Karen Hofmann
Art Center College of Design

Karen Hofmann is serving as the Chair of the Product Design department at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena since 2010. She has been an instructor at the college since 2001. Over the last decade she has been instrumental in developing design research processes, strategy and curriculum for the department. Along with her colleagues she is responsible for identifying and shaping vision-casting projects with numerous sponsors including Panasonic, Nokia, Honda, Nestle, Nike and Samsung. She leads the innovative study abroad program with INSEAD international business school where designers collaborate with MBA students to develop new ideas for products and services. Karen also developed innovative educational models such as DesignStorms®, a compliment to Art Center’s traditional trans-disciplinary studios. These creative immersive projects with partners such as Adidas, Volkswagen, Avery Dennison, Disney Consumer Products, Unilever, and Research in Motion have introduced new ways of partnering with sponsors to explore future market opportunities.

Karen is also currently the Director of the Color, Materials, and Trends Exploration Laboratory (CMTEL). For the last six years, she has been responsible for creating the strategy and developing this resource at Art Center, working collaboratively with founding partner Nokia Corporation to develop a unique educational program around color, materials and trends. Prior to her full-time commitment to Art Center, Karen was a senior project consultant with o2studio, a design strategy and research consultancy focusing on color, material and trend. Clients included Milliken Automotive, Nokia, and Plantronics. Prior to teaching at Art Center and working with o2studio, she was the Strategic Research Manager in the Consumer Research department at Johnson Controls, Automotive Systems Group, Michigan.

Karen began her career at Johnson Controls after graduating from Art Center with a degree in product design. She joined the advanced design studio and began to grow her storytelling skills as she gravitated toward the front end of the design process – translating research into stories and ideation. Karen has a passion for understanding people’s needs and solving for them as she also holds a degree in psychology from California State University, Northridge. During her time at Johnson Controls and o2studio, she was instrumental in recognizing and translating relevant social and cultural trends, defining projects and processes that influence advanced initiatives, and inspiring development teams to think different about their product experiences.