Liz Ogbu

Liz Ogbu headshot

A designer, urbanist, and spatial justice advocate, Liz is an expert on social and spatial innovation in challenged urban environments globally.

From designing shelters for immigrant day laborers in the U.S. to a water and health social enterprise for low-income Kenyans, Liz has a long history of engagement in the social impact design movement. Her work blends human-centered design research methodologies, architecture and equitable development principles, cross-disciplinary design thinking frameworks, and social justice agendas. She is founder and principal of Studio O, a multidisciplinary design practice that works at the intersection of racial and spatial justice.

Liz has been actively involved in shaping two of the world’s pioneering social impact design nonprofits. In 2011, she was part of the inaugural class of Innovators-in-Residence at, IDEO’s sister nonprofit dedicated to fostering global poverty reduction through design and innovation. Prior to that, she was Design Director at Public Architecture, a national nonprofit mobilizing designers to create social change. Whether interviewing day laborers on street corners in the US, analyzing health clinics in Bolivia, or developing innovative strategies for cookstove adoption in Tanzania, she has worked with/in communities in need to advance the cause of innovative design and strategic thinking as a tool to address their needs and desires.

In addition to her practice, Liz has had a long commitment to bringing social impact work into the classroom where her courses and research explore opportunities at intersection of design, innovation, and community engagement. She has taught at the California College of the Arts for several years, most recently holding an appointment as the inaugural Scholar in Residence at the college’s Center for Art and Public Life. She has also been on faculty at UC Berkeley and Stanford’s In Spring 2017, she was the Harry W. Porter Visiting Professor at the University of Virginia. Liz has also been a visiting scholar, previously serving in that capacity at the Maryland Institute College of Art and as the inaugural Expert-in-Residence at the Taylor Center for Design Thinking and Social Design at Tulane University.

Liz frequently lectures and leads workshops on spatial justice, social innovation, and human-centered design. Previous appearances include the Aspen Ideas Festival, Congress of the International Union of Architects, the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, and TED Women. Liz has written for and been profiled in publications such as Places Journal, Metropolis, The Atlantic’s City Lab, and the Journal of Urban Design. Her work has also been widely exhibited globally, including at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Benaki Museum (Athens), and the Venice Biennale. Among her many honors include the Holcim Global Innovation Prize, Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar, Public Interest Design’s Top 100, and Senior Fellow of Design Futures Council.

Liz earned her Bachelor of Arts in architecture from Wellesley College and Master of Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University.

Talks by Liz

Discover More Speakers

More speakers