Kara Johnson is a material scientist who has worked at IDEO since 2000, across a broad range of design-related disciplines including materials, manufacturing, brand, and business. She inspires designers and clients to think differently about products, in particular how they’re made and why it matters.
Over the years, Kara has evolved from material scientist to lover of materiality, making, brand, and storytelling. She has an obsession for materials you can fall in love with and is intrigued by stories you can’t forget. This obsession has led to the opportunity to inspire the design of cameras, kitchen appliances, chairs, software packaging, printers, blue jeans, credit cards, beer bottles, cars, etc. Anything that’s made of something. For many years she focused on building IDEO’s business in Asia; now her current portfolio of work is focused on building brands from the inside-out.
Kara came to IDEO after completing her PhD at Cambridge University, England. The output of this work was a book titled: Materials and Design (2001). Kara’s most recent publication, I Miss My Pencil (2009), published by Chronicle Books, is a tangible expression of these ideas and the experiments that design makes possible.
Kara’s next project is a children’s book where each character is made of something: Sandy is made of glass, Stretch is a rubber band. Woollard is made of felt, Page is a piece of paper. Until then, Kara hopes to build the same character of materials into the mass-produced, branded products and spaces of our current world and industry.
Materials & Manufacturing