Catchup with the Hosts of Design Matters – with Reginé Gilbert and Veronica DSouza

As we celebrate our anniversary, we're switching things up by diving into the world of those who make design conferences happen from the stage. Let's chat with two of the Design Matters hosts! 

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Victory Brown

12/02/2024; 7 min read Loud!

1.Can you briefly introduce yourself and your background? 

Reginé: I’m Reginé Gilbert, a designer, educator, and author. My extensive professional background includes experience as an entrepreneur, design manager, product manager, and fashion designer. Currently, I’m serving as a James Weldon Johnson Professor at New York University in the Tandon School of Engineering.

Veronica: Hello, I am Veronica. I am based out of Copenhagen and I am passionate about working with design as a catalyst to create positive change in the world. I also love to write and produce music and then of course, hanging out with my favorite heroines, my two daughters. 

I have worked with an intersectional approach to systemic change most of my adult life. I founded two social enterprises where design was crucial in creating opportunities and inclusion for women, and I have lived and worked in many countries in the world. I initiated CARCEL, an impact-driven fashion label, beyond traditional norms to create fair employment and educational opportunities for incarcerated women in Thailand and Peru. Ruby Cup, a menstrual cup company with a mission to address period poverty, initiated from East Africa.

Beyond my entrepreneurial pursuits, I guide Geist Agency, my own consultancy, where I advise global organizations on strategies for impact, inclusivity, climate action, and storytelling. In addition to consultancy work, I am a keynote speaker, I serve on the INDEX Award jury, and the Board of The Danish Design Council and The Soulfuls, a mentorship organization creating opportunities for young underrepresented women in the creative industries.

Reginé Gilbert (on left) and Veronica Dsouza (on right) hosting Design Matters

Reginé Gilbert (on left) and Veronica Dsouza (on right) hosting Design Matters


2. How did you get involved in the Design Matters Conferences?

Reginé: I was selected as a speaker for Design Matters Copenhagen in 2022, where I had the opportunity to connect with an incredible group of designers worldwide. That led to me speaking at Design Matters Tokyo in 2023 and hosting Design Matters Lagos in 2023. 


Reginé Gilbert hosting

Reginé giving a talk at DM 22


Veronica: It was 2021 in Copenhagen when I was asked to host the conference in Copenhagen. I was later lucky to host in Tokyo in 2022 and again in Copenhagen in 2023. It feels so wonderful to be part of this family. I really feel like it’s such a strong and bonding community. You know, when you first get in, you want to stay. I’ve since met a tonne of people who come every year which I think says it all. It’s more than knowledge sharing, Design Matters holds space for a sense of belonging. 

Veronica at Design Matters 21

Veronica giving a talk at Design Matters 21

3.What excites you the most about being a part of the Design Matters Conference as a host? 

Reginé: It was an honor to host the very first Design Matters Lagos. What excited me most was seeing Nigerian Designers showing their work and the new cultural references to me and others. There is so much design talent in Nigeria, which showed on the Design Matters Lagos stage.

Reginé at Design Matters Lagos '23

Reginé at Design Matters Lagos ’23

Veronica: I think what excites me the most is the global aspect of the community. I feel a strong value-based grassroots-driven mentality that gives space to young designers from very different backgrounds, and not just those already established. Many talks also often share personal stories and a sort of vulnerability. So it’s a community where people give something of themselves, which in return means that others give back. An additional thing that excites me a lot is that it feels like a family, which makes it very personal. I feel that people make a lot of new friends, at least I know I do. Everyone just kind of steps out of their filter of “who am I as a work-person” and into it with personality and friendship more than career. Real meetings amongst humans. That is very powerful. 

Image from Design Matters '21

Still from Design Matters ’21

4. Share your perspective on how the local culture of the host city’s impact on design?  

Reginé: The local culture was brought to the conference through the speakers and their varied presentations on advocacy and sustainability, addressing trust, exploring artificial intelligence and adaptations, and the role of typography specific to Nigerian culture and how it can be used to assist narratives and enhance quality and enjoyment.

Image of Design Matters Lagos '23

Image of Design Matters Lagos ’23

Veronica: Copenhagen is a very cool, nice, beautiful, but also somewhat homogeneous city. Design Matters is really a gift to Copenhagen because it brings a multicultural and truly international perspective. We learn a lot from people from all over the world. It is very healthy to come down from that renowned ‘design capital’ pedestal,  because, look at the world, everything is going so fast everywhere. And we have a lot to learn. It’s a privilege for Copenhagen and the design scene here to have a global community come here. So let me turn the question around and just say thank you to everyone who brings their energy, culture, and expertise to meet here.

image of Design Matters '21

Still of Design Matters ’21

5. In what ways has being part of this event influenced your perspective on design, creativity, and innovation?

Reginé: The vibrant design community of Nigeria is an incredible source of inspiration and has opened the opportunity for me to learn from the design community. I am happy to say I have kept in touch with some of the designers and I am working to share my knowledge and learn from them in the process. 

Veronica: What I care about is how we build a better, more inclusive world where we all take care of each other and our planet. What drives me is how we can use design tools and processes to make the world more attractive, beautiful, and dignified for everyone. So that we can understand each other better, and build strong communities. So the way this event has influenced me is to get a very diverse exposure to what design is and how people interpret it, which I think is really beautiful. It’s brilliant that the conference can hold space for all these different types of expression. 

I think we all have a calling right now in how we restructure the world. And design plays an important role in that.

Still from Design Matters Lagos 2023

Still from Design Matters Lagos ’23

6.What are the learnings or key takeaways from DM 23-Your city?


  • My key takeaways from Design Matters Lagos are that you don’t need a title to be responsible – we are interdependent and not meant to do it alone. 
  • Build a community if you see it doesn’t exist. Keep the focus on the people, then the planet, and then profit for a more sustainable future. 
  • Keep in mind that typography can have a massive impact on people’s emotions and emotions matter, as designers we have some control over the narratives we create. 
  • It’s important to find your own voice as a designer and be your own inspiration. As Chukwe Adaeze Victoria said in her talk “I (Insert your name here) am a unique person, with a unique journey, creating and enjoying unique experiences. Nobody is like me, and I am like nobody.”
  • Bridge branding and UX for consistency and visual identity.
  • It’s ok to ask for help when you need it. 
Group picture from Design Matters Lagos 23

Group picture from Design Matters Lagos 23

Reginé from Design Matters Tokyo 23.

Reginé from Design Matters Tokyo 23.

Veronica:  As a host, I experience the conference probably a bit differently than most. What I care mostly about is creating comfort, safety, and human connection with all the speakers before they go on stage. I am a speaker myself, I know what a big difference it makes if you feel safe and properly welcome. That also means that I am feeling a lot with the speakers, cheering for them, and ready to praise them when they come down from this grand stage. For some, it can be a bit overwhelming. Those meetings can become deep and intense, sometimes in just a short time. So I was filled with gratitude for having had the privilege to meet all these incredible “human energies” and connect. I’ve formed many friendships from just these fairly short encounters.


7. Do you have anything else to share about hosting design matters? 

Veronica: Congratulations, first and foremost. And also a huge applause for building a community that is an actual community, where people feel a sense of belonging and come back year after year. I think about how Design Matters has this real approach to people. I think people feel something at the Design Matters conferences. This is the biggest thing you can ever achieve, independent of how many great new tools, methodologies, or trends that are discussed or presented. I think it’s about fostering emotion, creating a sense of belonging, and an unforgettable exchange because otherwise you don’t need to bring people together, you can take an online course on something. So thank you, Design Matters, I’m always touched and inspired, and I feel grateful to be part of it.

Veronica hosting Design Matters

Veronica hosting Design Matters

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