Ariel Kennan is a leader in service design, digital product development, and organizational strategy. She embeds equity and justice in her work and strives to create a world where everyone can prosper. As a Senior Fellow at the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University, she is researching and advising on best practices for using design, data and technology for improved social safety net program and policy outcomes and the equitable investment of recovery funding.
Ariel has worked in the private, nonprofit and public sectors to drive change and deliver impactful solutions. She served in the New York City Mayor’s Office for Economic Opportunity as a Director of Design and Product to improve service delivery and advance equity and opportunity for all New Yorkers. While there, she founded the nation’s first municipal service design studio and managed a portfolio of best-in-class digital products to connect and deliver services. Her time in government was inspired through fellowships with Code for America and the Center for Urban Pedagogy, where she discovered the potential for design in the public sector.
Most recently, as the Director of Civic Innovation at Sidewalk Labs, she worked to improve quality of life in cities, leading the vision for civic life as part of the social infrastructure strategy and collaborated with government, organizations and communities to pilot programs and products.
She holds a BFA in Integrated Design from Parsons School of Design. Originally from Arizona, she lives with her husband in Brooklyn, New York where she loves riding bikes, playing with her dog and cooking delicious meals.
Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation at Georgetown University
New York, NY and Washington DC · February 2021 - Current
- Researching best practices for using design, data, and technology for improved social safety net program and policy outcomes.
- Convening state, local, tribal, and territorial government leaders to drive the equitable investment of American Rescue Plan funding.
New York, NY
Sidewalk Labs is an urban innovation company working to make cities more sustainable and affordable for all.
Design Director · July 2020 - February 2021
Director of Civic Innovation
- Led design and product strategy for new urban systems including facilitating workshops with subject matter experts to advance business and product approaches, conducting customer and competitor research, advancing product hypotheses through prototyping, and managing contractors.
· May 2018 - June 2020
- Created the civic life strategy for the social infrastructure proposal in Toronto Tomorrow, a transformational plan for Toronto’s eastern waterfront. Defined physical spaces, digital services and programming to engage communities in decision making, relationship building, and interactions with local organizations and government.
- Developed partnerships with local organizations, government, and communities to bridge the digital divide, foster social cohesion, and inspire civic engagement and transparent decision making. Included engagement with executives at organizations and in government and funding of pilot programs such as inclusive usability testing through GRIT Toronto with Code for Canada.
- Led strategy, product development and business planning for Collab, a new technology venture for inclusive participation in urban planning and development. Developed product concept and prototype, conducted customer and market research, hired contractors and staff, and delivered a scalable business plan including a proposed joint venture.
New York City Mayor's Office for Economic Opportunity
New York, NY · September 2014 - April 2018
Director, Design and Product
- Led design and digital product development to improve service delivery and advance equity and opportunity for all New Yorkers. Built capacity and advocated for service design and modern software development approaches.
- Established a team of designers, software developers, product managers and analysts, including founding the first municipal service design studio.
- Managed strategy and delivery of digital product portfolio, including redesign and redevelopment of legacy products and building new applications and services for delivering social services and connecting residents to public benefits. Included accessibility and privacy review, security compliance and deployment to cloud infrastructure.
- Oversaw grants and vendor contracts, including multi-million dollar budget management.
- Informed social services policy and legislation.
- Consulted on strategic initiatives and organizational approaches.
Code for America
San Francisco, CA · January 2013 - November 2013
- Paired with the governments of Kansas City, Kansas and Missouri to build new civic software
applications and enhance technology policy, government innovation, and community organizing.
- Consulted city governments regarding digital innovation including open data policy and standards,
data portals, and technology best practices which led to new legislation being passed, creation
of innovation roles, and events within city hall.
New York, NY · January 2008 - December 2012
Interaction and Experience Designer, Design Lead
- Collaborated with and led creative teams in research, concept development, design, and software production for cultural and corporate clients.
- Oversaw software development teams through design, code development, testing, and launch.
- Conducted client pitches and presentations with principal designer.
- Created project deliverable documents, presentations, and production budgets.
Clients included: Barclays, Beacon Capital Partners, Comcast, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the Senate, General Electric, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, News Corporation, Octave Living, Pfizer, Trust for the National Mall, Rodale
New York, NY · September - December 2007
Assisted in research, design, and production of museum-based projects.
Museo di Storia della Scienza
Florence, Italy · October - December 2006
Participated in museum education activities and created a visitor guidebook.
Parsons School of Design
New York, NY
Bachelor of Fine Arts in Integrated Design
Advising & Community Building
Civic Design by Rosenfeld Media
Lead Curator, Civic Design Community & Conference
Center for Urban Pedagogy
New York, NY · August 2012 - June 2013
Public Access Design Fellow
Year long series of conversations and mentorship with a group of designers focused on social and civic design.
Fast Company, Innovation by Design Awards
Honorable Mentions: General Excellence; Social Good; Spaces, Places + Cities, 2018
Adobe Government Creativity Awards
Best Employee-Facing Campaign; Best Public Facing Campaign, 2018
NYC Technology Forum
Best External Application, 2017
New York Digital Government Summit
Best Application Serving the Public, 2017
Tribeca Film Festival
Award for Transmedia, 2013
SXSW Interactive Awards
Kiosk and Installation Finalist, 2011; Educational Resource Finalist, 2009
Writing & Publications