Learning retreat 'Leading design for design leaders'


As design has become the key link between users and today’s complex and rapidly evolving digital and physical experiences, design leaders recognise that it’s not just the product of design or strategy, but the practice of design leadership that ultimately affects the customer experience. The learning retreat 'Leading design for design leaders' provides design leaders with a mix of theory, principles, practical guidelines, and the inspiration to create and lead design teams within all different types of organisations.

This training program is designed as an intensive, 4-day learning retreat with a focus on designing and leading your teams and organization. The experience will take you out of your daily work with an emphasis on removing distractions, and an opportunity to rethink, reset, and recharge in a supportive environment. This doesn’t mean that this retreat is a vacation. Instead, it is a full immersion in design leadership, and an investment in yourself and your career journey.

What is it about?
The key theme in moving from leading teams to leading organisations is a focus on managing complexity. As teams grow, most organisations experience the same set of symptoms: limited time and resources, involving the right people and teams, and lack of proven value. All of these can have a negative impact on designer happiness and design team success. To address this, the retreat is structured into three key areas of inspiration and practical learning: People, Practice, Platforms as essential pillars for design organisations.

A framework such as this supports having the right people working on the right things at the right time. We’ll explore the programs that champion and support to get to the desired outcomes for each pillar: happier designers, better designers, and more effective teams.

On top of that, the retreat provides a focus on your own self-development with a unique opportunity to connect with a group of peers and experts in similar leadership positions. Our team members are experienced guides who have collectively designed roles, services, tools, and processes that drive adoption of design, design teams, and design organisations. You can expect an intensive learning experience focused on elevating your skills with a mix of inspiration and practical tools to enhance your own design leadership.
Why join?
The fast pace of change, the interconnectivity of problems, and the multidisciplinary way of solving challenges, forces today’s design leaders to find new ways of leading. And many traditional leadership styles don’t allow people and organisations to progress into the future. This learning retreat is specifically crafted to connect design leaders who strive to deepen their creative leadership skills. It will help you:

  • identify and leverage your skills for leadership success
  • enhance your leadership profile
  • learn how to deliver effective feedback to foster team performance
  • explore how to structure your team, and much more.
We believe that the challenges you are facing aren’t just based on your background, experience, and seniority. They are also due to the level of design maturity of your organisation. So we not only focus on you, but also on your working context. You will understand your organisation better and reflect on its internal structure, processes and strategies, to develop stronger networks and more collaborative, effective working cultures.
For who?
This course is for emerging leaders who are ready to move beyond a medior+ or senior design role into leading large (project) design teams. The retreat brings together design leaders with management experience in roles such as Design Manager, Head of Design, Senior Designer, Team Lead, Innovation Manager, Creative Director, and Design Principle.

The retreat includes design leaders across design disciplines - such as experience design, service design and business design, and from various industries and types of organisations leading small to mid-size multidisciplinary project and design teams.

A 30-minute video call will be part of the enrollment, to ensure that you will have the best possible learning experience, matched with your situation/needs and meeting your goals.

On top of that, we believe that the quality of the retreat and the best outcome is not only defined by our training team and the visiting experts, but also by your group members. We feel responsible for the quality of both.
Learning areas
You will learn directly from industry and academic design experts, with a focus on three areas of leadership and two areas of strategic design.

Leadership areas
Design people > Create happier designers - How to ensure that the right people are working on the right things at the right time in a culture of trust, based on empowerment, allowing creativity and innovation to unfold.

Design practice > Enable better designers - How to move beyond traditional ways of management and equip your team members to lead with a mix of methodology, professional development, and knowledge sharing.

Design platforms > Build more effective teams - How to create and share your vision, establish relationships, and inspire, enable and foster teamwork to deal with complexity, uncertainty, and continuous change.

Strategic design areas
Service Design Thinking > Design services - How to manage and capture different stakeholder concerns, and design customers’ needs based solutions that improve your customers’ experiences and the interactions between the service providers (front-line staff) and its users (customers) with a business context in mind.

Systems Thinking > Design systems - How to encourage and amplify knowledge of the ecosystem approach and systems thinking from an interdisciplinary perspective, the ability to apply critical systems thinking, and the necessary basis for designing creative solutions to ecosystem management and governance problems.
You will learn directly from industry and academic design experts, with a focus on three areas of leadership and two areas of strategic design.

Daily practice
Each day a seasoned design leader will share his or her experiences, failures, learnings, and will have an open discussion with the group.

Knowledge building
After an introduction to the 5 stages of Design Org Evolution a small team of experts will give daily mini-courses. Scientific studies and theories will be mixed with practical exercises.

Personal skills
Each day a coach will guide the group in interpersonal and leadership skills. Become aware of your personal drivers, values and purpose, and learn how to transfer them to others. You will be able to book a private session (at no additional cost) to reflect on your leadership.

Sensory perception
A good leader pays attention to the mind and body. We will eat healthy, delicious food, go to a live jazz concert, and enjoy the design around the city. Our breaks and escapes will let you listen to and sharpen your senses.

Your team members want a leader to whom they can relate. They need someone who is able to show who (s)he really is. We create an intimate environment in which you learn to let your guard down and share your worries, struggles and concerns.

You will have plenty of spontaneous and planned conversations with your group members. We believe that an important part of this week is to have time to discuss and explore design leadership in a safe space, and build lasting, supportive relationships.


This year's edition will be held from Monday, October 4 to Thursday, October 7 in Barcelona, Spain. You’ll leave the city inspired with a clear set of practical guides and a toolkit for defining the core operating rhythm for your design team. The learning retreat is all inclusive. Just book and plan your travel to Barcelona and meet us on Plaça de Catalunya, the historical heart of the city. We’ll take care of everything else.


  • 4 full days of activities, such as workshops, talks, discussion, training, and coaching sessions
  • An intimate setting, together with max. 20 other participants
  • 3 nights’ accommodation (Monday - Thursday) with a private room in an inspiring, renovated modernist hotel in the heart of Barcelona
  • Nourishing breakfasts, lunches, and dinners every day and unlimited coffee, tea, refreshment drinks and lots of fruits
  • A few surprises along the way!
October 4 - October 7, 2021
Barcelona, Spain
EUR 3,650.00 - 3,900.00 *

* Prices are exclusive of 21% VAT. VAT can be reverse charged for (non-Dutch) companies with a registered VAT number that are based in the European Union.


Please fill in the form below to secure your spot and we’ll get back to you shortly.

Meet the team

To get you inspired, we would like to introduce you already to a few of the team members who will guide and teach you:


Kristin Skinner (United States) will be your main choach. Kristin is an author, speaker, teacher, and seasoned organisation design leader. She is co-author of Org Design for Design Orgs: Building and Managing In-House Design Teams.

She has been Head of Design Management at Chase, an executive leadership role focusing on Design Program Management and Design Operations. Previously she was Head of Design Management at Capital One, where she led the practice and team of design managers who coordinate the design organisation’s efforts, guided cross-functional collaboration, and enabled the design team to deliver outcomes with measurable impact. Previously, at Adaptive Path, Kristin was Managing Director where she established and lead the Design Management practice, guided sales and operations, co-led the portfolio, and scoped and co-led over 40 of the firm’s most strategic and complex projects and programs. Prior to Adaptive Path, Kristin shaped the Design Manager role for Entertainment and Devices at Microsoft’s Pioneer Studios.

Chris Grant (United States) has led product design teams in the US and Europe for over a decade, specialising in strategic projects. Today he is Director of Product Design at Preply, an online educational platform that pairs students with private tutors.

Chris is leading Preply's Design org to help shape the future of online learning through the power of real, human teaching across the globe. Previously, he led key strategic projects at innovative start-ups like Telefonica's Tuenti, Credit Suisse and Emagister. He was SVP for User Experience at the education site Sclipo when it was named one of Red Herring’s “World’s 100 Most Innovative Companies”. Chris mentors at Google Launchpad (Barcelona, Johannesburg, Kiev) and teaches at KSchool, Universitat Pompeu Fabra and ESADE.

Saswati Saha Mitra (United Kingdom) is Group Research Leader at Whatsapp. She works with multidisciplinary teams to build the right product and policy landscape in which new forms of innovation can succeed.

In her day to day life, Saswati supports 4 cross functional teams like Integrity, Emerging Platforms, Ads and Monetisation and Policy, leads WhatsApp's strategic bets teams for global expansion and growth, and is Executive Sponsor for Diversity and Inclusion. Prior to that, she led Uber's Global UX Research team. Spread across 5 continents, together with her team keeping Uber accountable to its global user base. Saswati's passion for international product development results from conducting research in 30+ countries for some of the world's most innovative companies - Google, Vodafone, Intel, Nokia, Whirlpool and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In her free time, she mentors children of immigrant background, helping them integrate in society on behalf of Family Action.

Caroline Hummels (The Netherlands) is professor in Design and Theory for Transformative Qualities at the department of Industrial Design at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).

Her activities concentrate on designing and researching transformative practices aiming to address societal challenges: changing people’s ways of living and working, through designing new socio-technological mediations that change their presence in and experience of the world. She is founder and member of the steering committee of the Tangible Embedded, and Embodied Interaction (TEI) Conference, she has been a member of a vast number of international program committees and national Think Tanks since 2001, and has given well over 130 keynote speeches, invited lectures and workshops worldwide.

Alison Rand (United States) is Senior Director, Head of Design Operations at InVision and member of InVision's Design Leadership Forum.

She is a Design Operations leader whose work combines strategic design and personnel management systems with project management expertise to enable design at scale. Before joining InVision, Alison was Head of Design Operations at Automattic working with John Maeda. She also was Director of Program Management at frog and Director of Program Planning at Hot Studio (acquired by Facebook). Prior to that she worked at Huge and IBM. With her passion and broad experience at agencies and large corporates, she creates cross-disciplinary teams and environments with operational structures that enable them to pursue the best creative work of their lives.

Anel Muller (United States) is the Design Operations Lead at PayPal. Her unique professional background has taken her from the halls of an elementary school to the storage basements of museum collections to the sunny collaboration space of the design world.

She is passionate about creating human-centered workplace cultures; balancing efficiency with humanity. Anel was the director and founder of Adaptive Path.org, the service design agency for pro-bono services and social good programs for non-profits. Currently, she is heading up Design Operations at PayPal and working to create a culture of sharing and collaboration, while developing project frameworks that help foster an atmosphere where strong design thinking and high-quality design are expected and celebrated.


What is your experience level?

Which tangible outcomes would be most useful?

Price Plan

Prices are exclusive of 21% VAT. VAT can be reverse charged for (non-Dutch) companies with a registered VAT number that are based in the European Union. ** You are willing to share your room with one other participant (two single beds).

Please provide us with the following: (Company) name, address, postal code, city, country and VAT number (optional)


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