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Three Design Pioneers Honored by ArtCenter

From Aircraft Interiors to Space Exploration to Spatial Experience — ArtCenter College of Design Honors Three Design Pioneers Forging the Next Frontier of Innovation.

Published on Tuesday, December 13, 2016 | 5:34 pm
Michael Reese, Rob Ball and Jessie Kawata Receive Alumni Awards for Creating Meaningful Change through Design at Fall Commencement Ceremony December 18

Three distinguished alumni will be honored by ArtCenter College of Design at its fall commencement ceremony Saturday, December 18th. The trio, who influence how we live and learn through design innovation, represent the impact of an ArtCenter education on the world. The ceremony, held at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and also live streamed here on the College’s YouTube channel (, will bestow degrees on 170 graduating students.

Groundbreaking aircraft interior designer Michael Reese, class of 1974 in Product Design, will receive the Lifetime Achievement award in recognition of his extraordinary career; educational leader, environmental designer and much-loved 28 year ArtCenter faculty member Rob Ball, class of 1983 in Environmental Design, will be honored with the Outstanding Service award recognizing his significant service to the College; and pioneering industrial designer Jessie Kawata, class of 2011 with an emphasis in Product Design, will receive the Young Innovator award, which honors an alumnus of the past 10 years for notable professional achievement or creative innovation.

“Beyond their impressive professional achievements, which impact our world through human-centered design and innovation, Michael, Rob and Jessie exemplify dedicated alumni who throughout their lives continue to give back to students and the College on many levels,” said Robbie Nock, director of Alumni Relations. “Their collective contributions are illustrative of the close-knit ArtCenter alumni family who make up the most catalytic pipeline of creative talent in the world.”

As early as age 16, Michael Reese was excelling in the fields of art and design as a winner of the prestigious General Motors sponsored Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild futuristic automobile design competition. Prior to launching his firm in 1976, he broke new ground with the design of one of the first hand-held digital, educational toys for Texas Instruments and worked in the aerospace industry as a design engineer for General Dynamics. Best known for his innovative aircraft interior designs, Reese and his firm achieved world-class status specializing in the design of private luxury aircraft interiors customized for an international clientele. His recent personal design projects include creating custom built bodies to realize his vision of the ideal Porsche speedster and the restoration of an historic fly-fishing ranch in Colorado. The Reese Foundation, provides financial support to the visual arts, education and the environment.

“No one puts in more hours, or works harder than Rob Ball on behalf of our students,” said David Mocarski, chair of the Environmental Design department. One of the most loved and respected instructors on campus, Rob Ball teaches in the undergraduate and graduate Environmental Design programs. He is an industrial and exhibit design consultant with expertise in interpretive environments, spatial experience, media, graphics, lighting, interactive and set design. He’s especially interested in story driven concepts and education-based sensory experiences.

Jessie Kawata is lead industrial designer and creative strategist in the Advanced Design Engineering group at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Her passion for design, science and sustainability led her to JPL where she helped to pioneer their first in-house design studio. With a background in product design, she spearheaded the integration of design thinking, creative methodologies and strategic storytelling as the first lead mission architecture creative strategist in JPL’s Innovation Foundry.

The ArtCenter Alumni Awards are an annual recognition bestowed by the College and the Office of Alumni Relations, with input from the internal ArtCenter community and global alumni community nearly 20,000 strong and growing. Honoring outstanding graduates is an opportunity for ArtCenter to recognize the extraordinary talent, impressive service and influential reach of its alumni. The awards are presented at the close of the fall term during commencement each December.

Past recipients of the Lifetime Achievement award include:

Syd Mead, BS Transportation Design 1951
Frank Nuovo, BS Product Design 1986
Kenji Ekuan, BS Product Design 1997
Doyald Young, BFA Advertising 1955
Lou Danziger, BFA Advertising 1948
Bruce Burdick, BS Environmental Design 1961
Gordon Bruce, BS Product Design 2007
Shiro Nakamura, BS Transportation Design 1981
Drew Struzan, BFA Illustration 1970

Past recipients of the Outstanding Service award include:

Ramone Muñoz, MFA Fine Art Painting 1990, BFA Advertising 1977
Mikio Osaki, BFA Advertising 1961
Michael Osborne, BFA Graphic Design 1978
Stephanie Sigg, BS Environmental Design 1998
Wendy McNaughton, BFA Fine Art 1989
Gala Narezo, BFA Photography and Imaging 2001
Stan Kong, BS Product Design 1983
Patrick Kiruki, BS Product Design 2005
Gary Meyer, BFA Illustration 1959

Past recipients of the Young Innovator award include:

Nikolai Cornell, MFA Media Design Practices 2004
Dustin Arnold, BFA Graphic Design 2004
Erick Benjamin Nyquist, BFA Illustration 2007
Geetika Agrawal, MS Industrial Design 2005
Jonathan Jarvis, MFA Media Design Practices 2009
John Niero, BS Environmental Design 2007
Spencer Nikosey, BS Product Design 2008
Katie Dill, BS Product Design 2007
Mari Nakano, MFA Media Design Practices 2010

About ArtCenter: Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in a wide variety of industrial design disciplines as well as visual and applied arts. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves members of the Greater Los Angeles region through a highly regarded series of year-round educational programs for all ages and levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College’s long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.



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