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2023 Designer Dozen: Colleen Bernhoft (O’Donnell)




2023 Designer Dozen: Colleen Bernhoft (O’Donnell)
Colleen Bernhoft (O’Donnell)
Age: 33 | Senior Designer, Chipman Design Architecture
Favorite TV Show: I’m a sucker for all the reality shows on Bravo!
Favorite Snack: Cheez-Its or a big Bavarian pretzel!


In her role as a Senior Designer, Colleen is the main point of contact with her clients. Overseeing a team of designers, coordinating with her company’s in-house visualization/architecture teams and MEPS engineers, Colleen also leads the conceptual design process on projects. She acts as a CAD platform manager, aiding in her team management skills. In addition to her co-workers commending her strong commitment to her work/life balance, she’s also recently become a licensed Interior Designer through the NCIDQ certification, allowing her to mentor others at her firm interested in gaining their license through leading the company’s NCIDQ Study Group.

Colleen serves as a mentor for her company’s mentor program and works with younger staff members on a one-to-one basis, aiming to develop their technical, communication and problem-solving skills, as well as critical thinking.

Project photo: Mark Ballogg, Chicago / Headshot: clay larsen, L.A.Project photo: Mark Ballogg, Chicago / Headshot: clay larsen, L.A.

What led you to a career in retail design?

During my last quarter of college, I had an internship at a design firm that specialized in retail design. When I graduated, they offered me a full-time position as a designer. This was very exciting because I not only had a job offer in the industry right out of school, but it was also at a firm that had really cool projects. They worked on a lot of department stores, as well as smaller retail spaces. I quickly started learning about the customer journey and experience, as well as how to incorporate a company’s brand and DNA into the overall store design.

If budget were no object, I’d…

…specify the most luxurious fabrics, finishes and lighting! Most often we are limited to what materials we can include because of budget constraints. Materials and lighting have such a high impact on the overall design so I would love to not have to worry about any budget restrictions and really go for it! Nothing beats a show stopping light feature.


What place that you’ve visited has made the biggest impression on you and why?

In 2019, my husband and I did a road trip from California to Chicago. We spent a week driving back, stopping at numerous national parks along the way. Although it wasn’t a trip centered around visiting man-made architectural sites, it was incredible to see these parts of our country that are completely untouched. Just looking into the distance to see miles and miles of landscape made me really appreciate that we had that opportunity to make those memories together.

My dream project is…

I think it would be very cool to design a resort! It would encompass so many different areas of design and experiences and really challenge me to think of innovative ideas.

The best part of my day is…

…cooking dinner with my husband. And soon, that will also include seeing my baby girl after I’ve been working all day!



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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