15 Buzzwords for 15 Years: EXPERIMENTATION

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Karen Hofmann February 22, 2016

Experimentation: The Imperative for Innovation

KH2015As Designmatters celebrates 15 years, ArtCenter is fast approaching another milestone – a decade of the DesignStorm, an innovative workshop process launched to drive the “exploration” component of the Color, Materials and Trends Exploration Laboratory (CMTEL). The DesignStorm has proven to be a successful model for organizations to engage with students and faculty to explore future design or market opportunities. This model was conceived at a time when design thinking was being adopted by the industry as a critical pathway to innovation. At the heart of the DesignStorm is an experimental, playful, design-doing approach to tackling complex challenges.

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Leap Symposium at ArtCenter College of Design, 2013.

After ten years, the DesignStorm has evolved tremendously – in process, scale and application. I’m inspired by numerous faculty who have experimented with diverse methodologies over the years with a fearless approach to taking on sometimes daunting challenges utilizing this process. With risk comes great reward and perhaps one of the greatest risk/rewards I’ve experienced was using the DesignStorm process for the Designmatters LEAP Symposium with over a hundred participants. While our facilitation team of over twenty faculty and students embraced the challenge – we were pushed out of our comfort zone. The outcomes from LEAP were compelling, authentic and innovative due to the experimental nature of the process coupled with complete support from the stakeholders.

Important lessons I’ve learned regarding “experimentation”:

Trust in the process, trust in your team.

Create the space and time to play.

Celebrate the accomplishments.


Karen Hofmann is the Chair of the Product Design Department at ArtCenter College of Design . She also leads the innovative study abroad program with INSEAD International Business School, and created ArtCenter’s design thinking executive education program hosted at the ESADE Business School. With degrees in psychology and product design, Karen’s expertise is in design research, strategy, and insights. She spent several years at Johnson Controls Automotive Systems Group in Advanced Design and Research, and for the last decade has been teaching and consulting.

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