Sarah Weir OBE has announced that she will be stepping down as Chief Executive of Design Council after three and a half years at its helm, bringing to a close an illustrious career spanning 45 years. Her decision follows her diagnosis of a rare lung disease.

Sarah, the first female appointed as Chief Executive at Design Council, will formally step down from her duties on 29 October 2020. Executive Director, Sue Morgan, and Chief Design Officer, Cat Drew, will then share the interim CEO role with immediate effect until a new CEO appointment is made. Design Council’s board has now started the recruitment process.

Having left school at 16, Sarah started her career as a broker at Lloyd’s of London. Over a 15-year period, she went from being the office junior to the first female Managing Director in the Lloyd’s market. A passionate advocate of the creative economy, much of Sarah’s career since then has focused on arts, culture and design. Before joining Design Council, Sarah was previously Executive Producer at the Roundhouse in London and Chief Executive of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. Her other past roles include Chief Executive of The Legacy List, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park charity (now called Foundation for Future London); Head of Arts and Cultural Strategy for Olympic Delivery Authority; Executive Director, Arts Council England; London and Executive Director of the Almeida Theatre. 

Sarah has a History of Art BA from Birkbeck College (1993-7), was awarded an OBE for services to the arts (2011), First Woman Awards for public service (2013) and is a Fellow of Birkbeck College (2013). Sarah was awarded an honorary doctorate from University of the Arts London for services to design in 2019 and she has served on the board of the Alzheimer’s Society since 2013.

Over the last six months alone, Sarah has led the development and delivery of Design Council’s bold and ambitious new strategy,  enabled the entire organisation to switch instantly to digital delivery and homeworking and responded swiftly to challenges presented by the pandemic. Sarah leaves Design Council fit to thrive as we all learn to live in the world with-COVID , with a number of new and innovative projects in the pipeline.

Sarah Weir OBE said: “Design is so important to every single aspect of our lives: it is an essential discipline that allows us to create places, products and services to improve life for everyone. It has been a great privilege to have led such a capable and hard-working team at Design Council over the last three and a half years. I am proud to leave Design Council in such capable hands, with a strong and diverse board, an excellent leadership team and, above all, a wonderful team of highly committed and capable staff. This is a time of both challenge and opportunity and I am positive that Design Council will go from strength to strength, as it continues in its mission to make life better by design.”

Terry Tyrrell, Chair of Design Council said: “Sarah has given outstanding service to Design Council over the last three and a half years. She is highly respected among trustees for her courageous, creative and inclusive approach.  Amongst her many achievements, she has worked collaboratively with trustees to deliver a bold and ambitious strategy, resulting in a clear roadmap for the future. Having modernised Design Council in recent years, she has been able to lead the organisation remarkably through the COVID-19 crisis, enabling her team to switch rapidly to homeworking and online delivery. She leaves Design Council in an extremely strong position. On behalf of the board and staff at Design Council, I congratulate her and thank her for all that she has achieved.”

Details about the CEO post can be found here. An announcement on the appointment of Design Council’s new CEO will be made in due course.

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