Ralph Applebaum Associates

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Design Director, Social Projects
New York

Ralph Appelbaum Associates is seeking a full-time Design Director (remote) to join our Social Projects Team.

The Design Director will lead design vision, delivery and overall management of a portfolio of complex client engagements by working with a team of talented, cross-discipline leads, and you will serve as the focal point for tactical leadership. As Design Director for Social Projects you will work closely with the VP/CDO to develop, build, and scale the Social Projects philosophy, initiatives and projects. This highly motivated individual will be dedicated to creating museum projects that promote justice, equity, accessibility, and inclusivity in their project planning, exhibition content and design, programming, and community engagement. You will combine creativity and interpersonal skills to support our practice.

About RAA’s Social Projects (SP) Initiative

RAA’s Social Projects initiative serves institutions focused on highlighting profound questions of justice, equity, inclusivity, and power. 

Today, the renewed urgency for cultural institutions to be inclusive in their exhibition development and programming has pushed many to reevaluate their mission, resources, staffing, and storytelling to transform how they engage with audiences at all levels. Similarly, new institutions are challenged to boldly assert their commitment to supporting justice, equity, community dialogue, and public education.

To better serve this type of institution, RAA launched its Social Projects initiative in 2020. The Social Projects team consists of a dynamic group of multidisciplinary professionals deeply committed to the transformative potential of cultural institutions dedicated to racial justice and other social issues. We are honored to work with cultural institutions that prioritize diverse perspectives, community engagement, and social responsibility in their institutional goals.

Our philosophy is to support powerful storytelling that encourages audiences to critically engage with complex issues, experiences, and cultures. We support collaborations between clients, community leaders, scholarly advisors, artists, performers, and various other museum stakeholders. Our goal is to assist museums as they explore difficult questions about our collective past and present and envision a more just and equitable future.

Primary Responsibilities

  • Project Direction: Leads museum and cultural institution projects as Design Director, with a focus on projects that address topics of social justice, activism, and community.
  • Promotes Design: Promotes design within the practice and invigorates it with vision, new ideas, high standards of excellence, and gravitas; Inspires impeccable craft and functionality for the creative presentation of ideas and messaging.
  • Studio Culture: Demonstrates the practice’s cultural values both globally and domestically; Fosters EDAI and a respectful working environment, in hiring practices and daily culture, operations and delivery.
  • Talent: Utilizes effective leadership practices to attract, mentor and identify talent.
  • Communications and Marketing: Works in collaboration with Marketing colleagues on the development and execution of proposals.
  • New Business Development: Actively seeks out and cultivates new potential clients and projects.
  • Creative Partnerships: Identifies and manages creative resources as needed for collaborations and outside partnerships, including external design resources.

Project-Based Specific Responsibilities

  • Driving creative visions and processes;
  • Developing the project’s key positioning and messaging during the formative phases;
  • Managing creative teams (team management, client management, creative collaborator and sub-consultant selection and management);
  • Managing multiple projects, large and complex projects;
  • Leading the client communications of major projects, client presentations and workshops;
  • Providing input and development of select project ethos and positioning statements;
  • Providing input and development to the visitor experience, including key program elements and anchor experiences;
  • Providing input and reviewing the project contract, overall project schedule, work plan, staffing plan and fees;
  • Mentorship and training (supporting emerging talent, elevating BIPOC), recruitment and development (staffing, placement, structures, partners), studio culture (contemporary issues, awareness, concerns); 
  • Working on new business proposals and initiatives;
  • Seeking and promoting new ventures for the Social Projects initiative (philosophy, actions, staffing), promulgation of social projects philosophy (thought leadership, speaking engagements, publications, conferences, government).

Position Characteristics

  • Visionary: brings creative and transformational thinking to projects, processes and studio development.
  • Communicative: brings transparent, confident and thoughtful leadership and communication to projects, processes and studio development.
  • Organized: manages multiple project processes, teams, and clients. 
  • Enterprising: eager to think about new opportunities and approaches to this work.
  • High-achieving: sets and maintains high standards of performance for themselves and others.


  • Advanced degree in Architecture, Exhibition Design, Interior Design, Industrial Design, or, alternatively, other related fields in the arts, humanities, or cultural heritage with combined work experience in designing three dimensional spaces;
  • 6-10+ years of in-depth experience at museums or in the cultural heritage or exhibit design field;
  • Progressive responsibility within highly complex, dynamic and narrative environments;
  • Strong professional contemporary design background evidenced by a recognized and distinguished body of work in a range of contexts; experience with exhibitions and digital exhibits;
  • Proven success building and leading award-winning, multi-disciplinary creative teams;
  • Collaborative and inclusive work style with the ability to mandate and implement decisions;
  • Executive’s capacity for multi-tasking, project management and presentation to multiple constituencies, with the ability to acknowledge constraints;
  • Substantial experience managing large-scale projects, of a high volume and pace, within specified budgets;
  • Ability to provoke thought and push the comfort of convention while exhibiting a sense of humility and a self-reflective demeanor;
  • Excellent communication skills, interpersonal dexterity, approachability, and diplomacy;
  • Deep engagement with history and culture from a global perspective together with active knowledge of current design strategies;
  • Highest standards of personal and professional integrity;
  • Commitment to social responsibility and civic engagement through the work of RAA Social Projects;
  • Interest in and experience with the promotion and realization of sustainable design strategies.
  • Proficiency with some of the following programs will be expected: Microsoft Office Suite, Google Workspace, Adobe Creative Suite, Revit, Rhino, BIM 360, and/or Vectorworks, depending upon background and experience.


RAA offers a competitive benefits package to our full-time staff, including: medical, dental, and vision insurance; flexible spending accounts; 401k enrollment; generous paid time off. Additional benefits are offered at no cost to employees, including short- and long-term disability and life insurance. Flexible benefits are also available for employees to make tax-advantaged contributions toward medical expenses, transportation and parking costs, and childcare.

How to Apply

Unfortunately, due to the volume of applications we receive, we cannot personally respond to each applicant. Qualified candidates will be contacted via email regarding our interview process. To apply for this role, please send a cover letter, CV, and portfolio to humanresources@raai.com.

EEO Statement

RAA is an equal opportunity practice that is committed to furthering diversity and inclusion in our studio. RAA does not discriminate in employment or access to its programs or activities on the basis of: race; color; creed; religion; gender; gender identity or expression; sex; sexual orientation; national origin or ancestry; citizenship status; health or genetic information; age; marital status; mental or physical disability; pregnancy; political affiliation; arrest record; past, present, or future service in the uniformed services; or any other legally protected status. Our policy of non-discrimination applies to all personnel practices, including, but not limited to, recruitment, project assignments, professional development, compensation, or any other employment practice. We strongly encourage women, people of color, and candidates from other underrepresented communities to apply.