08.10.21
Jessica Helfand + Ellen McGirt | Audio

S9E7: Lotenna Enwonwu


Lotenna Enwonwu is the global executive creative director at Coursera.

Lotenna’s uncle Ben Enwonwu, who has been called the father of African modernism, was a formative influence, and he has explored music, painting, and sculpture, but, he says,
As I'm getting older and older and more seasoned in my craft, I'm not gravitating to self-expression quite as much. I'm more interested in solving the bigger problems, in communicating messages to the masses, which draws me closer to the design, which ends up making the job more pleasurable.
And Ellen quotes from Enwonwu’s essay I Want to Be a Creative Director in the episode.

Follow The Design of Business | The Business of Design on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app.

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Buy Self-Reliance, Jessica’s latest book.

Subscribe to RaceAhead, Ellen’s regular newsletter on race and leadership for Fortune .

If you enjoyed this conversation with Lotenna, you might want to listen to Ellen’s and Jessica’s earlier conversation with Maurice Cherry.

This season’s theme music is from Solar Echoes, by Nigel Stanford.

And a big thanks to this season’s sponsor, Mailchimp.


Transcript

Ellen McGirt
Hey, everyone, I'm Ellen McGirt.

Jessica Helfand
And I'm Jessica Helfand,.

Ellen McGirt
And this is The Design of Business | The Business of Design. The Design of Business| The Business of Design is brought to you by MailChimp. So you want to grow your business. Now what? Mailchimp's all-in-one marketing platform allows you to manage more of your marketing activities all in one place so you can market smarter and grow faster. Now what?

Jessica Helfand
MailChimp that's what

Ellen McGirt
Learn more at Mailchimp dot com. So, Jessica, we're here to talk about learning and teaching and transforming the world. You are a fabulous educator and transformer of the world. And I'm curious because you've mostly taught in person and you've taught studio practice like hands-on kinds of things. But recently, you and I worked together on a course that you delivered for one of our learning communities, Fortune Connect, that was all about observation and all about that kind of observational orientation. But it was online. What was that like for you?

Jessica Helfand
All kinds of people from disciplines far beyond any that I know about, we all look. And I think there's something about honoring and privileging and sort of paying attention to the way you look and slowing down with the way you look, and slowing down with what it is you see and perceive, how you perceive it, how you explain it to someone else. That I think lets us remember that the screen is is just a very small tool in a very big toolkit. That becomes, of course, more challenging when you're teaching because you have learning outcomes and you have objectives. But I think at the end of the day, we're all observers.

Ellen McGirt
Yeah. That the tension you set outcomes, learning outcomes. You know, you think about this in the workforce, the kinds of exhaustion that we're feeling as we're trying to not work from home, but get work done during a pandemic when we're all frightened and things are starting to heat up again. And now we talk about being lifelong learners. And now we're talking about, you know, we have to reskill and we have to reorient and we have to learn, learn, learn, learn. But can we be always on learning machines?

Jessica Helfand
Is it possible that part of being a lifelong learner or observer is paying attention to things you didn't know you had to pay attention to? And one of those things is bias. So you write about this, you think about this all the time. So here's my anecdote that I was really knocked out by: Someone here at Yale in the divinity school, I believe it was, was teaching a course in the pandemic on Zoom. So someone in the class, it was only about 10 or 12 students, gets on Zoom and he's driving. He's in the car. And the other students in the class make the assumption, as one might, that he is just phoning it in, that maybe he's not really paying attention because he's multitasking. Until it turns out, as somebody notices, because they're paying close attention, that someone's getting out of the backseat and someone else is getting in the backseat and this student is an Uber driver, and that is how he's supporting himself during the pandemic so that he could stay in school. To me, this was the most poignant story about you think you know how screens work? No. Bear witness to what's going on around you. Look close, look harder, slow down.

Ellen McGirt
I love that. All right. Let's meet Lo.

Jessica Helfand
Lotenna Enwonwou is the global executive creative director at Coursera, and he's based in Atlanta

Ellen McGirt
Before Coursera, Lotenna worked at MailChimp. In fact, you may have heard his voice on last season's midrolls ads. And we decided not to ask Lotenna about MailChimp today because there's plenty of other things to talk about.

Jessica Helfand
So here's one. the cello. Because I play cello as a kid and you played cello as a kid. Do you still play?

Lotenna Enwonwou
No, I haven't played since. I think maybe ninth grade

Jessica Helfand
Ditto! What happened to us in ninth grade? We decided to become teenagers instead of cellists

Ellen McGirt
Girls happened

Lotenna Enwonwou
Yeah, it wasn't cool to carry a cello around in ninth grade, so uh —

Jessica Helfand
Were you envious, as I was, of people who played piano because they didn't have to carry their instrument with them?

Lotenna Enwonwou
Piano, guitar like so at my school, there weren't any guitars that they could loan out to the students. So if you wanted to play the guitar, you had to bring your own guitar. So that was the one that I wanted to play the most. But we didn't have the means at the time.

Ellen McGirt
Well, I played the recorder, which is significantly less cool than the cello. So, Lotenna, where are you talking to us from today?

Lotenna Enwonwou
I'm in Atlanta.

Jessica Helfand
You know, Ellen and I sometime between interviewing Janelle Monae and the pandemic, would fantasize routinely about going to Atlanta together.

Ellen McGirt
I know.

Jessica Helfand
To meet our friends at Mailchimp to meet you

Ellen McGirt
To meet Tyler Perry.

Jessica Helfand
Meet Tyler Perry.

Ellen McGirt
We wanted to make a circuit.

Jessica Helfand
That hasn't happened yet. But if we show up on your doorstep, you've been warned.

Lotenna Enwonwou
I love how I'm being placed as one of the staples in Atlanta.

Jessica Helfand
You are. You, Janelle Monae, and Tyler Perry. That's it.

Lotenna Enwonwou
Yeah,.

Jessica Helfand
That's the trifecta right there. But it leads me to want to ask you, because you grew up and had this love of music and got into the Atlanta music scene and at some point jumped lanes into this beautiful explosive forms of visual expression that have led to your career. And I wonder if you could pinpoint for us how that came about.

Lotenna Enwonwou
Yeah. Music was like, I guess like my first passion artistically, I've always kind of gravitated to all of the art stuff, like painting, sculpting, carving. It's just something that's always been a part of me and part of my family. And so the transition going from music to, I guess, graphic design and web design kind of happened because of a lack of mentorship. It was very difficult for me to find a mentor that I felt was going to lead me down the right path and kind of help me hone their skills that I needed to get to where I wanted to go. And at the time, web design was was still completely new. And when I went to apply for school, they were like, here's an option to try this, and you get to do a lot of other things like photography, videography and graphic design. And so it seemed like something really cool. I was like, alright, I'll try it out. And more and more like I just got pulled in and I started shooting video instead of being in the studio as much. And it just kind of pulled me more and more that way. And 20 something years later, I'm I'm where I am.

Jessica Helfand
Your uncle for our listeners who don't know, Ben Enwonwou, was a Nigerian painter who has been called the father of African modernism. Did you grow up from the get go like this was part of the palette of experiences you as a young person had?

Lotenna Enwonwou
Yeah, he's he's kind of like my carrot that I'm constantly chasing. Like, I remember as a kid, like my parents telling me like he wanted me to come live with him. Of course, my parents weren't going to go with that. But even at that, like, it kind of put a battery in my back, like they always would say, like, yeah, he thought you were special as a as a little kid and he wanted you to come stay with them. I don't know if it's true or not, but it definitely like, made me gravitate towards the arts a lot more.

Ellen McGirt
That's incredible. And you still have a big family in Nigeria?

Lotenna Enwonwou
I have a big family everywhere. So there's some in Nigeria, some in London, some in New Jersey, some in Boston, here in Atlanta, some in Houston. They're all over.

Ellen McGirt
What did your folks do when you were growing up?

Lotenna Enwonwou
My dad was was an attorney. My mom, she's interesting because both of them are interesting— but my mom was she wanted to always be a doctor, lawyer, and engineer. And she ended up being a microbiologist, Microsoft Systems certified engineer, and and a paralegal.

Jessica Helfand
So now we know you come from a family of slackers.

Ellen McGirt
A lot going on in Atlanta. Some heartbreaking stuff this year, but also a ground swell of really interesting business and entrepreneurs and black venture capital energy, that kind of stuff going on. A lot of technology, energy there. So what's it been like working there through the pandemic?

Lotenna Enwonwou
Well, I guess it depends which lens you're looking through. It's a it's a very different environment because we have very liberal and very conservative people all living together. And so you get a lot of different ideas and a lot of different reactions to everything that's going on.

Jessica Helfand
And you joined Coursera in the middle of the pandemic, what was that like?

Lotenna Enwonwou
It was very, very different than any other experience I've been through. In that, being in the Zoom world, it's not like going to an on site interview like where— so Coursera is based in San Francisco. I would have flown out there.

Ellen McGirt
Right.

Lotenna Enwonwou
Walked through the office, got to meet everybody, shaking hands, kissed babies, all of that stuff, and then come back to Atlanta and then have the conversation. But it was very different, like everything was through Zoom. I haven't met any of my coworkers in person. It's something that it takes adapting to and my team is trying to constantly, like, build those environments where everybody can kind of feel like there are other people there with them. So yeah, it's been a it's been a test, but I think we're adapting it.

Ellen McGirt
The ultimate promise of Coursera back in the day I know it's been around since 2012, was that it was really the future. It was going to democratize access to education and some of it was free and some of it you get paid for. And I know it was part of that hype cycle and criticized, and some of it worked or people don't finish their courses and all of that stuff. And I'm curious if you are talking about internally what this incredible global use case where video and distant working learning technology means for Coursera going forward?

Lotenna Enwonwou
Well, short answer. Yes, we are talking about that. The idea that everything kind of went to this Zoom world was was a major plus for the company, and we are definitely going to leverage the momentum that we've picked up during this pandemic and kind of turning this this negative into a positive.

Jessica Helfand
The Design of Business | The Business of Design is brought to you by MailChimp. Let's take a moment to hear from a MailChimp customer about weathering this period of crisis.

Sarah Lowe
My name is Sarah Lowe. I'm in New York City and I'm the marketing director for Better Spaces Pre-pandemic we built out and operated amenity spaces for tenants and employees.

Jessica Helfand
Sarah explained how things changed when everyone was working from home.

Sarah Lowe
We can't hand you the juice. We can't hand you the meditation pillow. We have done virtual happy hours where we have mailed bottles of wine. We've mailed wellness kits. We started doing a class called Live from Hawaii and the instructor is in Hawaii. And we did a lot of AB testing with like, do you want a gif? You want a movie? Is it a still picture? Is it a flier? Like, what are people clicking on? And it was this gif of her walking through Hawaii. You can see the ocean, you can see the sun. And people responded so intensely to that. AB testing showed me the next step, which was to continue to make more dynamic content for the newsletters and that people are wanting just easy, accessible movement that makes them feel like they're not in their apartments or in their homes.

Jessica Helfand
Sarah Lowe relies on MailChimp to get her work done.

Sarah Lowe
We have about 20 different audiences. Some of them are suburban, some of them are here in New York. So I use a lot of the segmentation features, a lot of the tools in Mailchimp tell us even within the email, like what people are engaging with and what message is resonating. So that's been really powerful in building that message and getting it to the right people.

Jessica Helfand
Now what? MailChimp that's what. Learn more at Mailchimp dot com.

Jessica Helfand
I wanted to ask you, Lotenna, what it's like living in a screen based Zoom world, and being the creative chief for a medium that is exclusively screen based.

Lotenna Enwonwou
I guess I have a better insight as to the fatigue that learners might come across. So that's going to play a part as we dig into the promise. The way I look at it is like I'm over the promise, right like we make, the promise to the audience, and then our product side is here to keep that promise. I think some of that that empathy of how they have to deal with like long term effects of being in front of the screen and then figuring out ways to make sure that everything is palatable. It definitely plays a part. I think, too, like, yeah, the fatigue is a big thing for everybody that we keep in mind as we're creating or modifying our platform and then also how we deal with our partners and in giving them tips and creating content.

Ellen McGirt
That's where your engagement wizardry would probably come in handy. I know in your previous life, I wanted to ask about Nike Women,.

Lotenna Enwonwou
Yeah.

Ellen McGirt
In particular, because that's that's a big, splashy job leading the creative team for all the social accounts at a time when women's sports and issues around female athletes were really capturing a big piece of the conversation about all kinds of important things like money and equity and power and leadership. Could you talk to us a little bit about how you were able to increase the growth and the reach of those accounts— I mean, across every platform, you were really killing it.

Lotenna Enwonwou
Well, I can't take credit for everything. That's the team that did that. I think the biggest thing for me is approaching it like it's not women's sports, it's just sports. The things that are important to men, to kids, to boys, girls are just as important to women. So I just treated it like it was any other sport, any other account. The same care, the same passion that I would show when I worked on the Marine Corps, when I worked on baby brands or anything like that. Like it's the same regardless.

Ellen McGirt
I'd read something about your philosophy when you're dealing with a brand is putting out sort of the essential truth of the brand and letting people find their tribe from there and attracting people from there, and I'm just curious about your philosophical view of what it means to be a brand. How do you understand what a brand is?

Lotenna Enwonwou
I think a brand is it's not a logo. It's not any visual or copy. The brand is really just your reputation. It's how everybody sees you. And so it's trying to make sure that your reputation is a proper representation of how you want to be seen. One of the things that I've come across in my career is that I've seen a lot of companies try to turn their brand into something as opposed to just letting their brand be what it is. And a lot of times your brand is a reflection of the people that work at the company. And I think owning that lets you pull in the proper tribe and that honesty, that authenticity to who you are, I always say, like, nobody can ever beat you with being you, right? So if you stay true to yourself, you're always going to win.

Jessica Helfand
I'm glad Ellen brought up Nike, when I was looking at that this morning and every single like, millimeter, of that work is exquisite. It's thoughtful, it's consistent, it's elegant, it's powerful, it's colorful. And it makes me think that there's something you mentioned Zoom fatigue, but there's also something almost theatrical about being tasked with making things visual and resonant for other people. And I wonder if as much as on the one hand we've got Zoom fatigue, on the other end, we learners and spectators and consumers depend on people like you to bring these brands, and in the case of Coursera, courses and materials and curricula to life so that we not only learn, but we grow. And that seems a huge task, but also a fun one. Is it fun?

Lotenna Enwonwou
Yeah, it's definitely fun. I mean, like to me, like, this is my passion. So it's the art and design conversation, like where art is more self expressive and design is more for trying to solve a problem for the masses. Right. So we're constantly trying to communicate a message, whether it's to a brand or an effort. So for me, like solving that problem for the masses and communicating that way is a lot more satisfying. I find it as I'm getting older and older and more seasoned in my craft. I'm not gravitating to the self-expression quite as much. I'm more interested in solving the bigger problems, in communicating messages to the masses, which draws me closer to the design, which ends up making the job more pleasurable.

Ellen McGirt
I'm curious for the non creative track professional. What should they be thinking about as they think about how they want to put their ideas and philosophies and products and services out into the world?

Lotenna Enwonwou
I think quieting the fear is the biggest thing. There's a fear of not getting the job. There's a fear of not getting the customer. And I think understanding that there's another option if you don't get the job, there's another job that you're going to be the right fit for. As long as you keep on working and keep trying to grow and learn, and I think out of fear a lot of times, whether it's creative or non creative, we will make decisions or we will settle for situations that might not be the best for us. So I think more than anything, it's trying to quiet that fear and stay focused on trying to find the right fit for yourself.

Jessica Helfand
That leads so beautifully into a question we wanted to ask you about this beautiful essay you wrote that you published in Medium at the end of 2019 called I Want to Be a Creative Director. And I speak from with my Design Observer hat on now and saying like it's rare to find visual people who write with such honesty and clarity and simplicity and power

Ellen McGirt
The thing that was so beautiful also about the letter is that it was a leadership manifesto and a three, four short paragraphs was an insight into the character of a culture of marketing creativity that immediately set the stage for what anybody who didn't fit the norm from central casting was going to walk into.

Lotenna Enwonwou
yeah.

Ellen McGirt
Oh, and see those loud, abrasive, overly confident, constantly yelling creative directors that seem so sure of themselves. They're the ones who don't know what they're doing — which could translate to almost any industry. You're young and you're gifted and you're Black or Asian or Latinx or whatever it is and you're walking into, pick an industry, and you're seeing these people who are not doing what you recommended, younger, low, trust your instincts. You're going to be fine. It feels wrong and unnatural to behave that way. So you don't spend time with your team, explain why to your team, make them feel safe. I mean, it was it was a short masterclass in inclusive leadership and really got our attention. So well done.

Lotenna Enwonwou
Thank you.

Ellen McGirt
We will include it in the and in the show notes so everyone can read it and think about their leadership differently.

Lotenna Enwonwou
I can't take complete credit for that. Like in that it's a collection of ideas, thoughts that I've learned from my mentors. I have quite a few really, really, really strong leaders that have kind of helped guide me and show me how I'm supposed to approach leading teams and dealing with with juniors and just having that that empathy. One of the biggest lessons that I've learned is being able to manage people who are more senior than me, especially in age. Like there's a level of respect that has to be shown for you to get that respect. A lot of times if you're dealing with somebody younger than you, they're they're like you're older than me so I'm going to show you that respect. But when you're talking to somebody that's older than you, for them to follow you, like there's no talking down to them, you have to give them that that respect just for the experience alone it matters. And I think from that, it ends up resonating to the juniors as well, because if you can show that to the to the people that are older than you, you show that to the people that are younger because you can learn from anyone.

Ellen McGirt
On three or four different occasions you have said I can't take complete credit for that. I mean, this is naturally where you gravitate as sort of a generosity of spirit. But really, the truth is that's the way work gets done today and that's the way work should get done. And it speaks to an evolution of capitalism where we work together, we think about stakeholders in a different way. And we're not just elbowing each other out of the way for an increasingly small number of leadership slots that everyone can prosper and everyone can have impact. It's really the future.

Jessica Helfand
Becasue the thing about Coursera, I wanted to ask you about, it doesn't matter what your endowment is, it doesn't matter where you are, whether you're a small college, a big college. Coursera is your learning annex. It's your extension to reaching people all over the world. And so it's it's a deeply democratic, potentially massively expansive way to to reach anybody in any subject matter, right?

Lotenna Enwonwou
Yeah. It's over two hundred universities, sixty industries, there's over 5,000 courses. So the reaches is massive. There's over eighty two million learners that we have on our platform. So there's a lot of room to grow but we've definitely made some some major strides. And I'm excited about what we're going to be able to show, reflecting from internally out. There was a video I once watched about how the funnel works about the brand, and it always starts from internal outwards. And so knowing that we have such a strong foundation as a brand, I'm really excited to see what we're going to be able to put together in the years to come.

Jessica Helfand
Lotenna, thank you so much for spending time with us today this has been just delightful.

Ellen McGirt
Just wonderful. Just wonderful. Thank you.

Lotenna Enwonwou
Thank you for having me. I really, really appreciate you guys taking the time out to speak to me as well.

Jessica Helfand
So, Ellen, what stayed with you about this conversation with Lotenna?

Ellen McGirt
So even though I contribute to a podcast on design, design is not my first language. And I think now that we are sort of almost all the way through the the Olympics, I wished I could have watched the Olympics with him. Because, you know, he ran the the Nike Women's social feeds for a while. And not just because he's savvy about those kinds of things, because he just has a way of thinking that moves beyond individual achievement and into the fact that we are creating together. It's like when you talk to him, he thinks about leadership and he thinks about his team as an art or a creative organism, which, if you think about it, is exactly how Simone Biles has come to think about her role on the Olympic team.

Jessica Helfand
Oh, I love. That's so beautiful.

Ellen McGirt
You know, she is just not a superstar. She is part of a of a team of an organism that creates together and they make room for each other and they support each other. And it really made me miss him as I was watching this story unfold with her and whether she was going to compete or not and her mental health and all of that stuff, because it reminded me of him. He does not take credit. He is not an ego who needs. Jessica, what was what do you think?

Jessica Helfand
I think that's so true. And I was thinking at the beginning of the show, we were talking about what it is to be a lifelong learner. And he is a beautiful demonstration of a lifelong learner. His career has— he comes from an interesting family. He was exposed to unusual resources and influences, and he brings it all with him to each of these projects. He is exquisite, he's an exquisite art director and creative director and designer and of course, the kinds of projects he's worked on. If you look at his work, I'm speaking now to our design listeners. I mean, impeccable, meticulous, beautiful work, which not for nothing is hard to do in a team because,

Ellen McGirt
Yeah

Jessica Helfand
You have to direct and orchestrate and underscore and know when to get out of the room and know what to be in the room. The directing that has to go on in order to orchestrate flawlessly the work he's made is is really deserves commendation. But I agree with you, Ellen is so much. His humility— I'm always gobsmacked to meet someone who's successful, who doesn't talk about themselves all the time. Yeah. You know, you talk to people who aren't all about themselves, who are leaders. How can that not help trickle down into making tomorrow's leaders want to be just that humble?

Ellen McGirt
Well, and but that's the risk. And we sort of touched on it. The risk is if your model of leadership in a great man, capitalist driven theory world doesn't work, then you're not going to be able to live the life that you want to live. In a winner take all world choosing not to declare yourself that winner at all cost is a radical choice. That's radical inclusion. And that's how it hit my ear.

Jessica Helfand
You know, it's so interesting. I've been thinking a lot through this season that there certainly are triangulated pyramid structures historically empirically in business. Right. The CEO, it's lonely at the top.

Ellen McGirt
Right,.

Jessica Helfand
Right. And then the little worker bees, same in design. And in design in a way, it's worse, because hierarchy is what succeeds. You know, you understand bold type brings the reader in. The picture is bigger, it brings the reader in. We play with hierarchy formally to reinforce the values of leading people. Right. And yet none of that speaks to the kind of understanding that you and I are looking for. And really, I think flagging when we hear it in these interviews, which is that everybody who really succeeds at what they're doing, they happen to be doing it in a way that is creative and bold and successful, but also kind. They're not jerks. They're not saying as someone in a lecture I went to last year in California, I heard him say to a group of students, you can't be a leader without followers. That is not the way forward. I mean, you can I I'm also starting to think unless you look down the line at what's gotten us in a mess politically.

Ellen McGirt
Yeah.

Jessica Helfand
What's gotten us in a mess in terms of climate change, what's gotten us in a mess in terms of all kinds of miscommunications and misalignments, is that hubris.

Ellen McGirt
Yeah. Lying assholes, is that what you mean by hubris?

Jessica Helfand
Yeah, basically. Yeah, yeah. Maybe we should be doing to show. The Design of Business | The Business of Design is a podcast from Design Observer. You can follow us on social media, but we were actually here long before social media.

Ellen McGirt
That's right. So better yet, please go to our website, Design Observer dot com, where you can sign up for our email newsletter to keep up with everything that's going on at Design Observer.

Jessica Helfand
Here's one thing going down. I recently published the book of essays that I wrote during the pandemic. It's a book about self-reliance. I share that billing with Ralph Waldo Emerson, the king of self-reliance. And I look at this in terms of what it means to have a daily creative practice.

Ellen McGirt
It's an amazing book. I reviewed it for Fortune and I love it. And everyone's getting it for Christmas spoiler alert. If you like what you heard today, please follow this podcast. You can find the Design of Business | The Business of Design at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or however you listen.

Jessica Helfand
And if you already follow us, you're what we podcast people used to call subscribers. Now tell your friends about us or even better, go to Apple Podcast and rate us, which is a great way to let other people know about the show.

Ellen McGirt
It sure is. At DBBD dot Design Observer dot com that's DBBD for The Design of Business | The Business of Design. You'll find 100 hundred more conversations with all kinds of interesting people about business, design, and so much more.

Jessica Helfand
If you enjoy today's conversation with Lotenna Enwonwu, please check out our earlier conversation with his fellow Atlantan, Maurice Cherry. Atlanta is just a hub of these kinds of amazing people and projects. You'll love that interview too. You can find it at DBBD dot Design Observer, dot com.

Ellen McGirt
You know, and while you're pulling the Atlanta thread, check out Janelle Monae's interview too. That makes sense. Oh, there's just so much going on down there. And while you're subscribing to things, please consider subscribing to Race Ahead, my regular column on race and leadership at Fortune dot com slash Get Race Ahead.

Jessica Helfand
It's a wonderful column. You will be sorry. Design Observer's executive producer is Betsy Vardell. Our theme music is from Nigel Stanford's album Solar Echoes. Additional Music by Mike Errico. Julie Subrin edits the show. Our associate producer is Adina Karp. And the executive producer of this podcast is Blake Eskin of Noun and Verb Rodeo.

Ellen McGirt
Yes, indeed. Come back next time when we'll be talking to Jan Diehm about Instagrammable data. See you then!



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Jessica Helfand + Ellen McGirt Jessica Helfand, a founding editor of Design Observer, is an award-winning graphic designer and writer. A former contributing editor and columnist for Print, Eye and Communications Arts magazine, she is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale and a recent laureate of the Art Director’s Hall of Fame. Jessica received both her BA and MFA from Yale University where she has taught since 1994. In 2013, she won the AIGA medal.

Jessica Helfand + Ellen McGirt Award-winning journalist Ellen McGirt covers race, culture, and leadership in a daily column for Fortune entitled RaceAhead. Her reporting has taken her inside the C-suites of companies including Facebook, Nike, Twitter, Intel, Xerox, and Cisco; on the campaign trail with Barak Obama; and across Africa with Bono to study breakthrough philanthropy.

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