May 13, 2024

From Theme Parks to High Schools and Every Household—These Are the Trailblazers Deploying Design to Change the World

ArtCenter Alums Bob Gurr, De Liu and Azeez Alli-Balogun to Receive Alumni Awards for Their Transcendent Impact on Our Society on Multiple Fronts

ArtCenter College of Design is pleased to announce the 16th Annual Alumni Award recipients, who will be honored on June 8th for their meaningful contribution to our society. This year, the award ceremony will include a showcase of videos celebrating their accomplishments.

As designers, these outstanding luminaries demonstrate the endless possibilities of how their education and experience at the College influences humanity on a global scale.

At a dinner celebration on June 8th, the College will honor the world’s only living original Disneyland Imagineer Bob Gurr (BS 52 Transportation Design) with the Lifetime Achievement Award, entrepreneur De Liu (MS 15 Industrial Design) with the Distinguished Mid-Career Award and social impact designer Azeez Alli-Balogun (MS 18 Industrial Design) with the Young Innovator Award.

Recipients of the 15th Annual Alumni Awards, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Yves Béhar, Bruce Heavin and Mariana Prieto will also be celebrated at the ceremony this year.

“Bob, De and Azeez are stellar alumni who showcase the transformative effect design can bring to the world,” said Karen Hofmann, president of ArtCenter College of Design. “Their accomplishments are a reminder for ArtCenter students to challenge the norm and embrace boundless possibilities.”

These pioneers demonstrate how a design education can take many paths and lead to influential roles across a broad spectrum of careers. This group of awardees and their achievements highlight the benefits of working with interdisciplinary teams, a value instilled in every ArtCenter alum.

Bob Gurr (BS 52 Transportation Design) Lifetime Achievement Award

Imagineer Bob Gurr has always been a man on the move. For nearly 40 years, Bob has “moved” nearly every Disney theme park guest worldwide aboard one of the over 100 attractions he had a hand in designing. Bob is a true legend who has shaped the theme park experience and brought joy to people of all ages. Born with a fascination for cars and mechanical devices, the Los Angeles native attended ArtCenter to study industrial design and was hired by the Ford Motor Company upon graduation. However, Bob’s immense imagination and creativity soon attracted the attention of none other than Walt Disney, who recruited him to work on constructions that went on to define Disneyland. Over nearly five decades, Bob worked his magic on other iconic vehicles such as the Autopia cars, the Monorail, the Matterhorn Bobsleds and so much more. Bob’s knack for design and mechanical knowledge also contributed to Disney’s most advanced 1964 Animatronics figure– Abraham Lincoln. Bob also engineered the giant King Kong featured in the popular 1986 Kongfrontation Attraction at Universal Studios, Hollywood. Among his other mechanical feats, Bob created the UFO that soared over the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, the Godzilla movie creature and Treasure Island's pirate show on the Las Vegas Strip.

De Liu (MS 15 Industrial Design) Distinguished Mid-Career Award

De Liu, co-founder of Xiaomi Corporation, has deployed the strategic thinking he cultivated during his time in the Graduate Industrial Design (Grad ID) program at ArtCenter to usher a wave of technology innovation and affordability to households throughout China. De's entrepreneurial journey was ignited by his deep conviction in the power of design to innovate. He took the helm of Xiaomi's industrial design division and built it into a tech giant. Under his guidance and dedication to a user-centric philosophy and the notion of making the joy of technology accessible to all, the company’s wide range of products garnered over 500 domestic and international design recognitions, including the esteemed IF Gold Award, Red Dot Design Award (Best of the Best), IDEA Gold Award and Good Design Award (Best 100). However, De's vision extends far beyond traditional design roles. He recognized the unique opportunity for the company's strategic expansion and spearheaded an innovative business model to invest in nearly 250 startups spanning 200 product categories to establish an IoT ecosystem. This strategic initiative propelled Xiaomi into new realms of innovation, particularly in smart home technology, wearable devices, and personal and household consumer products, making it the third-largest smartphone company.

Azeez Alli-Balogun (MS 18 Industrial Design) Young Innovator Award

Azeez Alli is Head of Design at the XQ Institute where he is leading product design of a transformative educational architecture to make high school education more equitable. Azeez is also the co-founder and President of Aroko Cooperative, where he harnesses his passion for design to drive social impact by highlighting African and Indigenous cultures. His work focuses on shifting mainstream design and social narratives towards inclusivity and cultural recognition. Throughout his career, Azeez has consistently championed inclusivity and humanity. At Netflix, he developed globalization tools that enhanced the platform's cultural inclusiveness. In previous roles, he infused equity and humanity into the development of machine learning tools, affirming his dedication to creating technology that benefits everyone. Central to Azeez's ethos is the principle of care. He advocates for decisions that prioritize the well-being of both the community and the environment. Azeez's endeavors underscore his belief in the power of design and technology as tools for social change. His work is a testament to his commitment to making a significant impact in the lives of others, guiding every project with a principle of care and a vision for a more equitable world.

The ArtCenter Alumni Awards are an annual recognition bestowed by the College and the Alumni Office, with input from the internal ArtCenter community and global AlumNetwork of 25,000+ extraordinary individuals showcasing their talent across multiple realms of art and design. By honoring distinguished graduates, ArtCenter is proud to publicly recognize the impressive influence of its alumni.

Past Alumni Award recipients include Yves Béhar (BS 91), Kit Hinrichs (BFA 63), Lee Friedlander (Photography), Melodie McDaniel (BFA 91), Doug Aitken (BFA 91), Syd Mead (BS 59), Shiro Nakamura (Transportation Design), Drew Struzan (BFA 70), Kenji Ekuan (BS 57), Sterling Ruby (MFA 15), Wendy MacNaughton (BFA 99), Ini Archibong (BS 12), Katie Dill (BS 07), Jessie Kawata (BFA 11), Spencer Nikosey (BS 2008) and Kevin Bethune (MS 12).

To see a complete list of Alumni Award honorees, visit:

Social Media:

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 wide variety of industrial design disciplines as well as visual and applied arts. 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.

Anna Macaulay, Director, Campus Communications
626 396-2205

Marketing and Communications ArtCenter College of Design
Keith Wang, Coordinator
626 396-2338

Portrait of ArtCenter Alums Bob Gurr, De Liu and Azeez Alli-Balogun
ArtCenter Alums, L to R, Bob Gurr, De Liu and Azeez Alli-Balogun to receive Alumni Awards for their transcendent impact on our society on multiple fronts.