Kara Johnson directs all materials-related efforts at Palo Alto, Calif.-based IDEO, a 350-person industrial design firm with eight offices worldwide. A native of Sudbury, Mass., she joined IDEO in late 2001, shortly after completing a Ph.D. degree in materials engineering from Cambridge University in Cambridge, England. Her research there addressed issues relating to the presentation of materials information to product designers, specifically industrial designers.
Prior to that she had earned two degrees from California's Stanford University – a bachelor of science in industrial engineering in 1995 and a master's in material science a year later.
After her Stanford studies, Johnson joined Arthur D. Little consulting group in Cambridge, Mass., for two years as a member of its technology and product development group. In 1998 she spent a year doing independent design consulting for sports-equipment firms such Taylor Made Golf Co. Inc. and Atlas Snow-Shoe Co., before heading to England. At IDEO she spearheaded a major collaborative project with Eastman Chemical Co. that resulted in the development of a series of innovative eyewear concepts using Eastman's plastic materials.
Johnson also recently co-wrote with Cambridge University engineering professor Mike Ashby a textbook, published in 2002, called Materials and Design: The Art and Science of Material Selection in Product Design.