The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund

About the Rowena Fund

The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund was established in 1988 to celebrate and communicate the teaching and methodology of one of the most recognized design educators of the 20th century. In the 1930s Rowena Reed Kostellow, along with Donald Dohner and Alexander Kostellow developed the design pedagogy at Pratt Institute that spread. Rowena Reed taught five generations of designers who in turn taught their own students and established industrial design programs all over the world.

“Rowena Reed had the unshakable conviction that foundation studies aimed at exploring abstract visual relationships are essential to creating and appreciating art and design. She focused her own attention and considerable gifts on exploring these relationships in the three-dimensional realm.

The Rowena Fund's mission is to continue the dialogue that she started in the classroom, based on her unwavering conviction that beauty and the thoughtful manipulation of form are core to the development of products, images, and architectural form and space. The Fund continues Rowena Reed's teachings through scholarships, publishing and programs. The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund is governed by a board of trustees.

This website is a resource and an advocate for teaching three-dimensional design, including methodology, history, current student work, connections to resources, and videos.

Honoring a Legend

Rowena Reed Kostellow declared: “If you can’t make it more beautiful, what’s the point?” For 50 years she taught her students how to control abstract visual relationships to make the world more beautiful. The pedagogy she developed became the foundation of industrial design education internationally as alumni established programs around the world.

The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund grew from the aspirations of Pratt Industrial design graduates gathered at Miss Reed’s 1988 memorial. Judy Collins sang Amazing Grace in commemoration of a remarkable woman and friend. Bruce Hannah produced a slideshow, later converted to a video: 50 Years of Design. People wanted a meaningful way to honor a beloved teacher and mentor.

Jim Fulton, Chair of the Pratt Institute Board of Trustees, invited a group of former students, teachers and Rowena Reed followers to his office and proposed creating a fund in her honor. Its goal would be to provide a permanent source of support and energy for the advancement of three-dimensional design and visual communication that was the core of her work. Its efforts would focus on disseminating her teachings through awards, scholarships, books, and other initiatives. Tucker Viemeister proposed endowing a Chair of Industrial Design in Rowena Reed Kostellow’s name.

The Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund was informally organized in 1989 within the By-Laws of Pratt Institute, and formally established by the Pratt Institute Board of Directors on May 9, 1990. Louis Nelson was named Chair, Tucker Viemeister, Vice Chair, with Trustees-at-Large James Fulton, Debera Johnson (Chair of the ID Department), Adele Kostellow Morrill (family member), RitaSue Siegel, and Lisa Smith. In 2018 the Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund Board of Trustees includes Chair, Tucker Viemeister, and Trustees, Constantin Boym (Chair ID Dept), RitaSue Siegel, Tarik Currimbhoy, Britt Kapec and Louis Nelson (Chair Emeritus).

Since its founding, over $150,000 has been raised by the fund to support design education.

The Rowena Fund has welcomed a diverse group of colleagues who share and contribute to its mission, including Gerry Gulotta, Lucia DeRespinis, Bruce Hannah, Karen Stone, Gina Caspi, Jeff Kapec, Kate Hixon, Pamela Waters, Seth Kornfeld, Peter Barna, Harvey Bernstein, Ruth Schuman, Deb Johnson, Alvaro Uribe, Steve Diskin, and Sun Hee Kim, among others. Fund contributors have included students of Miss Reed, both at Pratt and in the Saturday classes she held at the request of former Pratt students in her SoHo loft. Among them was Jeff Kapec, who graduated from Pratt in 1972 but knew Rowena Reed Kostellow only by reputation. In 1974, after working in an industrial design office for two years and recognizing the need for more in-depth study of three-dimensional design, he asked to join the class. His recognition of the value of continuing education in her distinctive methodology was shared by the numerous students and practicing designers who met together on Saturday mornings for well over a decade.

Documenting the Legacy

Rowena Reed Kostellow was working on a book about her teaching methodology under a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, but time ran out on a long life and the work was left undone. Louis Nelson initiated a fundraising campaign to support the publishing of “Rowena’s book” based on her notes. As producer, he asked Gail Greet Hannah to research and write the book and Tucker Viemeister to provide design concept and direction. Both worked on the project pro bono, as did participants who shared notes, recollections, and audio and videotapes, ensuring that the majority of future proceeds from the book would benefit the Fund’s work. Pratt graduate ID student Seth Kornfeld was selected by faculty to design the graphics under a work-study program. When his work-study ended, he completed the graphic design pro bono, and went on to design the Rowena Reed Kostellow website as well. Photos were curated by Miss Reed’s disciples Bruce Hannah, Bill Fogler, Gerry Gulotta, and Tucker Viemeister, who selected only the most beautiful examples for the book. Elements of Design, Rowena Reed Kostellow and the Structure of Visual Relationships, was published by Princeton University Press in June 2002.

Going Global

Upon publication of Elements of Design, and after 14 years of service, Louis Nelson stepped down as Chair of the Rowena Fund and Tucker Viemeister was named Chair, a position he continues to hold. Elements of Design was enthusiastically received and for more than a decade and a half. More than 60,000 copies have been printed, widely read, and used as a teaching tool, in the US and abroad. With the active help and financial support of generous fund members, and the efforts of Viemeister, who negotiated with universities and private publishers, the book has been translated and published in six languages:

  • Japanese (translated by Midori Imatake)
  • Spanish (translated by Jaime F Gomez)
  • Korean (translated by Sun Hee Kim)
  • Portuguese (translated by Claudio Magalhães)
  • and Chinese

In addition, Rowena Fund members have given courses and workshops based on Miss Reed’s methodology in colleges and universities around the world:

  • Gerry Gulotta and Kathryn Fila at the University of Guadalajara, Mexico
  • Lenny Bacich at University of Kalmar, School of Design, Sweden and Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany
  • Linda Celentano at University of Kalmar, School of Design, Sweden
  • Sun Hee Kim at Samsung Art and Design Institute, Seoul, Korea
  • Karen Stone at Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, Korea and ten-day intensive student study abroad in Matagalpa, Nicaragua
  • Tucker Viemeister at Tecnolуgico de Monterrey, Mexico and Esslinger Master Studio, Shanghai Institute of Visual Arts, China.

And more to come!

Recognizing Excellence: Awards, Prizes and Scholarships

The Rowena Fund established an awards program to promote, celebrate and encourage the pedagogy. The Fund presents three annual awards: The Rowena Reed Kostellow Award and the Young Designer Award for professionals, The Rowena Reed Kostellow Student Prize (cash directly to students) and Rowena Reed Kostellow Pratt Scholarships.

The first Rowena Award was given in 1990 and since that time annual awards have been made to a diverse group of distinguished recipients: master teachers, designers from multiple disciplines including industrial, automotive, jewelry, glass, ceramic, graphic and exhibition design, and distinguished practitioners in architecture, music, and the arts. See the complete list of Rowena Award recipients.

The Rowena Reed Kostellow Student Prize was initiated in 1995 in discussions with Pratt President Thomas Schutte who was a champion of the Rowena Fund. The prize provides financial stipends to students nominated by faculty and chosen on the basis of juried work. From 1995 through 2009 The Rowena Reed Kostellow Student Prize was given to a single recipient. Starting in 2010 it was expanded to include one student from each year, sophomore through senior, and in 2014 a graduate student award was added. Since 1995, more than $50,000 has been given to students, in prizes ranging from $500 to $2,500. See the complete list of Rowena Student Prize recipients.

In 2006 the Fund established an endowed Rowena Reed Kostellow Pratt Scholarship contributing to Pratt Institute scholarships for Industrial Design students. Several scholarships based on student accomplishment and need are awarded each year. To date, over $60,000 in scholarships has helped talented students pursue their Pratt design educations.