Ann Willoughby


Ann Willoughby is best known for founding and leading one of the most well respected design firms in the United States. Willoughby also is known for enabling scores of talented women to succeed by supporting them at every career stage – from students to interns, from young to experienced designers, and ultimately from full potential designers to design leaders with deep knowledge not only of design and design principles but also of the potential impact of design and design thinking on business and the world.

What makes Willoughby different is that its culture was specifically designed to accommodate women who have children and for whom providing or organizing childcare is part of everyday life. Since the firm’s inception in 1978, mothers at Willoughby have always been encouraged to take time off, and to work in ways that benefit both the company and the needs of their families.

The effort to support working mothers for the last 36 years has changed the profession of design by establishing a new model that makes work/life integration possible. The model at Willoughby has enabled generations of talented young women designers stay engaged in the design profession who otherwise would have had to pursue other avenues to reconcile their childcare needs.

In addition to this new model, Willoughby is known for beautiful and useful products, services and experiences that are designed from a woman’s perspective. Willoughby Design also is dedicated to taking on design projects that help women and children overcome poverty and abuse by empowering them to live healthy, dignified and productive lives.

Ann Willoughby has continually supported students and women in the design profession by advocating for their inclusion as leaders in AIGA (an American professional association for design) both as founders of businesses and as leaders of causes that empower women and girls. She also was an early proponent of sustainability and the triple bottom line (measuring the economic, human and environmental capital and costs of projects). Reflected in both Ann’s personal and professional work is her passionate advocacy for Kansas City, for design and for women. Most recently, she is supporting The Girl Effect.

In April 2014, Ann became the first designer in Kansas City, and one of just 30 women to be awarded an AIGA Medal reflecting national recognition for the highest achievement in the design profession.