Liz Ogbu

A designer, urbanist, and social innovator, Liz is an expert on sustainable design and spatial innovation in challenged urban environments globally. She is founder and principal of Studio O, an innovation firm that works with communities in need to use the power design to deliver deep social impact.

From designing shelters for immigrant day laborers in the U.S. to leading a design workshop at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, Liz has a long history of engagement in the design for social impact movement. Currently, she has her own multidisciplinary consulting practice that works with nonprofits, municipalities, and companies to tackle wicked social problems through creative transformations of places, systems, and communities. Her clients include the Nike Foundation, Jacaranda Health, and Pacific Gas & Electric. And her network of collaborators have been equally dynamic including the likes of HealthxDesign, envelope a+d, and the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise (Cornell).

Liz has been actively involved in shaping two of the world’s leading public interest 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 in Los Angeles, analyzing health clinics in Bolivia, or developing a water and health social enterprise in Kenya, she has worked to advance the cause of innovative design and strategic thinking as a tool to address the needs and desires of underserved communities.

In addition to her practice work, 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 school’s Center for Art and Public Life. She is also on faculty at UC Berkeley and Stanford’s

Liz lectures often on design for environmental and social impact. She also frequently leads workshops on human-centered design and social innovation, including one at the 2012 Social Entrepreneurship World Forum in Rio de Janeiro. Liz has also written for and been profiled in publications such as Places Journal, Metropolis, Core 77 and the Journal of Urban Design. Her work has also been widely exhibited, including at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Rotterdam Biennale and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

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

A wanderlust maven, Liz is addicted to learning about cultures and has traveled extensively, including a ten-country sojourn through Sub-Saharan Africa on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

Select Press

Using Our Words: The Language of Design for Equity | In Impact Design Hub, March 2015

How an Audio Booth Changed the Conversation Around a Major S.F. Redevelopment Project | In CityLab, February 2015

Watch Liz Ogbu’s TED Talk | On Impact Design Hub, October 2013

Meet Our Vanguard: Liz Ogbu | In Next City, October 2012 Fellows Bring Beautiful Design to Humanitarian Efforts | In GOOD, November 2011

A Blueprint for Good | In Boston Globe, August 2010


Select Honors

Public Interest Design Top 100 |, 2013

Innovation Grant | Autodesk, 2012

Design Vanguard | Next City, 2012

Senior Fellow | Design Futures Council, 2o11

Global Innovation Award (Day Labor Station) | Holcim Foundation, 2009

Research Fund Grant | US Green Building Council, 2008