From Dinner Club to the Design Executive Council

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From Dinner Club to the Design Executive Council

Dinner Club Origins

Back in 2021, when I hosted my first design leadership dinner as a gesture of thanks to those who contributed to my thesis research, I will never forget the feeling I had — a sense of community, kinship, and safe space to discuss industry matters and design leadership. Near the end of the dinner, one design executive said: “when’s our next one? This was like group therapy!”

I knew in that moment, it struck an emotional chord. I felt a sense of responsibility to make this come to life.

Founding of the Design Executive Council

In 1956, when Thomas J Watson and Eliot Noyes launched IBM’s first corporate design management program — Steve Jobs was only 1 year old.

Six decades later in 2022, corporate design management programs have become more commonplace in business as in-house design functions have become essential to business success. From startups to blue chip companies, design organizations have grown in their presence within corporations.

I believe there is a sufficient critical mass of design executives to begin forming the premier membership network for design executives. The Design Executive Council with sponsorship from PayPal hosted its inaugural event in November 2022 to kick off the first of our signature Seasonal Dinners series and launch the DXC.

Intentional Spaces for Design Executives

The reason for gathering is timely — we wanted to create a dedicated, intentional space for design executives to meet their peers regularly. In 2022, we saw over a dozen appointments to Chief Design Officer, including at public companies that traditionally did not treat design with this level of corporate leadership significance. We are witnessing many tech design executives beginning to make career moves to more established Fortune 500 companies to establish more mature design capabilities, culture, and competitive advantages through design.

The Design Executive Council is specifically positioned as a premium, private membership network that provides design executives a structured executive learning and development program across their annual membership. Members gain access to exclusive assets and resources that unlock greater insight and visibility into the design executive profession, including the DXC 100 tracker of chief designers within the Fortune 1000, expert content, and proprietary data and benchmarks that unlock new intelligence for strategic success.

While there are other design leadership communities, we believe none were exclusively dedicated to the design executive demographic, nor were they communities created by design executives for design executives. Design executives have highly specialized needs that are significantly different from other networks we have seen in the market and we want to build across their career lifecycle. The DXC is led through a mission-driven, rigorous, and research-driven lens that enables us to holistically understand how to advance the profession’s image, theory, and practices.

Seasonal Dinners

Seasonal Dinners surround the ceremonial passage of time to provide design leaders with a beautiful and intentional in-person space to reflect, share and connect as a profession.

Gordon Ching, Founder of Design Executive Council presenting

The dinner was hosted by Gordon Ching (Founder, Design Executive Council) and our sponsor Daniela Jorge (Chief Design Officer at PayPal). Gordon and Daniela partnered together in curating a diverse group of design executives who represent some of the most established and high potential leaders. The group has collectively led design functions and teams at some of the most innovative and successful companies including Affirm, Apple, Coinbase, eBay, Facebook, Google, IDEO, Intuit, Lyft, Microsoft, Nike, PayPal, Pinterest, Splunk, Stripe, Twitter, Uber, Yahoo!, and YouTube.

Daniela Jorge, Chief Design Officer at PayPal

Given the history of design in Silicon Valley, from the early days at Netscape, Yahoo! to Intuit, many design executives have had familiar bonds and relationships spanning two decades. Between our participants, they have either been hired, managed, or worked with each other in team capacities. It was beautiful to witness the strong bonds between design executives who have essentially grew up together across their design careers.

Matthew Holloway, Global Head of Design at SnapLogic, Dantley Davis, Global VP Digital Design at Nike

Building our community

As we move forward, we will continue to host dinners for design executives to gain both inspiration and practical knowledge. We see a world where design executives are meeting each other regularly, have a forum to discuss safely, and contribute to setting standards that elevate the role of the design executive.

Irene Au, Operating Partner at Khosla Ventures

Our mission is to advance design leadership to the highest levels of business. To achieve that, we are building a membership network that fortifies our relationship between design and business. From dinner club to a network, this is the beginning of a new chapter for design leadership.

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