Tom Karen, industrial and product designer: design and creative work and publications

Scope and Content

Sketchbooks (ca.1955-2001); press-cutting volumes for Ogle Design (ca.1971-1995); booklets and publications produced by Tom Karen (ca.1962-2000); Ogle Design company publicity material, brochures, press-releases and product brochures (ca.1969-2001); slides relating to products and designs by Ogle Design and Tom Karen (ca.1962-2000)

Administrative / Biographical History

Thomas Josef Derrick Paul Karen (1926 - ) was born in Vienna, Austria and spent his childhood years in Brno, Czechoslovakia. Karen's paternal grandfather, a geologist and businessman ran the family-owned brickworks in Brno; his maternal grandfather was the Hungarian-born painter Arthur von Ferraris. After the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in March 1939 the Karen family escaped via Belgium and France to Portugal, before flying to the UK in 1942.

During WW2 Karen studied aeronautical engineering at Loughborough College, after which he spent ten years in the aircraft industry working in a stress office and in technical publications. Karen then returned to education, studying industrial design at the Central School of Art and Design in London. Karen worked from 1955-1959 at the Ford Motor Company Ford Styling Studio in Dagenham, where he worked on the 105E Anglia model and the Rascal, a concept car he designed for a national competition, won first prize.

Karen joined David Ogle Associates in Stevenage as a designer in 1959. He left in 1960 to join Hotpoint's design studio, followed by Philips's Design Studio for white goods in 1961.

After founder David Ogle was killed in a car crash in 1962, Karen was invited to join the re-named David Ogle Ltd in Letchworth as Managing Director and Chief Designer. He remained there until his retirement in 1999. During his tenure the company became Ogle Design Ltd, broadening its focus from car design to transport and product design and prototyping as well as safety-research dummy manufacture. The company worked on a wide range of projects including the Reliant Scimitar GTE, Raleigh Chopper bicycle and Kiddicraft marble run. Clients included Airbus, British Rail, Bush, Electrolux, Leyland, London Transport, Meccano, Renault, Rolls Royce and SAAB. In 1999 the company was restructured into three units: Ogle Noor for design (Norway), Ogle Models and Prototypes (Letchworth), with dummy manufacture moving to the US.

Karen has continued to work during his retirement, undertaking lectures and workshops, producing children's books, games and toys and craft work.

Access Information

This archive collection is available for consultation in the V&A Study Rooms by appointment only. Full details of access arrangements may be found here:

Access to some of the material may be restricted. These restrictions are noted in the catalogue where relevant.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Tom Karen, 2015.

Cataloguing supported by the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of The David Berg Foundation, New York.

Conditions Governing Use

Information on copying and commercial reproduction may be found here:

Custodial History

The archive was acquired as a group by the donor.

Personal Names

Corporate Names