PeopleProfessor, Department Chair, Director Counterforce Lab

Rebeca Méndez

Rebeca Méndez is an artist, designer, and professor and chair at UCLA, Design Media Arts, where she is founder and director of the CounterForce Lab, a research and fieldwork studio that harnesses the power of art and design to engage with the reality of global ecological crisis and its ties to environmental injustice. Her research and practice investigates design and media art in public space, critical approaches to public identities and landscape, and artistic projects based on field investigation methods. Méndez’s diverse works are driven by her interest in perception and embodied experience and they develop within science, design and art through immersive installations, public art, sound, video, photography, book arts, and drawing, with focus on posthumanism, eco-feminism, indigeneity, and environmental justice.

Throughout her 35-year career Méndez has received significant recognition for her contribution to the art and the communication design fields, including The Sally and Don Lucas Artists Residency Program, Montalvo Arts Center, Saratoga, California (2022–24), CODAaward in Public Spaces (2021); honorary doctorate from Art Center College of Design (2019); inclusion into the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (2019); inclusion in the One Club Creative Hall of Fame (2017); 2017 Medal of AIGA, and the 2012 National Design Award in Communication Design, bestowed by The White House and the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to honor lasting achievement in American design. Her video artwork Ascent of Weavers, 2018, was selected to premiere in the 2019 Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. Her diverse works in art and design have been exhibited widely in significant institutions including solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Hammer Museum, Nevada Art Museum, El Paso Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Oaxaca, Mexico, Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, and group exhibitions at the Gangwon Triennale 2021, 55th Venice Biennial, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, El Paso Museum of Art, and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Méndez’s public art commissions include Tucson’s January 8th Memorial honoring the victims and survivors of the assassination attempt on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 in Tucson, Arizona (2021). The Memorial, a collaboration between Chee Salette, the Architect and Landscape Architect and Rebeca Méndez, the visual artist, has received significant recognition including the CODAworx Award for Public Spaces in 2021 and a PBS NewsHour feature in 2022. Other commissions include a series of murals on porcelain enamel totaling 4,000 sq. ft. for BART, Irvington Station, 2028; a glass mosaic mural for Whittier Aquatic Center, 2022; two hand-cut glass mosaic murals for LA METRO ART, Expo Line, Crenshaw Station, 2022; and a 9-ton corten steel sculpture for the Pico Rivera Public Library, 2013.

Méndez was a guest curator at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in ‘Rebeca Méndez Selects’ 2018–19, reviewed in The New Yorker magazine and served as co-chair for the 2018 National Design Awards. She was keynote speaker at the AIGA Conference 2019: Design Educators and member of the steering committee, co-curator and spreaker at the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival.

In 1996 she founded Rebeca Méndez Design, a multidisciplinary studio focused on design for art, architecture and other cultural clients, as well as for non-profit organizations. Her design research and practice is in brand strategy and design, architectural immersive spaces, experience design, and book design. Méndez has the ability to lead large teams and design award winning global brands, including for IBM and Motorola, as well as design intimate and exquisitely crafted books for cultural clients, including Bill Viola for the Whitney Museum and Suprasensorial for MOCA. Through her studio, she has created projects for clients such as Morphosis Architects, Gehry Partners, The Getty Center, MOCA, Guggenheim Berlin, SFMOMA, and artist Bill Viola. Other professional experience include her appointment as senior partner/creative director of Brand Integration Group (BIG) for Ogilvy & Mather, Los Angeles (2000–2003), where Méndez led global branding projects for clients such as IBM, AT&T Wireless, Trend Micro, and Motorola. Méndez joined Wieden+Kennedy as art director to work on the Microsoft account to develop, among other projects, the concept and design of the Microsoft Store (1998–1999). Méndez was design director of the Art Center College of Design, Design Office. She is known for her critical role in the redesign and reassessment of her alma mater’s visual and cultural identity (1989–1995).

Rebeca Méndez was born and raised in México City, immigrating to the United States in 1980. As a Latin American woman, Méndez has made a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and she is a role model for aspiring young women designers across Latin America. Méndez is known for her career-long commitment to ‘design and art as a social force,’ and was awarded the ‘2016 Vision Over Violence Humanitarian Award,’ by Peace Over Violence, Los Angeles.

Méndez served as a juror for the Pritzker Emerging Environmental Genius Award, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Her interests and initiatives are a bridge between art, design and science, and demonstrate a commitment to the environment and a sustainable future.