Chappell Ellison

Director of Strategy

Launch by NTT Data

Chappell Ellison is a digital and content strategist with 15 years of experience building and delivering digital experiences for some of the most interesting companies in the world. She’s passionate about sitting down with people to untangle complex problems and make things better. Before moving into software development, she led the content strategy discipline at Huge, a Brooklyn-based creative agency. She was also a civil servant for the New York City government, where she learned the importance of design as a service job and why your vote always, always matters. Chappell is proud to be part of the founding class of the Design Writing, Research, & Criticism MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, where she began her longstanding commitment to writing about design. She served as the design columnist at Good Magazine, built out the archives at the Museum of Modern Art, and won AIGA’s Winterhouse Award for Design Writing & Criticism for her essay about the challenge of designing for people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. In her spare time, she’s probably thinking about systems design, playing the latest open world video game, reading Terry Pratchett and Ursule Le Guin books, or throwing sandbags around the gym. She’s also a guest lecturer and teacher — she currently teaches writing courses at the Interaction Design MFA program at the School of Visual Arts.

Design Didn't Save the World: Now What?

Flashback to 2008: Steve Jobs had just debuted the iPhone. A U.S. presidential candidate won the election by running on the word, “Hope.” Online media reached a new zenith of investment and promised platforms to new, inspiring voices. It was this optimism that filled the air as design was given its chance to influence culture like never before. Designers filled TED talks and main stages and brought forward a rallying cry: “Design will save the world.” The phrase was, for many years inescapable, as design asserted itself to buy a seat at the table.

Nearly twenty-five years have passed, and design didn’t live up to its TED Talk promises. This talk is an examination and indictment of how our optimism, naivete, and hubris on main stages defined the last 25 years of design. What lessons can we pass on to the next generation of designers to empower them to shape the next decade for the better? And can design truly save the world?