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Ignite! Meet our Speakers

Preparations are fully underway for our 2022 SDF fundraiser – Ignite! – and we cannot wait to see you. In the lead up to May 4, we will be keeping you apprised of the great work of our event speakers and sponsors, highlight some of the wins of recent festivals, while also shining a spotlight on the unique auction items provided to us by our community of supporters.

This week, we would like to highlight the work of our keynote speaker, Surya Vanka, and our 2021 partners ecoTHRIVE Housing and Seattle Happy Places, and welcome them all as participants at Ignite!

Surya Vanka, Founder & Chief Designer at AUTHENTIC DESIGN

Surya Vanka is a transdisciplinary designer working at the leading edge of physical and digital experience. Surya is the founder of Authentic Design, and is a past president of the Seattle Design Festival, a director of user experience at Microsoft, a tenured professor of design at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a fellow at the prestigious Center for Advanced Study. He is a member of the World Design Organization and has served on the jury of many global design awards including Singapore Design Mark; CII India Design Excellence Awards; and Cradle to Cradle Challenge. Surya’s work has appeared in numerous publications and news programs, including TEDx, Form, I.D., Design Council, WIRED, Interactions, the BBC and NPR. Surya is the author of two books on design, several publications, and has taught design in person on every continent but Antarctica.

Check out Surya’s 2016 Hong Kong Ted Talk to learn more on why we hold Surya in such high esteem, and why we are so excited to welcome him to Ignite! on May 4.


2021 Award Winners:

Thanks to the generous support of our sponsors and donors, in 2021, SDF was able to fund 13 non-profit/student/individual funding awardees whose proposals addressed one or more of the following

  • – Co-designed proposals that connect to community
  • – Accessible experiences
  • – First-time applicants
  • – Participatory experiences
  • – Use of repurposed materials
  • – Thought-provoking and innovative design
  • – Cross-disciplinary collaboration


ecoTHRIVE Housing

They are committed to creating beautiful, affordable, resident-owned villages by bringing together two forms of shared equity ownership: Limited Equity Cooperative + Community Land Trust; building small & green; and integrating sustainable financing. Their goal is to create replicable, affordable housing villages that nurture community and human resilience- and joy!- as we adapt to an ever-changing world and shifting climate.

Seattle Happy Places

SDF’s 2021 theme considered re-emergence into the public spaces around us and becoming reacquainted with spaces that may have felt risky or off-limits for much of the pandemic. Little did we know that our reemergence would be slower than anticipated and that we would still be considering what it is to emerge in 2022. We are re-emerging into what it means to be a community, in public and in person. The Seattle Happy Places experience facilitates human interactions that will remind people that we are all placemaking together in an emerging future. As we grapple with new realities and explore new possibilities in our public spaces, Seattle Happy Places shared joyful places with each other through a “scavenger hunt” experience that evoked community and togetherness, as well as encouraging discovery and increased intimacy with the places around us.

Learn more about Surya Vanka, ecoTHRIVE Housing, and Seattle Happy Places on May 4, and reserve your ticket(s) to Ignite! today.