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The Brand Whisperer

Artist Karen Kimmel’s creative touch turns up in the most unexpected places.

Karen Kimmel in her Atwater studio.

Corporate art gets a bad name because it’s thought to be bland and commodified. But corporate artistry—a design-minded eye applied to brands—should not be confused with a giant steel ball sculpture outside a multinational bank tower. “The financial crisis recalibrated what worth means for so many people,” says artist Karen Kimmel, who trained at Tufts University and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Over the last five years, via her eponymous studio that will move to a larger space in Atwater Crossing this year, Kimmel has become a one-stop shop that can supercharge a brand’s currency and supersize its identity by adding a bit of her heart and soul to its projects.

“It’s thinking holistically; what a brand is essentially, and not simply what the company makes,” says Kimmel, who distills this essence using her background in social sculpture and installation art. She also relies on her knowledge of art history and her familiarity with retail gleaned through KBond, a gallery-cum-retail space she and her husband, James Bond, ran in the early aughts.

Her unique perspective has served companies big and small, from Nike to Splendid, and she’s worked on everything from new product launches to brand expansions to design projects (she just completed interiors for Jane Lynch in partnership with Studio Alvarez). “I call it cell division; that’s the key to growth,” Kimmel says, also pointing to her passion for the exploration of shared social space. “The Internet and social media have democratized creativity and innovation to such a great extent,” she says.

Kimmel says she can’t name another artist mining her intercategorical turf, territory Kimmel pioneered at KBond. She admires the efforts of Andy Spade, an entrepreneur who approaches his company, Partners & Spade, with a similarly holistic pervasiveness. “But his background is advertising,” Kimmel says.  

Karen Kimmel’s Hots
Surfing, sandcastles, juicing, organic gardening, handmade pieces

Karen Kimmel’s Nots
Fast food, texting while driving, manicured lawns, the 405, the lack of physical fitness programs in schools