Design the Future
January 19–20, 2016: Training
January 20–22, 2016: Conference
San Francisco, CA

Becoming a great design leader: Lessons from Airbnb, Asana, Dropbox, and IDEO

Amanda Linden (Facebook), Katie Dill (Airbnb), Kristen Spilman (Dropbox), Silvia Vergani (IDEO), Melanie Araujo (Front and Center)
1:15pm Thursday, 01/21/2016
Location: Fire House
Average rating: ****.
(4.31, 26 ratings)

What skills should a designer who wants to eventually manage and lead their own great design teams be developing right now? How do these differ from the skills that landed you your current design dream job? What are the roadblocks and challenges to becoming a design manager, and how have others in our industry forged their successful paths? Join design leaders from Asana, Airbnb, Dropbox, and IDEO in discussion with Melanie Araujo of Front and Center, about the designer’s career journey.

This session is sponsored by Asana.

Photo of Amanda Linden

Amanda Linden


Amanda Linden is a director of product design at Facebook. Previously, Amanda was the head of design at Asana, an enterprise teamwork productivity app with millions of users worldwide, where she managed product and marketing design teams and led Asana’s rebrand, and a design director within Intuit’s Small Business group, where she led a QuickBooks redesign and managed the payments, payroll, and accounting design teams. Amanda holds an MBA and a BS in visual communication from UC Davis.

Photo of Katie Dill

Katie Dill


As the head of experience design at Airbnb, Katie Dill leads the designers defining Airbnb’s digital products and services. Katie is responsible for the people, processes, and structures that help the team craft high-quality experiences in the online and offline worlds.

Katie joined Airbnb from Greenstart Venture Design, where, as a partner and creative director, she worked with early stage startups to design user experience and brand strategies. Prior to Greenstart, as creative director at frog, Katie led strategic multidisciplinary design programs for companies including Intel, Disney, Samsung, Dolby, and Chase Bank.

Katie’s expertise includes interaction and industrial design, business strategy, and user research. She studied industrial design at Art Center College of Design and taught interaction and industrial design in California College of Art’s graduate design program for three years.

Photo of Kristen Spilman

Kristen Spilman


Kristen Spilman is the brand design director at Dropbox. She oversees a multidisciplinary team of creatives who focus on defining the Dropbox brand. Kristen and her team work with cross-functional teams to build high-quality experiences in Dropbox’s products and brand communications.

Before joining Dropbox, Kristen was a faculty member at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where she taught design courses at the undergraduate level. Prior to her tenure at MICA, she spent 8 years as a design associate at the world-renowned design studio Pentagram.

Her work has been featured in numerous design publications and exhibitions and has received awards from the Art Directors Club, Type Directors Club, AIGA 50 Books, Society of Publication Designers, the Print Regional Design Annual, and I.D. Annual Design Review. Kristen received her BFA in graphic design from Boston University in 2001 and her MFA in graphic design from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in 2005.

Photo of Silvia Vergani

Silvia Vergani


Silvia Vergani is the head of Design Research at IDEO in Palo Alto. Silvia is passionate about helping clients uncover users’ needs to shape insights that inspire new products, services, and systems.

Silvia has worked across multiple industries, including transportation, technology, finance, entertainment, tourism, and government. She is now focused on digital health and has led design teams and research challenges across a wide range of projects, including crafting a strategy to shape the future of genetics, envisioning brain-activated homes for veterans, and designing interventions for patients with schizophrenia.

She is known for being experimental with her design research approach and has helped pioneer IDEO’s method to cross-validate insights between ethnographic and data-driven methods to inform both design and business strategies.

Photo of Melanie  Araujo

Melanie Araujo

Front and Center

Melanie Araujo is the founder of Front and Center, an organization focused on increasing diversity in Silicon Valley through design. Through Front and Center, Melanie works to demonstrate and promote high-tech career possibilities to low-opportunity young adults, primarily through a free, six-month intensive design training program. The program focuses on youths from African American and Latino communities but is open to all groups.

Melanie has been engaged in community development in Silicon Valley for several years, spending most of her career in frontend, product, interaction, and UI/UX design. Before that, she launched the first ever Nielsen NeuroFocus client NeuroLab in Tokyo, Japan, while working as a neuromarketing researcher with Nielsen NeuroFocus, where she assisted blue chip brands such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and CBS to identify whole-body user design solutions.

Melanie holds a BS in behavioral neuroscience from Northeastern University and combines her over 10 years of practical and theoretical neuroscience experience with UX/UI design and interaction design skills to illuminate the education and career opportunities for a low- income background work force through speaking, training, and running workshops on design, diversity, and inclusion.