July 11, 2018
ArtCenter College of Design President Lorne M. Buchman announced today that, after an extensive international search, the College has named Karen Hofmann as its new provost. Hofmann, an ArtCenter alumna who chaired the Product Design department since 2009 and most recently served as interim provost, is the first woman to hold the top academic position in the 88-year history of the College.
In making the announcement, Buchman said, “Karen’s performance as interim provost has been remarkably strong. She has shown incredible skillfulness working through a number of exceedingly difficult problems and I look forward to working with her on a more permanent basis.”
“I am humbled by this opportunity to serve ArtCenter, a place I love dearly, and ensure that future artists and designers are provided the tools they need to help shape the world around us,” Hofmann said. “My time as interim provost has been one of deep reflection and given me the confidence to address educational and organizational issues I’m most passionate about. I understand the challenges of navigating the institution in its current structure and the opportunities to shape what the office could be in the future.”
As chair of the Product Design department, Hofmann established a culture emphasizing the need for designers to be engaged in their community and consider themselves as creative citizens with a responsibility to leverage their creativity for good. She prioritized team-building and leadership by encouraging students to be involved in clubs, student government and social impact initiatives. She focused on the “experience portfolio” and prioritized the co-curricula experiences such as serving as a teaching assistant, pursuing internships, traveling through study away and mentorships with the goal of enabling students to develop a distinct point of view.
She led the evolution of the Product Design department during the last nine years by hiring a diverse body of faculty and shaping the curriculum to address the expanding role of product design in the industry. With her team of faculty, she launched new curriculum in color and material design, design research and strategy, design entrepreneurship and a concentration in Wearables and Soft Goods.
Among her many accomplishments, Hofmann launched DesignStorms®, immersive three-day projects in which students, faculty and professionals from participating sponsoring companies—such as Adidas, Disney, Microsoft, Eastman Innovation Lab, Nestlé and Volkswagen—collaborate and innovate around emerging material technologies or future market opportunities.
Leading the development of the Color, Materials and Trends Exploration Laboratory (CMTEL) at the College, Hofmann worked with internal and external partners such as Nokia to create a unique and vital resource. She influenced and enabled curriculum development in sustainable design, color and material design and trend research.
She spearheaded the establishment of the Sewing Lab at ArtCenter supporting the development of projects by undergraduate and graduate students from across all majors, in particular studio classes in Wearables and Soft Goods and Surface Design offering students the opportunity to design footwear, apparel, headwear, equipment, bags and accessories with a focus on the human-centered design process, 3D fabrication and materials innovation.
DesignIntelligence, published by the Design Futures Council, named Hofmann one of the Most Admired Educators of 2010 for exemplifying excellence in design education leadership. The selection was made with extensive input from hundreds of design professionals, academic department heads and students.
Throughout her career, Hofmann has been 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.
Prior to joining ArtCenter’s faculty, Hofmann served as senior project consultant with o2studio, a design strategy and research consultancy focusing on color, material and trends. Clients included 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.
Hofmann graduated from ArtCenter in 1997 with a bachelor of science degree in product design and earned a bachelor degree in psychology from California State University, Northridge in 1990.
She currently serves as a board member for The Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP) supporting technological craftsmanship in the arts and design. The foundation offers emerging designers the opportunity to take their ideas from concept to reality with fellowship and education programs to nurture thinkers who will make radical, sustainable and lasting contributions to the design discourse and society at large.
Hofmann’s appointment follows an international search to identify and attract a diverse and highly qualified group of potential candidates from around the world.
“The search process was terrific. We attracted first-rate candidates, effectively involved a large number of community constituents, and learned a great deal about ourselves in the process,” Buchman said. “The search committee was most impressive, with the superior leadership of Anne Burdick [chair of Graduate Media Design Practices]. The respectful and civil dialogue was inspiring to me, especially given the diversity of perspectives represented within the committee.”
“I can speak for the entire committee when I say it has been both educational and exciting,” said Burdick. “Along the way we have had the privilege of hearing from world-class educational leaders and holding in-depth conversations with President Buchman about what makes a good provost, and especially, what makes a good provost at ArtCenter.”
About ArtCenter College of Design
Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in a wide variety of industrial design disciplines as well as visual and applied arts. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves members of the Greater Los Angeles region through a highly regarded series of year-round continuing education programs for all ages and levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College’s long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.
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