We penguins pride ourselves on our awkward walk and our uniqueness. Some of us even waddle and slide on our bellies when our clients aren’t around. All of us fly in the world of creativity when we are in our rookery, strategizing and creating your vision together. Speed, consistency and thoroughness are the hallmarks of our work.

Our core staff is made up of 10 practicing professionals well-versed in the communication arts, supplemented by talented collaborators (industry practitioners and specialty craftsmen and artists) who bring their skill sets to fill specialty project needs.

brand enhancers, problem-solvers, compelling story-tellers, homegrown chefs, experiential marketers, fearless designers, disruptive idea generators and trusted creative consultants.


Nothing frustrates us more than taking a product off the shelf, furrowing our brows to examine it – and realizing the packaging was the only reason we noticed it in the first place. We’re food experts, but let us loose in a grocery store and we’re six years old again, like everybody else.

Packaging matters. Branding matter. And as the quality of food gets better and better, it’s even more important to help great brands grab eyeballs. So our name – which, we know, is a little out there – is actually a reminder of our calling: simply put, a plaid penguin sticks out on the shelf.


With an entrepreneurial spirit and tradition of artistic expression, award-winning designers Joe Haubenhofer and Kara Hollinger lead the team, combining their conceptual approach and an efficient, engaging process The Plaid Penguin partners with business and new ventures to help them become relevant, efficient and more profitable.


Joe Haubenhofer


Joe brings a rare mix of bold imagination and disciplined design pragmatism to The Plaid Penguin. He is able to drive projects from both strategic and creative standpoints, guiding clients through an exploration of their brand with fresh eyes and uncovering new and unexpected sources of inspiration. Joe’s wellspring of ideas is virtually bottomless, but one of his best attributes is his ability to narrow the field quickly to the idea best suited to the client’s needs.

As the founding partner, Joe acts as the company's lead visionary and is intricately involved in every collaboration that the Penguins undertake: clients, partners and other contributors. His work is a mixture of consulting, branding, marketing, event management, writing and design. It’s challenging, ground-level work that can help align an organization, brand or experience.

His zeal for seeing big ideas come to life has also led him to create unique experiences that have contributed to the cultural fabric in the community. Drawing upon his experience as a private chef for professional athletes and his love for food and community, he co-founded Relish Carolina, a roaming dinner + activity club that recreates the lost practice of dinnertime.


Kara Hollinger


Kara’s passion for food and entertaining came early. From the age of five, she surrounded herself with the hustle and bustle of her parents’ European-inspired tearoom and restaurant, known for its scratch made cuisine and attentive service. Hospitality is in her DNA.

Born and raised in the Midwest, she studied graphic design and photography at Purdue University. She eventually made the move to Charlotte and fell in love with all things design. She also took a keen interest in the storytelling aspect of advertising and its power to engage customers. Kara spent years as a creative and art director with well-established agencies before making another big move: partnering with Joe Haubenhofer to build The Plaid Penguin.

Her diverse list of clients demonstrates an agile response to the varying needs of businesses based on their size and individual branding objectives. Kara is hard-working, enthusiastic, and a creative mastermind. She specializes in the details and is experienced at telling visually compelling and cohesive stories. She holds over 30 local and national awards that recognize this transformative work.

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