Tesla Designer Franz von Hauzhausen Joins ArtCenter College of Design Board

Fran von Holzhausen at ArtCenter Invitational

One of the biggest names in automotive design has joined the Board of Trustees at ArtCenter College of Design. Franz von Holzhausen, chief designer for Tesla and the design lead for nearly all the company’s models since he joined the company in 2010, will bring his vast industry experience as well as his perspective as an ArtCenter alum to this new board role. Von Holzhausen graduated from ArtCenter in 1992 with a BS in Transportation Design and has been an iconic, regular presence on campus since.

Prior to joining Tesla, von Holzhausen was director of design for Mazda North America, leading the design and development of concept and production cars including the acclaimed Nagare and Furai concept cars. Previously, he served as design manager for General Motors where he worked on the concept and production design of the Pontiac Solstice, which won Automobile Magazine’s Design of the Year Award in 2006. He started his career as a junior designer at Volkswagen after graduating from ArtCenter. There, he was part of the team who helped reimagine the company’s signature Beetle car, among his other accomplishments. Since joining Tesla he has created what is considered the world’s leading automotive design studio and helped set the tone for where automobiles are going in the future.

A February 16, 2024 article in the Wall Street Journal describes von Holzhausen’s approach and impact on electric vehicles this way: “Over the years, he has built a reputation for combining minimalist, tech-forward interiors with modern-looking exteriors with a touch of pizazz, such as retractable door handles or panoramic glass roofs. He helped demonstrate electric cars could be cool and aspirational, not just better for the environment.”

“We are truly excited to have Franz join the board and bring his perspectives as an industry trendsetter and as an ArtCenter alum,” said Michael M. Warsaw, ArtCenter board chairman. “His energy, vision and pulse on the future will help guide our commitment to innovation in education.”

“As we continue to focus on the return on investment for our students for their education, and in maintaining ArtCenter’s unwavering commitment to innovation, Franz is the perfect addition to our board,” said Karen Hofmann, president of ArtCenter College of Design. “Of course, combining his expertise and experience with his deep knowledge and love of ArtCenter makes this an even greater benefit for our institution and our students.”

At Tesla, von Holzhausen oversees a team of 300, including designers and sculptors responsible for transforming concepts into models. He works out of Tesla’s Los Angeles-based design studio, which is located in a converted airplane hangar next to the headquarters of SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company.

Over the years, von Holzhausen has been a frequent visitor to campus to meet with and inspire students. He was a featured guest and spoke at the ArtCenter Design Invitational in October 2023, bringing along his most recent breakthrough project, Tesla’s Cybertruck, a pickup with hard angles and stainless-steel panels that Elon Musk requested, “feel like the future.”

“Franz has always been generous with his time for our students, visiting campus often, usually driving the latest from Tesla. His understanding of the College and our Transportation Design program will make him a valuable asset on the board and we are thrilled to hear of his appointment,” noted Transportation Design Department Chair Marek Djordjevic.

Von Holzhausen lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Vicki, also an ArtCenter graduate in Transportation Design (1995), an accomplished automotive designer and whom he met at General Motors. The powerhouse couple worked together on the Pontiac Solstice—Franz on the exterior and Vicki on the interior. They have two sons.

About ArtCenter: Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and 10 graduate degrees in a variety of industrial design disciplines as well as in a range of visual and applied arts. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College serves members of the Greater Los Angeles region through a highly regarded series of year-round extension programs for all ages and levels of experience. The institution is renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives.