In line with last year’s conference theme, in 2023 we will continue to focus on creating value for the long run. Much needs and can be done to improve upon tackling short-termism. In Barcelona on September 15 and 16, a special edition of the yearly Service Design Days will be organised for and by design leaders from around the world to converse about this pressing topic. Dedicated to unlocking servant leadership and translating ideas into impact, the Summit convenes creative leaders to connect, learn, build, discuss, share learnings and challenge the status quo.


Leadership is a dynamic and complex process that requires those who lead to navigate ever-changing landscapes and design for the future. To be effective, you must be resilient, adaptable, and capable of embracing uncertainty. In today's fast-paced world, anticipating change, staying ahead of the curve, and working collaboratively with diverse teams are essential qualities for leaders to possess.

This counts even more for design leaders. Effective creative leadership means always thinking about what's next and having a keen sense of what the organisation needs to thrive in the long run while bearing in mind social and environmental responsibilities. To achieve these goals, you must take risks and engage in partnerships for change that can help drive innovation and create positive impact. This requires a deep understanding of the ecosystem in which the organisation operates and a willingness to challenge assumptions, embrace new perspectives, and pivot as circumstances dictate.

However, being a design leader is a demanding and often isolating role. As the person responsible for guiding and managing a transdisciplinary team of diverse creative professionals, you are expected to be the expert on all things design-related, from strategy to customer needs, from ethics to scalable implementation.

This can be challenging when you are the only person in your organisation with this level of expertise. Design leaders often find themselves feeling lonely and disconnected from their peers, with no one to turn to for a simple chat, advice or support. Although it’s great that design is getting a strategic seat at the table and has a say on how to tackle complex, interconnected challenges, being the voice of people - let alone the planet - isn’t always appreciated and often considered overly activist.

Now more than ever, it's time to stand up, take action, and make change happen. The challenges we face as leaders can often seem overwhelming. It's important to remember that we have the power to drive meaningful change within our organisations, communities and the world around us. We must learn and feel comfortable manoeuvring through the complexities of our organisations and advocating for the value of design. We must build relationships with key stakeholders and speak up for what we believe in. By doing so, we can ensure design decisions are made with the best interests of people, planet and profit in mind.

This is why we organise a special Service Design Days edition for creative leaders. Not online, but physically in Barcelona, to have as many inspiring encounters as possible.


This SDD Leadership Summit spans four tracks spread over two days: Friday September 15 and Saturday September 16. The tracks are programmed through the lens of creative leadership, each with an immersive and interactive set-up. All tracks are a carefully curated selection of sessions and activities.

All sessions are plenary and address different aspects of how to become a leader of the future. The tracks are highly interactive and participative, and look at key aspects via a combination of listening and doing in which everyone is involved.

Track 1        Leading in complexity

Today more than ever it’s necessary to effectively navigate complex and uncertain situations, and develop innovative solutions in the face of ambiguity and changing circumstances. Leading in complexity requires a deep understanding of the systems and networks that operate within the organisation’s context, as well as the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively with a diverse range of stakeholders. How to go beyond  understanding the interrelationships between various parts of this ecosystem and identifying potential points of leverage to developing interventions that can have a transformative impact on the system as a whole? How to anticipate and respond to complex challenges in a way that is both innovative and strategic? This track can help you create more resilient systems that can better adapt to changing circumstances over time.


Track 2        Designing for what’s next

Maintaining a focus on the long run, rather than getting bogged down in short-term thinking, means having a perspective that looks beyond the immediate future to consider the potential outcomes and consequences of decisions and actions over an extended period. It involves prioritising goals and objectives that are important and meaningful in the long term and working towards them deliberately and consistently. By staying true to their organisation's vision and mission and taking a proactive, strategic approach to change, design leaders can help ensure that their organisation remains relevant and resilient in the face of disruption and uncertainty. This track focuses on long-range, big-picture thinking and how to move teams and organisations into the exciting unknown.


Track 3        Organising for change

Organising for change means creating a structure within the organisation that supports resilience, adaptability, and agility. This requires creative leaders to build diverse teams that can bring a variety of perspectives to bear on complex problems, as well as to foster a culture of collaboration, open communication, and continuous learning. Knowing how to effect change is just as important as knowing what to change. Having the skills and resources to take action and implement the necessary changes is just as crucial as having a clear understanding of what needs to be done. How to structure innovation? How to engage the right people, get buy in and secure commitment? How to make real progress toward purposeful transformation? This track focuses on all of that and more.


Track 4        Introspecting leadership

The leadership qualities of the past don't work anymore. A future design leader must be personable and proactive, with clear ethics and values. A servant leader who motivates and strives to empower their teams. A humble leader who is accessible, sitting among their team members and initiating dialogue with them. By creating an environment in which individuals feel empowered to take ownership of their work and contribute to the collective mission of the organisation, design leaders can create a culture of resilience that can withstand the challenges of a complex and uncertain world. This track focuses on developing self-awareness and being mindful – fully present and aware – to become a more effective leader, making wise and brave choices for the future.



Bringing together international design leaders, this Summit is an opportunity to reconnect face-to-face with peers and transform the way you lead. It's a place to be inspired, and to help inspire other future leaders. This means that all participants, from track facilitators to workshop members, are creative thinkers who love to share their experiences with others. Their fields of expertise span the entire range of design disciplines and beyond.

In the upcoming months, you will be introduced to others who will come on stage or join as an attendee. Participants are expected to immerse themselves without any distractions. For the immersion to take place, participants should be open to revealing their true selves. In an intimate and safe setting, participants will have the opportunity to share their learnings on making significant strides and gaining ground. We invite you to do the same.


What’s included

Leadership training
12 hours of creative and design leadership training.

Leadership coaching
Small group coaching sessions on specific topics (sign up in advance).

Several moments throughout the days to meet, chat with and learn from other design leaders 
from different industries and from around the world.

Food and drinks
Coffee breaks, lunches, refreshments, and networking drinks on both days.

You will receive an official certificate from the Service Design College for joining this Leadership Summit.

Hotel stay
If you wish, we can fully serve you and book two nights (September 14 and 15) in a great hotel near the venue.


This Summit is designed for both experienced design leaders with a long track record in managing design teams, and emerging creative leaders who are ready to transition from leading smaller teams to leading larger (global) design teams. The Summit brings together design leaders who currently hold roles such as Design Manager, Head of Design, Innovation Manager, and Creative Director, with a regional or global focus.

The Summit audience includes design leaders from various industries and types of organisations who are leading multidisciplinary project and design teams across design disciplines, such as CX/experience design, service design, and business design. The program is tailored to address senior leadership-level challenges in mid-size to large organisations.



Since this is a small-scale and intimate event, seats are limited. Take advantage of an Early Bird sales period we have set up and register before May 31 to benefit from reduced rates.

Full Summit pass
EUR 1150 (regular rate EUR 1350)

Full Summit pass + two nights hotel (breakfast included)
EUR 1450 (regular rate EUR 1650)

Prices are exclusive of VAT.

You can register in two ways: via our ticketing platform (no additional charges or fees) or via the form below. If you choose the second option, you will receive an invoice which can be paid via bank transfer. If you make the purchase via our ticketing platform, you will automatically receive an invoice. 

Guarantee your spot at this Leadership Summit and let us reserve a hotel room for you on time!

What’s the size and composition of your team? Does it have a regional or global focus?
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