Karen S. Herman

Founder/CEO/Retail Design Strategist, Gustie Creative LLC

With more than 25 years of executive level experience in commercial design, planning, project management and strategic marketing, I am passionate about good design, retail design strategy and design innovation.

I’ve worked with architecture firms, retailers, advertising and marketing firms, corporations, real estate companies, property developers, and owners of small to medium size businesses, to design corporate, commercial, retail, hospitality, and mixed use interior spaces, destination experiences and collateral materials.

I enjoy beta testing new technologies (Google Glass, Project Tango) and writing articles on design and technology for trade publications. Also enjoy speaking to small and large groups on both topics. I believe in giving back to my community through mentoring and serving on non-profit boards.

Gustie Creative is a full service design firm specializing in commercial and retail design, retail design strategy, and design innovation. We are passionate about creating disruptive retail. Our exclusive and unique approach to disruptive retail consists of five Pillars of strategy and 30 Paths of design that take our clients’ brand or business into the marketplace when, where, and for as long as they desire. Our clients include Zimmerman Advertising, Warren Technology Inc., Wind2Share, FloSpine, Bagel Twins Bagelry and Restaurant and HelpedHope.

Gustie Creative is my second company. My first was Creative Direct Solutions, Inc., founded in Stamford, CT, in 1995. This company was in business for 13 years and focused on delivering a tailored design approach that integrated technology with a clear design aesthetic, project management and customer service. Clients included Calvin Klein, Inc., New York Athletic Club, New York Palace, MediaPost, GRS and The Ledges.

Prior to starting Creative Direct Solutions, Inc., I worked for ten years in senior interior design and project management positions with architecture firms including Mancini-Duffy Inc. and Gould Evans. I attended the University of Kansas where I completed studies in interior design and was a varsity member of the women’s golf team.

Other Links From Karen S. Herman
Karen’s Design Blog

  • Posted on: 04/18/2018

    Honoring women

    As a female founder of a startup devoted to disruptive retail, and with 30 years of professional design experience behind me, I've seen and directly experienced enormous improvement in the advancement of women in the workplace. Many of these advancements are due to women who have stepped up and created opportunities for other women. And, industry efforts, such as Warren's initiative outlined here, create opportunity such as the June cover story and The Endcap feature stories he is spearheading. Women in today's workplace are ready and looking for opportunities to advance their careers, companies and industries. Creating these opportunities is key to eradicating bias and advancing women.
  • Posted on: 03/27/2018

    Where is the shopping opportunity with voice commerce?

    I see voice commerce as a gamechanger in the shopping journey and am very optimistic about its potential to drive purchases in the short- and long-term. Right now, shoppers are in the discovery stage. They are learning to use a voice assistant as a shopping tool to search, learn, compare and consider products and purchases. As the shopper grows comfortable with their preferred voice assistant, the technology will continue to improve and grow more targeted. Forward-thinking brands are working to integrate voice assistants and, in the long-term, they will benefit from the ease of use and enhanced shopping experience that voice commerce provides.
  • Posted on: 12/27/2017

    What retail apocalypse?

    While a stronger economy and lower unemployment rate contributed to opening the pocketbooks of shoppers this holiday season, it is important to mention that many brick-and-mortar retailers stepped up to the challenge of online shopping by offering greater and more engaging shopping experiences in-store. From [email protected] to Everlane's first store in New York City to the sleek integration of IoT in Fabletics stores, brick-and-mortar retailers gave shoppers many reasons to visit and purchase in-store this holiday season.
  • Posted on: 12/13/2017

    Will late deliveries mess up Christmas?

    The Amazon Effect has created a ripple this holiday season that may find some shoppers very sad on Christmas Day and I'm concerned about Free Shipping Day coming up this Friday, December 15th. The online retailers offering free shipping and delivery by Christmas should revise their message as needed. Better to be proactive and on top of the logistics here than leave a customer empty handed on Christmas Day.
  • Posted on: 12/12/2017

    Will meal kits be a hit on Walmart’s virtual shelves?

    It appears that Walmart continues to court the urban Millennial, a demographic that spends money for convenience and is very familiar with I think Home Chef and Takeout Kit meal kits are a great addition to's offerings. What I would like to see next are in-store tastings of the meal selections from Home Chef and Takeout Kit. Adding an in-store experience that is educational and engaging offers a strategic advantage over, Blue Apron and Hello Fresh.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    Indie retailers can survive – even thrive – during the holidays

    So true, Mike. I'm an Android fan and my Samsung S8 QR code reader is lightning fast and gives me options to browse the site, share or send content with one click. I work with a company that creates AR Codes and the potential for certain retailers is significant. Thanks for commenting.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    Indie retailers can survive – even thrive – during the holidays

    Tony, I really appreciate your comments here. The scenario you describe exists in many parts of the US and is an important discussion to have. With this article, I focused on community and free marketing resources for independent retailers. Reach out to me if you want to discuss in detail.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge Global Edition – M&S vs. Sainsbury’s

    Definitely spreading some holiday cheer with these two choices. Both are heartwarming and family oriented, but I feel that Marks & Spencer's "Paddington & the Christmas Visitor" lacks the authenticity and personal connection that Sainsbury's "Every Bit of Christmas" offers. So my vote goes to 'Every Bit of Christmas." Super curation of real life examples in this spot!
  • Posted on: 11/16/2017

    Amazon Go still plans to transform convenience in retail stores

    Yes, I definitely believe that Amazon Go will be a success, and the fact that the beta stage lasted longer than what was expected, to me, is a sign that the company is doing all that it can to get this concept right. Well worth the effort and wait as this retail technology is a game changer. Seems like a given that the Whole Foods play is for the real estate. Easier to upgrade the portfolio of Whole Foods sites to various levels of the Amazon Go technology platform than to invest the time and money to build out all new locations first.
  • Posted on: 11/02/2017

    New pop-up concept is a capital idea

    Pop-up stores, pop-up restaurants and food trucks are disruptive retail solutions that enable independent brands and small businesses to move from online-to-offline, test new channels, build new customer bases and innovate on a small scale. For the consumer, engaging with a fresh new food, product or service is exciting and due to the short-term nature, an exclusive opportunity. Looks to me like a win-win. This is just the beginning of where we see retail heading at Gustie.
  • Posted on: 10/20/2017

    Drone-to-hand delivery could become a thing

    Great point, Bob, to suggest drones be used for life saving situations. In Sweden and out in California, operators are working with first responders to assist people with cardiac arrest and deliver aid faster by drone.
  • Posted on: 10/20/2017

    Drone-to-hand delivery could become a thing

    I'm a big fan of drones in the retail sector, from improved logistics in the warehouse to creative delivery solutions and marketing engagements for consumers. But this week's incident of a drone hitting a passenger plane in Canada raises my concern about how far the proliferation of drone use in the public airspace can go. The U.S. is more reserved about opening up airspace to drones than other countries and I don't see direct-to-consumer drone delivery happening here too soon.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2017

    A mall carves out pop-up space for online brands

    With [email protected] Field, Simon Malls is taking a similar turn-key micro retail concept launched last November at the Mall of America and giving it an online brand focus with an international edge. Both are much needed innovative offerings to engage consumers that are bored with the typical enclosed mall shopping experience. Do I see this conflicting with the Cart and Kiosk offerings that Simon has been improving lately? Yes, and I am interested to find out the rental costs in comparison. Bottom line, all can offer an experiential, interactive and engaging shopping experience, if designed right. [email protected] Field is a great start.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2017

    Are fashion trends moving too fast for retail?

    Yes, the influence of digital marketing and social media on shopper decision making is tremendous. When you can shop with your smartphone 24/7, having to wait a month or two or six to get a desired product in your hands is asking a lot. While H&M and Zara benefit from constantly improving a fast fashion supply chain strategy, the in-season equivalent for fashion designers, "see now, buy now" has not worked so well for Tom Ford, Thakoon, Burberry and others. Smart retailers are reassessing their production methods and supply chains to determine what works best for their products and customers. Running after trends is not the answer.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2017

    Can vending units help Uniqlo achieve success in the U.S.?

    Mobile retail is a smart choice that provides convenience in a small footprint for on-the-go shoppers. In the past, we've mostly seen vending by box, such as Best Buy. Today I see forward thinking brands finding mobile vending a new channel to explore. Benefit Cosmetics is a great example with "Glam Up and Away" vending machine kiosks in major airports across the US. Uniqlo is on target to test this concept with design and packaging that is authentic to the brand. These six foot tall vending units are a great opportunity to introduce Uniqlo to a wide range of consumers, learn which products people want to buy and capture important analytics the entire time. Smart move.

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