So far in this series we've met women who have written, produced, and directed for Star Trek, as well as those who have helped create its soundscape. Although I've been repeatedly disappointed by how poorly this franchise -- so progressive in its content -- has fared regarding female inclusion in its production, I've thoroughly enjoyed meeting those accomplished and dedicated women who have made a real impact on the Trek universe.
Today we turn our attention to the show's "art and design," which, for our purposes, includes animation, set design & decoration, and anything that falls under the purview of the art department. Don't worry: costume, wardrobe, & makeup, and special effects have their own posts!
P.S. Most of the info below was drawn from imdb.com, memory-alpha.fandom.com, and linked interviews. While I've done my best to be thorough, I admit my fallibility and welcome corrections. The vast majority of women credited with working on Trek have little to no information available about them, and photos are even more scarce. Also, shorts, video games, books, comics, and fan-made media are not included.
There were no women in the art or design departments for TOS (shocker), so the first entry on our list is the team of 15 (out of 78) female animators who worked on TAS. If you watched ANY cartoons during the 1960s, 70s, or 80s you've seen their art, because several of these women worked on shows featuring the most popular animated characters of the 20th century, such as Fat Albert, the Flintstones, G.I. Joe, He-Man, the Looney Tunes, Mighty Mouse, My Little Ponies, Pink Panther, and She-Ra. Of particular note are Lorna Cook, Jesse Cosio, and Lillian Evans, who not only worked on TV, but also contributed to several iconic and childhood-shaping animated movies, including All Dogs Go To Heaven, An American Tail, Charlotte's Web, The Land Before Time, and 1978's The Lord of the Rings. Evans also directed all but three of the 1980s My Little Pony shows, and Cook -- during her 45 YEARS in the industry -- helped write Disney's Mulan and The Lion King, and co-directed Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. And even though this entry is already epic, you need to know how incredible Laverne Harding was. One of the earliest female animators in Hollywood, she's most known for her work on Woody Woodpecker, but has more than 250 animation credits on IMDB spanning nearly 60 years. She was also the first female animator to win the International Animated Film Society's prestigious Winsor McCay Award.
Photo via IMDB
When it comes to creating and executing the director's vision for a show, there are two key players: the cinematographer and the production designer. Cinematographers are in charge of how a scene is filmed; we'll get to them in another post. It's the production designer -- the top of the totem pole for all things design -- that we care about today. From sets to costumes to props, the production designer is an extremely powerful position, and only one woman, Tamara Deverell, has wielded that power for Star Trek. Deverell joined the Discovery crew midway through the first season, and was quickly thrown into the fire when the writers gave her 10 minutes to come up with a setting idea for Burnham, Saru, and Tyler's away mission to the peaceful planet Pahvo. She and her team pulled through, designing the yurt that they use as a base camp. All in all she's been the production designer for 23 Discovery episodes.
Photo via trekmovie.com
Reporting to the production designer, the art director oversees the logistics related to creating the sets, as well as manages the art department's total budget and schedule. The first woman to do this for Trek was Sandy Veneziano, who worked on most of the first season of TNG, as well as the movies Generations and The Final Frontier, although she was assistant art director for the latter. In addition to her Trek credits, she was production designer for several shows and movies, including Gilmore Girls, Fatal Instinct, and Father of the Bride. Two Starfleet officers are named after her: a science officer listed on the dedication plaque of the Enterprise-B, and a captain of the USS Omaha Nebraska.
Photo via arts.unl.edu
Once the director and production designer come up with their final ideas for the sets, it's up to the set designer to take those sketches and turn them into technical schematics for the construction crew. Antoinette Gordon was the first female set designer for Trek, although beyond her work on The Final Frontier and other movies I could find no other info about her. Her credits include some big Hollywood films though, including working as a draftsman on TRON, and as a set designer on G.I. Jane, The Shawshank Redemption, and Honey, I Blew Up The Kid.
Photo via IMDB
As the only woman listed in the art department for both The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan, graphic designer Carole Lee Cole must have taken her fair share of sexist baloney. She didn't let that stop her from getting her work done though, which included designing all of the Federation signage in both movies. She also redesigned the bridge layout, although her original design for the consoles -- completely smooth and heat-activated -- was vetoed by the director, who thought holding onto a joystick was more dramatic (men and their sticks...). Luckily, her console design was eventually resurrected and used for the bridge of the TNG Enterprise. Two Trek characters, one in The Wrath of Khan (a rear admiral at Starfleet Academy) and one in Enterprise (listed on the dedication plaque of the Columbia NX-02), are named after her.
Photo via Memory Alpha
A set decorator, also sometimes referred to as a set dresser, is basically an interior designer. They are responsible for all of the stuff that goes on set to make it feel real, with the exception of objects the actors pick up (those are props). The Motion Picture was DeScenna's first movie (and only Trek credit), and among her many responsibilities was redesigning the chairs on the Enterprise bridge. Her work for this film earned her an Academy Award nomination (the first of five!). As either set decorator or production designer, she created the aesthetic for some of the most iconic and beloved films of the 80s and 90s, including Blade Runner, The Goonies, The Color Purple, and Rain Man.
Photo via mubi.com
Denise Okuda and her husband Michael are the ultimate Star Trek power couple. Since the early 1990s, when they first started writing reference books like Star Trek Chronology and the Star Trek Encyclopedia, their lives have become intertwined with the franchise, acting as consultants for everything from Smithsonian exhibits to high-profile auctions, as well as producing and appearing in numerous documentaries. While her earliest Trek credit is actually as an extra in The Motion Picture, Denise's work behind the scenes is where she earned her stripes:
Photo via Memory Alpha
I couldn't find photographs or interviews for several of the women listed on IMDB, and none of the women I could find photos for were women of color, so unfortunately this list is once again not particularly diverse. If you know of any women of color who worked in art or design and made a significant contribution to Trek, please let me know!
Come on back next week for the newest edition of The Unseen Women of Star Trek: Costumes & Makeup!