Conceptual illustration of the High Roller cabin. Each of the 28 cabins will hold 40 passengers. (Illustration: The Hettema Group)

profile / alumni / illustration
June 15, 2013
Writer: Teri Bond

Sky High Design

Phil Hettema (BFA 81) Illustration

Phil Hettema is bringing simple and elegant design to Glitter Gulch with the creation of the world’s tallest observation wheel, the High Roller at Caesars, stretching 550 feet into the Las Vegas skyline.

“I think this wheel is really, from a design point of view, going to be stunningly beautiful. The whole thing is based on pure circles and spheres,” says Hettema, Illustration alumnus and founder of The Hettema Group, an award-winning immersive design firm based in Pasadena whose projects include The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman (at Universal Orlando Resort) and the three-story observation deck atop One World Trade Center (opening in 2015 in Manhattan).

Key to creating an effective immersive environment, says Hettema, is to control the entire experience and tell a great story to engage the visitor in unexpected ways. “The more you become engaged,” he says, “the more powerful the memories become, and the experience becomes stronger, and it stays with you longer.”

With variability built into the design, the team promises the adventure will never be the same experience twice. Visitors journey through a media-saturated terminal lounge guided by a flight crew before boarding an enclosed glass cabin for the 30-minute ride revealing expansive city and desert views. The High Roller is set to open in early 2014.

The more you become engaged, the more powerful the memories become.