New York–based founder and principal of Alda Ly Architecture PLLC. The firm works primarily with entrepreneurs and startups whose ideas for new workspaces, showrooms, and living quarters have few spatial precedents, including coliving and coworking spaces like The Wing. Ly founded the studio in 2017 after tenures at Rafael Viñoly Architects, HWKN, and Leong Leong, among others. She was one of the original cofounders of MASS Design Group, the award-winning nonprofit design practice dedicated to humanitarian and socially sustainable work.

Matt Brooks

Sofar Sounds

Matt is Regional Director Of City Operations at Sofar Sounds, an international series of secret concerts with the goal of revolutionizing the live music consumption experience and helping local talent gain exposure to an international community of music lovers and industry professionals. Sofar Sounds challenges the modern concert environment, one cluttered with side conversation and phone use that takes attention away from the artists, by curating secret, invite-only performances in intimate spaces around the world.

Lillian Tong

Matter-Mind Studio

Lillian is a hybrid strategist and service designer. She creates poetic rituals that support self-inquiry, inspire meaningful connection and foster organizational change. Lillian is also a Partner and Cofounder at Matter-Mind Studio, a consultancy and research lab that practices Emotion-Centered Design. By working with people to articulate their inner needs, Matter-Mind helps individuals, organizations, and companies to take better care.

Paty Rios

Happy City

Paty leads research projects at Happy City, an urban consulting firm and research institute which uses lessons from psychology and public health to design happiness into neighborhoods and cities around the world. Paty leads the firm’s work in Latin America and is the creator of the Happy Homes toolkit, used with cities and developers to build stronger social relations into multi-family housing. Previously she developed a participatory and interdisciplinary methodology to design urban parks that promote social cohesion.

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya

Murdomo Institute, Independent designer-neuroscientist

Amanda is an award-winning neuroscientist-turned-designer, TED mainstage speaker, professor and STEM advocate. She recently founded The Murdomo Institute, which aims to bridge the gap between science and society through design. Before becoming a designer, Amanda studied Alzheimer's Disease at Columbia Medical Center. Her work brings science and society closer together and has been recognized by Fast Company, Forbes and The New York Times. She won a 2016 TED Residency and this past year, her work garnered a WeWork Creator's Award, and she was named one of NBC's 26 Emerging Asian American Voices.Through writing, speaking and design, she is trying to help the world better appreciate the importance and wonder of science.

Panel Moderator

John Peterson

Loeb Fellowship, Harvard Graduate School of Design

John Peterson, architect, educator and activist, is Curator of the Loeb Fellowship. Peterson is the founder of Public Architecture, a national nonprofit organization based in San Francisco whose work has been showcased at the Venice Architecture Biennale, MoMA, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the Benaki Museum in Athens, and the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam. A recipient of numerous design and social innovation awards, Peterson has played an important part in defining the concept of “public interest design.” He holds degrees in fine arts and architecture from Rhode Island School of Design and was a Loeb Fellow in 2006.


Break & Snacks

Klarman Entry


(Dis)trust: Lightning Talks & Panel

Klarman Auditorium

Emily McDonald


Emily is a cultural anthropologist leading research for Airbnb’s Open Homes program, which enables Airbnb’s host community to provide temporary housing to people who’ve left their home due to conflict, disasters, or to seek medical care. At Airbnb, Emily works at the intersection of anthropology and the tech sector, where she supports diverse cross-functional members of the Open Homes team to regularly conduct hands-on fieldwork as part of product development. Previously, she has served as an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at City University of New York (CUNY), and as a Postdoctoral Fellow at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) and Princeton University.

Steven Pham


Steven Phạm is a creative based in Los Angeles where he currently serves as art director for Grindr, working with a team of designers, writers, and product managers in building the company’s global LGBTQ reach. Steven works within the intersections of content, product and marketing for brands like BMW, Jack in the Box, California Lottery. He focuses on brand identity, campaign development and product messaging within the mediums of digital, print, social, event and activation. At Grindr, Steven helped to develop the "Kindr" initiative, which aims to foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment on Grindr and elsewhere within the queer community. Steven received his BFA in Advertising from Art Center College of Design and has a background in social impact and theater design.

Carolyn Witte


Carolyn is a design-thinker and storyteller, passionate about building products and brands that solve important problems in the world. She is currently the co-founder and CEO of Tia, an early-stage women’s health-tech company reimagining the highly complex world of reproductive healthcare. Through technology, data, and design, Tia is building products and services that empower women with the information they need to make informed decisions for their bodies, reproductive health, and sex lives they can confidently own. Formerly at Google Creative Lab, Carolyn developed an expertise in user insights, design-centric product development, and brand strategy.

Ling Fan


Ling is founder and CEO of Tezign.com. Backed by top VCs, Tezign’s mission is to build next generation infrastructure for creative resources. Tezign provides Creative Supplier Platform and Data Intelligence Solutions for leading brands worldwide including Unilever, Starbucks, Alibaba and more. Ling is an expert on AI Design and Organizational Intelligence. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley and now he is the founding chair of Tongji x Tezign Design & AI Lab and a PhD supervisor at Tongji University. He is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader and Culture Leader, a member of Aspen Global Leadership Network and of IEEE Council on Extended Intelligence, and was awarded Fast Company Most Creative People 2017.

Johan Liedgren


Johan is an award-winning film-director, writer and story consultant. His work with large brands, design, media and technology companies is extending narrative thinking and storytelling to products and disciplines far outside traditional application. A native Swede, Mr. Liedgren started his career as a management consultant in Stockholm, worked for Microsoft in Scandinavia, Paris and Seattle, and has since supported entrepreneurial ventures as board member of both private and publicly traded companies. Mr. Liedgren lives in Seattle with his family where he works, writes and speaks about narrative structure and story, and continues to make very independent feature films.

Blaise Aguera y Arcas


Blaise leads Google's on-device AI programs—including both basic research and new products. His group works extensively with deep neural nets for machine perception, distributed learning, machine creativity, and assistance. Until 2014 he was a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft, where he worked in a variety of roles, from inventor to strategist, and led teams with strengths in inter­ac­tion design, pro­to­typ­ing, machine vision, augmented reality, wearable com­put­ing and graphics. Blaise has given TED talks on Sead­ragon and Pho­to­synth (2007, 2012), Bing Maps (2010), and machine creativity (2016). In 2008, he was awarded MIT’s TR35 prize.

Panel Moderator

Joanne Cheung


Joanne is an artist and designer. She co-leads IDEO CoLab’s Collaborative Cities portfolio and is an affiliate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. Having lived in over a dozen cities, 8 countries, on 3 continents over the years, her favorite spaces to explore are used bookstores and public libraries.


Closing Remarks

Klarman Auditorium

Conference Team

We are a team of students from Harvard Business School, Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


  • Nicki Adler, GSD/SEAS
  • Ginny Miller, HBS
  • Eamon O'Connor, GSD/HKS


  • Mariah Barber, GSD
  • John Bracaglia, HBS
  • Romy El Sayah, GSD
  • Jenny Fan, GSD/SEAS
  • Vladimir Gintoff, GSD
  • Sara Ho, HBS
  • Ananya Kanaiya, HBS


  • Sarah Kunka, HBS
  • Tian Wei Li, GSD
  • Phoebe Lin, GSD
  • Nicolas Ouejian, GSD
  • Cody Pan, GSD
  • Liz Sparkman, HBS
  • Lily Wang, HBS
  • Zhaodi Wang, GSD