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    About the Foundation

    The mission of the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation is to further the advancement of underrepresented youth in design education and women in professional communities of design practice and leadership. The Foundation also
    promotes public awareness of design at the intersection of business, culture, and education.

    Sara Little Turnbull, a trail blazing designer and design consultant, operated at the nexus of design, culture, commerce, and education during the second half of the 20th Century. She described her practice as “applied cultural anthropology.”

    Sara Little Turnbull created a Foundation Trust as a vehicle to continue her work and to reflect her love of design education at the intersection of business and culture. The Trust was formally created in 2015 and officially launched in 2018 with a mission to serve Sara Little Turnbull’s legacy and vision.

    The vision of Sara Little Turnbull is difficult to define: innovative, anthropological, observational, inter-disciplinary, consumer focused, but without any fixed methodology. Her legacy is easier: a long list of innovative products, successful corporations and CEOs, inspired Stanford University graduates, and the dedication of her close friends and mentees who have been charged with sharing her stories and continuing her legacy.

    About Sara

    Sara Little


    Photo credit: Maureen Hoffmann/RedRedCircle

    Born Sara Finkelstein in New York City in 1917, she attended Girls Commercial High School in Brooklyn. In 1935, she won a scholarship to Parsons School of Design, where she graduated in 1939. This launched one of our country’s most stunning careers in design, business, and education.

    At 4’11”, she was called “Little Sara.” Adopting “Little,” she used the name “Sara Little,” throughout her career. Selecting the asterisk as her symbol, she explained, “I’m the something extra. I’m the catalyst.”

    After college, Sara worked at Marshall Fields as a furniture designer and assistant art director and at Blaker Advertising Agency at art director. In 1941, she joined the staff at House Beautiful magazine, where she wrote the “Girl with a Future” column and served as Decorating Editor, a position she held for nearly two decades.

    She wrote prescient articles about changing American lifestyles post-World War II. For instance, she anticipated the family room when she encouraged readers to create more informal spaces in their homes. She understood that women would continue their desire to work, and wrote articles for young professionals about sharing apartments with roommates. Living and, eventually, operating her business out of a 400-square-foot apartment, Sara wrote about her passion for simplicity, versatility, and organizing small spaces for maximum domestic efficiency.

    Magazine advertisers were eager to hear Sara’s insights about women and the domestic market. In 1958, she launched Sara Little Design Consultant and worked for more than 60 years as a corporate design, strategy, culture and marketing consultant. Her clients included Corning, Revlon, Campbell’s Soup, 3M, General Mills, Neiman Marcus, Dupont, Ford, Macy’s, Coca-Cola, among many others. She has been described as “corporate America’s secret weapon.

    Sara was one of America’s first industrial designers. She was also a self-described cultural anthropologist, finding inspiration during her extensive travels throughout the world when she studied how people in different places engaged with their environments. She also found inspiration in nature’s beauty, engineering and design. She famously developed designs for ergonomic pot handles after observing cheetahs in the wild, grasping their prey at high speed.

    In 1988, Sara founded the Process of Change Laboratory for Innovation and Design, a design studio and archive imbedded within the Stanford Graduate School of Business. At Stanford, Sara engaged students in tracking trends and challenged interdisciplinary teams to address real world challenges through design. She encouraged students to embrace curiosity and to explore the “why” before designing the “how.” Sara’s students became leaders in engineering, design and business throughout the world. Sara is a beloved mentor to many.

    Sara’s legacy is realized as a living legacy, alive through the people, initiatives, and organizations supported by the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation.

    How pleased Sara would be to see that she continues to make an extraordinary impact and will for
    many years to come—in fact for many lifetimes—with the programs you are funding in her name.

    My life was certainly impacted by Sara. Never had I met a woman of her generation that had defied
    the norms of her day and utilized design as a strategic initiative vs a pure aesthetic. From Pyrex to
    makeup, she created a new category of design for better living. She was fearless and forever

    Peggy Burke

    Principal, 1185 Design

    Sara was a daring trailblazer, a force of nature and of design, and
    a consummate expert. She was also the most generous,
    supportive, and exacting mentor. It is heartwarming to know that
    her foundation will pursue one of her main goals in life: seeing
    other women succeed.

    Paola Antonelli

    Senior Curator, Architecture and Design Director,

    Research & Development, The Museum of Modern Art

    Maureen Hoffmann / RedRedCircle

    When I first met Sarah at Stanford, nearly two decades ago, she invited me to meet her students,
    mostly males, who hung on to every word of this tiny, lively, powerful woman.

    [At] a Metropolis conference…she came up to me…and said, ‘My Dear, you’re like Picasso—you throw
    your colors up on a canvas, and at the end the composition makes sense.’ Her words still resonate,
    reminding me of this generous, original, and supportive woman—the kind of person I strive to be.

    Susan S. Szenasy

    Director of Design Innovation and former Editor in Chief, Metropolis

    Maureen Hoffmann / RedRedCircle
    Maureen Hoffmann / RedRedCircle

    Sara was a passionate supporter of design and
    designers, and believed in the role design
    could play in the larger world. She was both
    generous and visionary, yet very low key about
    her own considerable experiences.

    Nancye Green

    Founder, Donovan/Green

    Sara attended our Consumer Products meetings at Corning about once a month. She was always
    prepared with insightful presentations that brought the needs and wants of the American Homemaker
    into our consciousness. We also met with her for retail visits and at trade shows where we discussed
    products and our competition.

    Sara had the ear of our market managers, all the way to Lee Waterman, Vice President of the
    Consumer Products Division of Corning Glass Works, who initially spearheaded the development of
    the Corning Ware line. Knowing her experience as editor of House Beautiful magazine, Lee hired Sara
    to help Corning understand the American homemaker.

    She provided a dimension of knowledge and encouragement that was key in understanding the trends
    effecting consumer needs related to the products we were designing, developing and marketing. Sara
    was key to the success of important product lines such as Corning Ware, special lines of Pyrex Ware,
    Centura Tableware, and Corelle.

    Sara guided us to provide the consumer with simple vessels that could be used for food preparation,
    serving, and storage. Vessels made from Corning Ware, for example, could go from the stovetop,
    broiler, or oven to the table, then, to the fridge or freezer, and then, to the microwave and back to the
    table. The versatility of these round-trip vessels saved time, space, and energy.

    Over the years, all that Sara predicted has happened in spades. All that she espoused is as relevant
    today as it was then.

    Herb Dann

    Manager of Tableware Product Development; Consumer Products Design Manager,

    Corning Glass Works. (now Corning Inc.)

    I learned almost everything I know about marketing from Sara. She understood the cues that made
    people raise their eyebrows and smile.”

    My first job after graduating from Pratt was Head of Exhibit Design at Corning. Sara was consulting
    with Corning’s consumer products division and she took me under her wing. We visited the
    housewares shows in Chicago together to analyze the displays. Sara understood how to merchandize
    and market consumer products. She knew how to make a marketing manager’s “price special” sing
    quality with all sorts of advantages that made a dining table virbrant or a kitchen’s aroma say

    Sara worked with Stanley Marcus in the 1960s to produce the outlandish offerings in the Neiman
    Marcus catalogues — a week on the most exotic islands in the South Pacific, round-the-world ultra first
    class cruises or flights with landings and accommodations at the out-of-the-way destinations unheard
    of then.

    She made the latest oddity of a food chemist’s laboratory into a new main stay product that a young
    housewife could rely on to transform an ordinary salad into a featured main course, or a new product
    added to a child’s lunch box.

    Sara knew how to catch the public’s imagination. She turned around mine.

    Louis Nelson

    Designer, Strategist

    Sara Little About
    Metropolis Magazine – Joe Budd

    Sara Little Turnbull, Corporate America’s Secret Weapon


    September 16, 2015

    Sara Little, Peripatetic Product Designer, Dies at 97.

    The New York Times

    September 07, 2015

    Sara Little Turnbull, Product Polymath

    Regarding Design (re:D), page 12

    Fall 2019

    Grants and Awards

    The Sara Little Turnbull Foundation awards grants to organizations who share in our mission to further the advancement of underrepresented youth in design education and women in professional communities of design practice and leadership. At this time, the Foundation reviews proposals on a by-invitation-only basis.

    The Furniture Society

    The Furniture Society was awarded a $10,000 grant to support Craft for a Greater Good Local Resident Fellows. This gift enhances a current two-year grant as The Furniture Society demonstrated exceptional resiliency and creativity in its response to a global pandemic. Craft for a Greater Good takes shape at the intersection of business, culture, community, and education as Fellows build coalitions among creative and community partners to engage youth and community members in a purposeful project, working with design and craft professionals. This project positions craft and design as tools of empowerment and universal connection. Learn more.

    Lehman College

    The Sara Little Turnbull Design Initiative was awarded $50,000 to support visiting designer speaker series, courses, and exhibitions to engage more women and minority groups in design education and career opportunities. Fall ’21 programs, The Eyes Have It, explored the power of visual imagery in a world dominated by screens, monitoring, and media. During Spring ’22, Eco-Urgency: Now or Never will explore climate change through the lens of design. Learn more.

    Manitoga: Russel Wright Design Center

    The Foundation supported the Russel & Mary Wright Design Gallery and Artist Residency program with a $25,000 grant. The permanent gallery exhibit opened in May and features over two hundred objects that tell the story of how the Wrights forged a modern American lifestyle through groundbreaking design for the home. The Artist Residency program invites artists from diverse disciplines to respond to the power of place and invite audiences to encounter architecture, design and nature through immersive, multi-sensory experiences. Learn more.

    Parsons School of Design

    The Foundation continues to support the Parsons Scholars Program with a $25,000 gift. The program is committed to bridging the gaps to college and careers by addressing economic and social challenges faced by young people of color. Students in grades 10 through 12 have benefited from the program’s year-round, comprehensive, and sequential offerings in art and design education while forming relationships within its connected community, a bond that lasts well beyond high school graduation. Learn more.

    Smith College

    The Design Thinking Initiative was awarded a $20,000 grant to support the Collaborative Leadership and Design Immersion program which they lead in partnership with the college’s Center for Leadership. Students from multiple academic backgrounds are given the opportunity to apply human-centered design methodologies and collaborative leadership skills in real-world settings. The program connects students with embedded, fully paid summer experiences around the world where they have a chance to practice collaborative change-making in the context of a local organization and help lead the advancement of socially, economically, and environmentally healthy communities. These design education experiences have proven invaluable in students’ trajectories. For example one of the beneficiary Immersion Students from 2021 is now the Human-Centered Design Fellow at the Design Initiative at Dartmouth. Learn more.

    Tiny WPA

    Tiny WPA was awarded a $10,000 grant to create the Sara Little Turnbull Fellowship for a woman of color who is curious, driven and passionate about design and design education. The fellow will join Tiny WPA for an intensive three-month period and become a part of Tiny WPA’s community, interacting with community partners, collaborators, schools, and neighbors. Emphasis will be placed on community-centered, collaborative design to address hyperlocal partner-identified need(s).
    Learn more.


    The Sara Little Turnbull Visiting Designer Speakers Series at Lehman College
    Event Flyer
    Spring 2021

    The Sara Little Turnbull Visiting Designer Speakers Series at Lehman College
    Event Flyer
    Fall 2020

    Smith College Design Immersion Fellowship Presentation

    November 11, 2019

    Gift Presentation to the University of Washington

    November 06, 2018

    The University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences and the Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity (OMA&D) announced that the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation has made a $200,000 gift to benefit underrepresented minority, low-income and first-generation students pursuing design degrees within the School of Art + Art History + Design . The gift will be used to establish the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation Endowed Scholarship in Design, providing financial assistance to undergraduate students who are affiliated with OMA&D’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). This gift is one of two inaugural gifts by the foundation.

    The University of Washington is accepting contributions to the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation Endowed Scholarship in Design. Show your support.

    Gift presentation to The New School’s Parsons School of Design

    October 04, 2018

    Presentation of the inaugural gift from the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation to The New School’s Parsons School of Design. A $200,000 gift was given to advance the university’s Parsons Scholars Program, a free
    multi-year, need-based college preparatory program designed to remove social and financial barriers that prevent motivated teens from pursuing education and careers in art and design.



    For more information about the Sara Little Turnbull Foundation, contact us:


    Phone: 914 482 1337