Rest in Peace

May 29, 2018, 1:00 pm   » 

Mitsuru Kataoka RIP

It is with great sadness that UCLA's department of Design Media Arts announces that Professor Emeritus Mitsuru Kataoka passed away on the morning of May 24th, 2018. A designer and entrepreneurial visionary, Mits Kataoka was a true Bruin, holding both his bachelors and his masters from UCLA. He taught generations of students in Westwood, and was a mentor not only to them but also to other luminaries in the fields of design and new media, including John Maeda, former MIT Media Lab professor and then president of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Prof. Kataoka was also instrumental in expanding the focus of department to include the media arts. He was the founder and president of Imageland, and his professional clients included XEROX Corporation, Mitsui & Co., Toppan Printing, and the Brookings Institution. Over the years, he invited figures as diverse as Marshall McLuhan, William Wegman, Man Ray, Nam June Paik, and Buckminster Fuller to interact with the UCLA Design community.

Prof. Kataoka was an early adopter of new technologies. Beginning in 1969, he introduced video, computer and interactive media research and courses into the Design program. Prof. Kataoka was able to connect artists, designers and educators with technology companies, successfully getting cutting edge equipment and funding to build up departmental facilities and research labs. In the early 1970s, he led the department in experimenting with video as a medium, as well as pioneering experimentations with interactive 2-way cable and satellite video. The Design department's labs were also the incubator that allowed John Whitney Sr. to teach his first computer graphics class at UCLA. In the 1980s, Prof. Kataoka was instrumental in guiding the department to expand its computer graphics infrastructure. By the early 1990s, Prof. Kataoka was instrumental in recruit new faculty to integrate interactive media and the Web into the curriculum.

DMA IT coordinator Maroun Harb remembers: “Mits was a mentor to many of us faculty, students and staff, his contributions to the department will be remembered by the people he touched, he is part of our department's history and it's DNA.” Professor Emeritus and long-time colleague Vasa notes that Prof. Kataoka “was a great inspiration for me in better understanding the changing issues in graphic design and media arts.” Rebecca Allen, professor and former chair, sums up the fondness with which we remember Prof. Kataoka and the importance of his legacy: “Mits was a unique character and with his foresight, the one who moved the Design department to what we are today.”

If you have any reminiscences that you would like to share, please send them to Brenda Williams, Assistant to the Chair of Design Media Arts, [].