Caroline Baumann

Independent Design Leader + Consultant

Caroline Baumann is a changemaker who knows how to catalyze creative communities for positive change. She has a proven track record in culture and design, reimagining and repositioning Cooper Hewitt as America's preeminent Design Museum with a mammoth renovation that transformed the museum into a globally-recognized powerhouse for critical design debate and presentation, accessible and exciting to all thanks to a revolutionary digital pen experience activating the 210,000 objects in the collection. The Pen was the product of a collaborative, international industrial R&D design process, and user-centric perspective, exemplifying how designers solve real-world problems.

Following nearly 2 decades at the museum, she is now on a mission to use design as a force for positive change and purpose, building communities and sustainable experiences that foster compassion, belonging and a greener planet.

An ardent and longtime supporter of equity and justice, Baumann has dedicated much of her career to introducing design to underprivileged communities. She and her team conceived and developed National Design Week, securing funding from Target, and offering a free week of museum admission and daily free programming to communicate the power of design to diverse audiences. In 2010, she introduced the Teen Design Fair, with the purpose of attracting black youth to the museum to learn about careers and education in design from National Design Award honorees and design school representatives. She opened the Harlem Design Education Center, a satellite space for the museum, representing Museum Mile in the heart of Harlem with a children’s design library and free literacy-based design programming.

Representing the Smithsonian at the White House National Design Awards luncheon several years running, she realized Michelle Obama’s desire to launch design programs in DC schools, while inviting some of the teens to the luncheon itself. Baumann also realized a dream to launch a National Teen Design Competition, which challenges high school students to envision a better future. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Design Awards program in 2019, she introduced 2 new categories: Climate Action and Emerging Designer.

Baumann prioritized accessibility and inclusion in every aspect of the museum’s culture and programs, and encouraged a diverse group of exhibitions, like By the People: Designing a Better America, Access + Ability, Contemporary Muslim Fashions and Willi Smith: Street Couture, concurrent with stimulating programming. She represented the Smithsonian at the World Economic Forum in 2019 and 2020, with exhibitions and talks on Accessibility and Design + Climate change.

Baumann is now consulting for various corporations and non-profits. At Miller Knoll, she co-led the development and launch of the Diversity In Design (DID) Collaborative with the purpose of ensuring diverse voices lead design in the future. DID unites like-minded design leaders to pledge to systemic change and diversification of the industry and profession via contributions to organizations educating black youth in art and design, internships, mentorships, scholarships, partnerships with HBCUs and recruitment.

Caroline, a Swiss-American, is a member of the Royal College of Art U.S.A. board, the Rhode Island School of Design board, Fast Company’s Impact Council and the Female Design Council. In 2018, she was awarded with the rank of Chevalier of France’s Order of Arts and Letters.