Dr Lesley-Ann Noel

Dr. Lesley-Ann Noel is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Design Studies at North Carolina State University. She has a BA in Industrial Design from the Universidade Federal do Paraná, in Curitiba, Brazil. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. She earned her Ph.D. in Design from North Carolina State University in 2018.

Lesley-Ann practices design through emancipatory, critical, and anti-hegemonic lenses,  focusing on equity, social justice, and the experiences of people who are often excluded from design research. Her research also highlights the work of designers outside of Europe and North America as an act of decolonizing design. She also attempts to promote greater critical awareness among designers and design students by introducing critical theory concepts and vocabulary into the design studio e.g. through The Designer’s Critical Alphabet.

Lesley-Ann’s research interests are emancipatory research centered around the perspectives of those who would traditionally be excluded from research, community-led research, design-based learning, and design thinking. She practices primarily in the area of social innovation, education, futures workshops and public health. She is co-Chair of the Pluriversal Design Special Interest Group of the Design Research Society. Before joining North Carolina State University, she was the Associate Director of Design Thinking for Social Impact at Tulane University, and she was a lecturer at Stanford University and the University of the West Indies.


Prof. Mugendi K. M’Rithaa

Prof. Mugendi K. M’Rithaa is a transdisciplinary industrial designer, educator, researcher and consultant presently working at Machakos University, Kenya. He studied in Kenya, the USA, India, and South Africa and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Design; a Masters degree in Industrial Design; a Higher/Postgraduate Diploma Higher Education and Training; as well as a Doctorate in Universal Design. He is widely traveled and has taught in Kenya, Botswana, Canada, India, Norway, South Africa and Sweden and is passionate about various expressions of socially conscious design, including Advanced Ergonomics/Human Factors EngineeringDesign Thinking/Human-Centred Design (HCD); Designerly Strategies for Mitigating Climate ChangeDesign for Social Innovation and SustainabilityDistributed Renewable EnergyIndigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS); Participatory/Co-DesignSustainable DevelopmentSustainable Transportation; and Universal/Inclusive Design (UD).

Mugendi has a special interest in the pivotal role of design thinking in advancing the developmental agenda on the African continent. He is a founding member and fellow of the Pan-Afrikan Design Institute (PADI)/Design Council of Afrika, and is associated with a number of other international networks focusing on design within industrially developing (or majority world contexts) including the Association of Designers of India (ADI). He is also the Founding Patron of the Interior Designers’ Association of Kenya (IDAK); a Board Member of Open Design Afrika (ODA); the Special Advisor to the Hasso Plattner School of Design Thinking – d-school at the University of Cape Town; the Special Advisor to the Nairobi Design Week (NDW); a Founding Professional Member of the Design Kenya Society (DKS); as well as an Advisory Committee Member of the International Center for Creativity and Sustainable Development (ICCSD) under the auspices of UNESCO. Additionally, Mugendi is President Emeritus and Senator of the World Design Organization – having been the first African President in the history of the WDO from 2015-2017. Much of his work with the WDO focuses on the importance of supporting the aspirations of designers worldwide in the [industrial] design profession’s collective quest to resolve wicked problems in diverse contexts.

Saki Mafundikwa 

Saki Mafundikwa is the founder and director of the Zimbabwe Institute of Vigital Arts (ZIVA) a design and new media training college in Harare. He has an MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University. He returned home in 1998 to found ZIVA after working in New York City as a graphic designer, art director and design educator. His book, Afrikan Alphabets: the Story of Writing in Africa was published in 2004. Besides being of historical importance, it is also the first book on Afrikan typography. It is currently out of print.

His award-winning first film, Shungu: The Resilience of a People  had its world premiere at 2009’s International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Active on the international lecture circuit, he was a speaker at TED2013 in Long Beach, California.

He keynoted the first ever Pan African Design Institute (PADI) conference in Ghana in February, 2019. He spoke at the TED/PMI event in Dar-es-Salaam in September, 2019. He has also run workshops for design students in Europe, North, South and Central America, and Afrika. He currently delivers lectures and conducts workshops on ZOOM for international students.

He has been published widely on design and cultural issues and is currently working on a revised edition of Afrikan Alphabets which he hopes will be published in 2021.

He lives and farms in Harare, Zimbabwe.