Dr Lesley-Ann Noel

As the Associate Director for Design Thinking for Social Impact and Professor of Practice at the Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking at Tulane University, Lesley Ann Noel teaches design thinking courses for the Social Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship Minor and build Taylor’s capacity for design thinking education through facilitation, consultations, and training.

Before joining the Taylor Center, she was part of the 2018-2019 Ocean Design Teaching Fellowship at Stanford University, a cohort of fellows that brought deep experience in design, ocean science, and international policy. The Ocean Design Teaching Fellow program is co-hosted with the Stanford and the Center for Ocean Solutions. In her professional practice, she draws on the fields of design, anthropology, business, and education to create product development and business strategy with stakeholders.

Her research practice is guided by an emancipatory philosophy. She focuses on developing design curriculum for non-traditional audiences and promoting the work of designers outside of Europe and North America. 

Noel completed her Ph.D. in Design at North Carolina State University in 2018. Her Ph.D. research focused on design thinking at a rural primary school in Trinidad and Tobago. She also holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of the West Indies and a bacharelado (equivalent to bachelor’s degree) in industrial design from Universidade Federal do Paraná. She is a former Fulbright Scholar and a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago.


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.