Rhode Island School of Design's Board of Trustees Elects New Members

August 19, 2021

Ashleigh Axios, Donald Choi, Michelle Ebanks, David Lee and Todd Waterbury to serve as Term Trustees

PROVIDENCE, RI – The Board of Trustees at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is proud to announce the election of Ashleigh Axios, Donald Choi, Michelle Ebanks, David Lee and Todd Waterbury as its newest term trustees. They will each serve a three-year term through May 2024.

“Our newest members are incredible assets to RISD’s Board, and we are thrilled to welcome them. They bring a wealth of expertise that complements that of our other exceptional members, adding a diversity of opinions and experiences. With the search underway for RISD’s 18th president, we look forward to the ways these new members will help continue to advance our beloved institution alongside our dedicated Interim President Dave Proulx, and we thank them for taking on this important commitment in service to RISD during this exciting period of transition and transformation,” said RISD Board Chair Michael Spalter

The experiences and accomplishments of RISD’s new term trustees include:

Ashleigh Axios (BFA 08 Graphic Design) is an international speaker, strategic creative, and an advocate for design’s ability to break barriers and create positive social change. She is chief experience officer and an owner of Coforma, a digital consultancy and design firm that crafts creative solutions and builds technology products that support communities. She is chair of the board for the AIGA—the professional association for design—and she formed and led the in-house creative agency for marketing, communications and brand identity solutions at Automattic, a technology company on a mission to democratize publishing and commerce. Prior to her role at Automattic, she served as the creative director and a digital strategist in the Obama White House. She is a past president of AIGA Washington DC, where she formed DotGov Design, an initiative connecting and empowering government designers.

Donald W. H. Choi (BArch 82) has worked globally as an architect and developer since graduating from RISD. He believes in the power of design and architecture to empower society. Clients have included Hong Kong government, Airport Authority, Mass Transit Railway Corporation, Urban Renewal Authority, Public Works Canada, British Columbia Buildings Corporation NGOs and organizations within the private sector. He is currently chief executive officer of the Chinachem Group and previously served as managing director of Nan Fung Development, director of Foster and Partners and lead architect for the Hong Kong International Airport Passenger Terminal, which was named one of the Top Ten Construction Projects in the World. A former chair of the Architects Registration Board, Choi is now president of the Hong Kong Institute of Architects and the Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design. He was chief curator for the Hong Kong Exhibition at the Venice Biennale 2021 and is an adjunct professor at the University of Hong Kong.

Michelle Ebanks is an independent board director for Essence Communications and Atlantic Media. For nearly two decades, Ebanks was CEO/president of Essence Communications, the leading omnichannel media, technology and commerce company dedicated to Black women with a global brand reach of more than 31 million. At Essence, Ebanks developed and executed a plan that grew the Essence Festival from a regional event into the world’s largest cultural, music, entertainment and empowerment experience, contributing more than $4 billion to the economy while routinely attracting more than half a million live attendees annually. Other board affiliations include the University of Florida Foundation, E Pluribus Unum and the New York State Council of Women and Girls. Ebanks has earned numerous awards and special recognition for her work from women’s groups, civil rights organizations and women’s and minority business development organizations.

David Lee (BFA 00 Graphic Design) is chief creative officer of Squarespace, where he leads an award-winning creative team whose work encapsulates all creative, design and production efforts for the company. His experience has led him to work at the unique intersection of product design and storytelling, and he was recently honored on the Adweek Creative 100 List as a branded content innovator raising the bar for storytelling and artistic integrity. He was named one of the Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company and led his team to be honored by Ad Age as the 2020 A-List In-House Agency of the Year. Since joining Squarespace, Lee has masterminded seven Super Bowl campaigns and won an Emmy Award for Most Outstanding Commercial of the Year. Prior to Squarespace, he served as the worldwide digital executive creative director of TBWA and as a creative director at Wieden+Kennedy London and AKQA San Francisco, and he began his career as a designer and art director at Sid Lee in Montréal. 

Todd Waterbury is Target’s chief creative officer. In this role, he establishes the creative vision and direction for Target’s brand and marketing efforts. He leads Target Creative, a 400+ team of art directors, designers, developers, writers, strategists and content producers. Together with its external advertising and design partners, they develop and execute brand identity and packaging for Target’s multi-billion-dollar Owned Brands portfolio, design its target.com experience, and orchestrate Target’s position as a cultural influencer. Waterbury has extensive experience creating highly integrated marketing and design work for a broad roster of iconic brands. Before joining Target in 2013, he established the consulting company that launched Uniqlo’s Made for All campaign and designed the Twitter logo. Prior to that, Waterbury served as co-executive creative director at Wieden+Kennedy New York. His work has received numerous design and advertising awards, and examples of his graphic design are included in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art. 

Also new to the Board this year are Shefali Kushalani Parent 22, chair, Families Association and Rex Wong BArch 03, president, Alumni Association, who join the Board as Ex Officio trustees.

RISD’s Officers of the Board include Chair Michael H. Spalter, Vice Chairs Ilene Chaiken (BFA 79 Graphic Design/Parent 18), Karen Hammond, Jon Kamen Parent 09,  Tavares Strachan (BFA 03 Glass) and Margaret A. Williams. More information on RISD’s Board of Trustees, including the complete current list of members, can be found here

About Rhode Island School of Design
RISD’s mission, through its college and museum, is to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship and innovation. The college’s strategic plan NEXT: RISD 2020-2027 sets an ambitious vision for educating students for the future and bringing creative practices to bear on the creation of just societies, a sustainable planet and new ways of making and knowing. RISD’s immersive model of art and design education, which emphasizes critical making through studio-based learning and robust study in the liberal arts, prepares students to intervene in the critical challenges of our time. Working with exceptional faculty and in extraordinary specialized facilities, 2,225 students from 60 countries engage in 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. RISD’s 30,000 alumni worldwide testify to the impact of this model of education, exemplifying the vital role artists and designers play in today’s society. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. Find more information at risd.edu.