Denis Weil has served as Dean of IIT Institute of Design (ID) since 2017, first teaching at ID in 2005. In his thirty years in the field of innovation and design, he has focused on pushing the boundaries of design and business, and more recently of design and the social and public sectors. Denis’s research priorities are discovering, codifying, and promoting new practices, ultimately advancing the field of design in service of creating new solutions and approaches to entrenched problems. At ID, he teaches classes on civic design and implementing and activating design-led innovation. Denis received a master’s in chemical engineering at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and an MDes from ID with a focus on design planning. A 2015 Advanced Leadership Initiative fellow (nonprofit/public leadership) at Harvard University, he has also been a visiting professor at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. In 2020 he is a Daniel Burnham Fellow at Leadership Great Chicago.
Denis optimizes design through large-scale experimentation, forming and working with a network of customers, users, and communities to generate a wide array of ideas and relentlessly filter and test them. As a 2016 Government Innovation Fellow, he advised Bloomberg Philanthropies (New York) on innovation process optimization for their nineteen-cities program. The year prior, Denis was senior advisor to Year Up (Boston), leading the strategy, models, and partnership development to drive transformative scale for this Opportunity Youth training organization. In 2015 he advised Mercy Corps (Portland, Oregon), on strategies and best practices to develop and activate its innovation strategy across their networks. Before that, Denis helped Sanergy, an award-winning social enterprise in Nairobi, Kenya, to revamp its growth strategy, practices, and organization.
At McDonald’s Corporation, Denis led the transformation of this global leader toward an innovation-driven organization, from discovery to scaling. His positions there included Corporate Vice President (2009–14), Corporate Vice President, Innovation & Concept Development (2006–09), Senior Director, Innovation Planning & Concept Development (2002–06), and Entrepreneur in Residence, Strategy & New Business Development (2001–02). He also served in various leadership positions at IDEO (Chicago, 2000), Interactive Media Group (Toronto, 1993–98), and Proctor & Gamble (Toronto, 1986–92).
Having driven design and innovation in leadership positions across a range of teams in both corporations and design firms—including at McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, and IDEO—Denis’s work in comprehensive product design has resulted in significant patents. His work at Pampers, for example, resulted in dynamic-fit diapers—an essential component of the brand’s design for more than 25 years.
Speaking and Publishing
Denis’s invited speaking roles and panel sessions include “Power of Design Leadership to Transform Business” (SXSW, 2020); “Ethics: How Do We Identify a Sense of Ethical Culture in Our Studios, with Our Clients, Consumers, and Colleagues All Over the World?” (The Design of Business | Business of Design Conference, MIT, 2019); “Future Mindset and Creative Leadership” (Business of Design Week, Hong Kong, 2017); and “Design in the Age of Emergence: Value, Roles, and Approaches for Designers of Today” (keynote, Barcelona Design Week, 2017). His work has appeared in outlets such as LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Social Innovation and Touchpoint: The Journal of Service Design, and he has been interviewed about design internationally as well as in the US.
“The Impact of Design.” 2017. TV interview, Betevé, Barcelona.
“Improve the Lives of Millions around the World: Business Models and Innovative Design Methods in Favor of Social and Economic Gain.” 2014. TV interview, Globes Television, Israel (Dec. 12, 00:10:41).
Bridgman, Ed, Alison Guy, Denis Weil, and Dan Wohlfeil. Service design patent for Drive-Thru order delivery. Including US Patents 7895797, 7992355, 20090255195, 20110139545. First filed April 10, 2008, and issued March 1, 2011.
Buell, Kenneth Barclay, Sandra Hintz Clear, Danielia Threase Facone, and Denis Gaston Weil. Absorbent article with fastening system providing dynamic elasticized waistband fit. Including Patents CA2103272C and CA2103272A1. First filed June 8, 1992, and issued January 5, 1999.
Pilar, Tracy, and Denis Weil. 2016. “Contrasting Approaches: Life vs. Numbers.” LEAP Dialogues: Career Pathways in Social Innovation. Mariana Amatullo, ed. Art Center College of Design: 48–53.
Weil, Denis, and Hanka Meves. 2015. “Time to Focus on ‘Service Design Making.’” Touchpoint: The Journal of Service Design Strategies 7, no. 1 (April): 62–5.