Katrina Alcorn

Katrina Alcorn is a global product design executive and award-winning author. She has built two highly successful design practices in her 20+ years in the tech industry. The first was the UX practice at Hot Studio, a boutique agency in San Francisco (bought by Facebook in 2013). The second was at Autodesk, where she centralized the digital design teams and drove a 5x increase in global e-commerce, and measurable improvements in customer satisfaction.

Most recently, Katrina led one of the world’s largest design practices at IBM. IBM’s 3,000+ designers create software, hardware, brand, and web experiences powered by AI and used by millions worldwide. Under Katrina’s leadership, IBM Design drove major improvements to customer satisfaction and won a record number of product design awards.

Katrina is also the author of an award-winning book, “Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink,” about the challenges mothers face in the workplace, and she’s an advocate for workplace culture that supports the reality of modern-day families.

Katrina Alcorn

About the talk

From 'Design Leader' to 'Leader': Dropping the title, keeping the impact

- Barbican Centre

In the current landscape, many design leaders feel like they've hit a wall. The industry buzzes with stories like 'The Great Design Freakout,' reflecting the widespread anxiety over shrinking innovation budgets and their impact on design teams. What does this mean for those at the helm of design?

This session is a blend of reality check and pep talk. It may be a tough time to be a design leader, but it's also a time to shine.

Great design leaders are inherently great problem solvers. The skills and mindsets that drive success in design are equally effective in addressing broader organisational challenges.

Drawing from her journey from journalist to designer, to leading one of the world's largest design practices, and eventually becoming a business executive, Katrina will share insights on how design thinking can be a game-changer beyond traditional boundaries. For some, this may be a liberating opportunity to explore roles like CPO, COO, startup founder, or CEO. Because at the core, every challenge is a design problem, and a human-centred approach to leadership can transform our careers and our organisations.

Stay up-to-date on new events and opportunities