Karen Hofmann

Department Chair, Undergraduate Product Design


Karen Hofmann is the chair of the undergraduate Product Design Department at ArtCenter, where she has served as the acting chair since 2008 and been an instructor since 2001. Heralded as one of the “Most Admired Educators of 2010” by DesignIntelligence, she has been instrumental in developing the department’s strategy and curriculum, integrating new design research processes, forming an industrial design foundation program, promoting sustainable design courses and launching innovative educational models.

She is also the director of the Color, Materials and Trends Exploration Laboratory, where she launched DesignStorms—innovative immersions with ArtCenter faculty and students—partnering with companies such as Adidas, Volkswagen, Nestlé, Disney and Eastman Innovation Lab to explore market opportunities. She serves on the advisory board and as a mentor for Design Accelerator, a joint venture between ArtCenter and the California Institute of Technology, and heads the innovative study-abroad program with INSEAD international business school. A leading faculty member for the College’s Transdisciplinary Studio projects, Hofmann identifies and defines vision-casting projects with numerous sponsors, including Honda, Johnson Controls, Nokia, Panasonic and Samsung.

“I feel a great sense of responsibility to prepare our young designers as creative citizens of the 21st century,” says Hofmann, “and will evolve the program to best prepare our students for meaningful careers that will have a positive impact on the world.”

Prior to ArtCenter, Hofmann served as senior project consultant with O2studio, a design strategy and research consultancy focusing on color, materials and trends. Clients include Milliken Automotive, Nokia and Plantronics. She began her career at Johnson Controls, ultimately serving as strategic research manager in the consumer research department of the company’s Automotive Systems Group. She graduated from ArtCenter in 1997 with a BS in product design and received a BA in psychology from California State University, Northridge, in 1990.