Stephanie Smith

Director of Design Strategy, Thrivent Financial

Stephanie is a design-led innovation specialist and Director of Design Strategy at Thrivent Financial with experience leading and developing teams to create breakthrough innovative products, services, and customer experiences. Prior to Thrivent, she was the Director of Corporate and Community Partner Engagement at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s renown Institute of Design. As part of the institute’s leadership team, Stephanie developed, managed, and executed graduate career services and placement in design roles, engaged partners in creative work and sponsorship, and ran executive education in design and design-led innovation. Stephanie has served as an adjunct faculty member at the Institute of Design since 2015, teaching courses on Design Leadership & Integration, Design Strategy, and Critique Methods, the latter of which she has also spoken and published about.

Prior to joining IIT, Stephanie led a service delivery transformation team at Humana Insurance Company supporting the strategy and experience redesign of the grievance and appeals process across multiple teams and a 1000+ person department, closely working with cross-functional partners in process engineering and technology.

While at Doblin, she helped teams and organizations identify new opportunities and develop innovation capabilities, with a focus on competitive and growth strategies and design-led innovation across multiple industries including healthcare, CPG, consumer banking, insurance, and equipment manufacturing industries.

In her career, Stephanie has also designed a pilot service concept for a large Process and Industrial Products company based in India, developed a knowledge management and open innovation solution in the Consumer Products industry, and created processes for prototype evaluation methods for a major hotel chain. Additionally, she has led projects for a large fashion startup later acquired by Nordstrom in Chicago and has developed agriculture-related solutions for a global CPG company and global nonprofit working in Kenya. While in school, she designed a new sustainability retail concept for Target as part of the winning team for the 2013 Rotman Design Competition.

Prior to working in design, Stephanie worked in the music industry in promotion, sales and marketing, artist and repertoire, and as a practicing musician. She also co-founded a technology startup in the meetings industry that allowed for the efficient sale of canceled and distressed meeting space.

Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Science in Music Business from Loyola University New Orleans and an MBA and Master of Design from the Illinois Institute of Technology. She spent the first half of her childhood growing up in Seoul, South Korea, and has lived and worked in New Orleans, New York, Chicago, Paris, and Toronto.