Cooper Hewitt’s National Design Awards program honors innovation and impact in design. Since its inception in 2000, many Asian Americans have been recognized with a National Design Award. Here are 14 to know:
2019 Fashion Award
Derek Lam is a leading designer of relaxed yet elevated American sportswear. His work is known for its calculated simplicity and thoughtful detailing that creates a sophisticated modern sensibility. A San Francisco native, Chinese American Lam began his fashion career in 1990. When asked to use three adjectives to describe good design, Lam said, “Just one, thoughtfulness.” He spent eight years as a designer at Michael Kors before launching his New York-based eponymous fashion house with partner Jan-Hendrik Schlottmann in 2004 and contemporary line Derek Lam 10 Crosby in 2011. The collections include women’s clothing, shoes, handbags, and eyewear. Lam has received numerous accolades from CFDA, and his work has been exhibited at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C.; The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK.
Grace Jun of Open Style Lab
2019 Emerging Designer Award
Established in 2014, Open Style Lab is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating functional wearable solutions for people of all abilities without compromising on style. Led by board members Grace Jun, Christina Mallon-Michalove, and Pinar Guvenc, the New York-based organization teams designers, engineers, and occupational therapists to conceive and build accessible wearables that address the needs with and for people with disabilities. Open Style Lab’s mission is for all people to have access to style, regardless of cognitive and physical ability, and they achieve this through education programs, research and innovation, and raising awareness. In addition to apparel, Open Style Lab’s body of work includes accessories, wearable technology, innovative textile applications, and an exhibition. Korean American Grace Jun is also an Assistant Professor of Fashion at The New School where she teaches inclusive design.
2018 Fashion Award
Christina Kim is the co-founder and designer of dosa, a Los Angeles–based clothing, accessories, and housewares company established in 1984 with a focus on rethinking conventional fashion industry production and sustaining artisan cultures. In-house production enables an evolving system for efficient use of natural resources, recycling, and creative reuse. South-Korean born Kim draws on traditional handwork techniques, particularly in India, Mexico, and Colombia, engaging local artisans and communities in long-term collaborations. Christina Kim’s work was featured in the Cooper Hewitt exhibition Scraps—Fashion, Textiles, and Creative Reuse on view September 23, 2016 through April 23, 2017.
Mikyoung Kim of Mikyoung Kim Design
2018 Landscape Design Award
Mikyoung Kim, FASLA, is the founding principal of Mikyoung Kim Design, an international landscape architecture and urban design firm based in Boston. Kim, a Korean American landscape architect and designer with a background in sculpture, has lead the firm for over two decades. The firm has crafted an exceptional body of award-winning work that redefines the discipline of landscape architecture and inhabits the intersection of art and science. Its projects—from large to small—solve challenging urban resiliency issues while always considering the unique character of place making. As a multi-disciplinary office, the firm’s ideas emerge through a responsive and collaborative approach that imagines possibilities across disciplines and scales. The firm’s work, including the Chongae River Restoration (Seoul, Korea), Crown Sky Garden (Chicago, Illinois, USA), and Prudential Center Plaza (Boston, Massachusetts, USA), celebrates the transforming experience of water and light in the city.
Mary Ping of Slow and Steady Wins the Race
2017 Fashion Award
New York–based, Chinese American designer Mary Ping founded Slow and Steady Wins the Race in 2002, following the launch of her eponymous collection in 2001. The work is a continuous investigation into the elements of what people wear, how they wear it, and why. Each collection contains a commentary on the cultural anthropology of modern fashion, focusing on the fundamental characteristics of design within a wardrobe. Ping was inducted into the CFDA in 2007, and is a winner of the Ecco Domani Award and UPS Future of Fashion. Her work is part of the permanent collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK; The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York; the RISD Museum, Rhode Island; Deste Foundation, Athens, Greece; and the Fondation d’entreprise Galeries Lafayette, Paris, France.
Carol Lim and Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony
2016 Fashion Award
Carol Lim and Humberto Leon founded Opening Ceremony in 2002, with the idea of bringing their love of travel and fashion to a concept boutique. Both grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Lim is Korean American and Leon is Chinese and Peruvian American. The company grew to encompass the Opening Ceremony ready-to-wear, accessories, and footwear collections for men and women; retail outlets in New York, Los Angeles, Nagoya, and Tokyo; a wholesale showroom in New York; and a comprehensive online platform at openingceremony.us. In 2020, Opening Ceremony closed their physical retail stores. In 2012, Leon and Lim were appointed creative directors of the French fashion house Kenzo.
Primo Orpilla of Studio O+A
2016 Interior Design Award
For over twenty-five years, Studio O+A has been a creative force in workplace design. What began as a two-person space planning operation in Silicon Valley in 1991 is today a San Francisco–based design firm with over 40 employees and clients that are some of the most dynamic companies in American business, including Facebook, Uber, Cisco Systems, and Yelp. Led by principals Primo Orpilla, Verda Alexander, and Perry Stephney, O+A built its reputation on understanding how the next generation of entrepreneurs is changing the work environment and how those changes are abetted by design. Primo Orpilla is a Filipino American. From the beginning, O+A saw its mission as capturing the spirit and culture of the client in the built environment and turning that spirit into a story.
Robin Petravic of Heath Ceramics
2015 Corporate and Institutional Achievement Award
For over 60 years, Heath Ceramics has been known for handmade ceramic tableware and architectural tile that embody creativity and craftsmanship, elevate the everyday, and enhance the way people eat, live, and connect. Founded by Edith and Brian Heath in 1948, the historic company is now led by Catherine Bailey and Robin Petravic, who purchased and re-founded the company in 2003, placing a strong emphasis on design while preserving Heath’s hand-crafted techniques and designer-maker legacy. Petravic was born to a Chinese mother and Croatian father. Today, Heath Ceramics is committed to quality over quantity, production at a human scale, local manufacturing, social and environmental responsibility, and thoughtfully designed spaces that don’t just reflect its values, but also create them. Heath still makes dinnerware in its original factory in Sausalito, California, and has added a new tile factory in San Francisco, California.
Kim Yao of Architecture Research Office
2011 Architecture Award
Architecture Research Office is a New York–based firm led by Stephen Cassell, Adam Yarinsky, and Kim Yao. Its work spans from strategic planning to architecture and urban design. Since 1993, the firm has worked with leading universities, cultural institutions, global corporations, government agencies, international fashion labels, and nonprofit organizations, utilizing research and analysis to drive the design. From a prototype for 1,000-square-foot low-income sustainable housing to a proposal to reinvent the role of ecology and infrastructure in New York City, ARO uses design to unite the conceptual and the pragmatic within a strong, coherent vision.
Jeff Han, founder of Perceptive Pixel
2009 Interaction Award
Perceptive Pixel was dedicated to the research, development, and deployment of multi-touch interfaces for the knowledge worker. Their systems enabled both novice and expert users to manipulate complex datasets through a new class of intuitive yet powerful and visually rich interface techniques. The company was founded in 2006 by Korean American Jeff Han after he astonished attendees at that year’s TED conference with a live debut of the technology. Perceptive Pixel became renowned for completely transforming the way television broadcasters including CNN, Fox, and ABC covered the historic 2008 Presidential elections. In 2012, Perceptive Pixel was acquired by Microsoft where Han served as Partner General Manager of Perceptive Pixel (later Surface Hub) through 2015.
Masamichi Udagawa of Antenna Design
2008 Product Design Award
Co-founded by Sigi Moeslinger and Masamichi Udagawa in 1997, Antenna Design combines technological complexity with a sense of humanity. Japanese-born Udagawa designed musical instruments for Yamaha and user experience for Apple before founding Antenna Design. The firm’s work prioritizes rapid prototyping and user involvement. Antenna Design’s projects range from public to commercial, realized to exploratory, for an international clientele, including Bloomberg LP, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, Fujitsu, and Microsoft. It designed three new fleets of subway cars and the MetroCard ticket vending machines for New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority; and the hardware and screen interface for JetBlue’s check-in kiosks nationally.
Professor Frank Ching
2007 Special Jury Commendation Award
Francis D.K. Ching has shaped the fundamental vocabulary of every designer and architect through his writing and illustration. Author of numerous books on architecture and Professor Emeritus at the University of Washington, Francis D.K. Ching’s work has influenced a generation of students and continues to be regarded as the canon in design education. Respected for its clear, instructional approach, Ching’s work is known for its ability to articulate the often complex relationships between abstract ideas and their expression in design. Seminal texts such as Architectural Graphics, Architecture: Form, Space and Order and Building Construction Illustrated have been widely incorporated into curricula in the U.S. and abroad.
Marc Tsurumaki of Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis
2007 Interior Design Award
Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis (LTL) is an architecture and design firm that explores the intersection between theory and practice. Founded in 1993 by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David Lewis, the firm is recognized for their attention to detail and craft, inventive use of materials, and close involvement in the installation process. LTL has completed academic, retail, and restaurant design projects throughout the United States, including the College of Wooster’s Bornhuetter Hall in Ohio, and Tides and Xing restaurants in New York City. In their writing, the firm has examined contemporary suburban architecture and hotel design. LTL’s work is part of several museum collections and has been exhibited widely at venues including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale, and the 2000 Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial, New York.
2004 Fashion Award
Yeohlee Teng is an American fashion designer from Malaysia and of Chinese heritage. Yeohlee Teng’s strong and consistent approach to clothing design portrays seasonless efficiency, striking geometry, and concise functionalism. Teng designs for the “urban nomad,” a postmodern consumer who demands adaptable and low maintenance clothing that appears deceptively simple but makes a powerful impression. The inspiration for Teng’s simple, clean, and functional clothing came from studying the clothes of people traveling through Kansai International Airport, Osaka Bay, and from investigating how fashion relates and contrasts with architecture. Yeohlee’s designs have attracted the attention of many museum and gallery curators. Her work has been featured in solo shows at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London and The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, and her clothing is in the permanent collection of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.