Michael Okuda is a graphic designer best known for his work on Star Trek.
Work in Star Trek
In the mid-1980s, he designed the look of animated computer displays for the Enterprise-A bridge in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. This led to a staff position on Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987 as a scenic artist, adding detail to set designs and props. His most famous contribution to The Next Generation is the GUI of the fictional LCARS computer system used throughout the Enterprise-D and other Starfleet starships. In homage to its creator, this visual style has come to be known among fans as "okudagrams".
Okuda also served as a technical consultant on the various TNG-era Star Trek series along with Rick Sternbach, advising the script-writers on the technology used throughout the Star Trek universe such as the transporters and the warp drive. This work resulted in a technical manual which was distributed to prospective script-writers along with the series bible. The manual was later published in revised and updated form as the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual by Pocket Books. Okuda then went on to write a number of Star Trek books with his wife, Denise. He continued working at Paramount Studios on the Star Trek series that followed The Next Generation, and worked as an art supervisor in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and through to the cancellation of Star Trek: Enterprise in 2005. He also worked on the Star Trek movies that were produced while the various television series were in production. He also served as a producer when CBS digitally remastered and updated special visual effects for the original series.
Okuda "invented" the Heisenberg compensator as a way to "explain" how Star Trek's fictional transporter might work, despite the limitation of the uncertainty principle. Okuda famously answered the question "How does the Heisenberg compensator work?" with "It works very well, thank you."
As of 2011[update], Okuda remains involved creatively with the Star Trek franchise. He and Denise Okuda are serving as consultants on the project to upgrade Star Trek: The Next Generation to high definition. They also created the text commentaries in the ten Star Trek Special Edition DVD movies, as well as special text commentaries for the Star Trek Fan Collection sets. In 2005, Okuda contributed as a consultant for Perpetual Entertainment in their development of the MMORPG Star Trek Online. He also helped with the cataloging of items for the auction of Star Trek memorabilia by Christie's auction house. The event, and the preparation for it, is included in the History Channel documentary Star Trek: Beyond the Final Frontier.
The West Wing
In April 2013, Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy blogger) reported that Okuda had included an oblique homage to The West Wing in the episode "Imperfection", by having Seven of Nine look at a list of Voyager crew who had died, and there listing Commander J. Bartlett (intentional misspelling), Lieutenant Commander L. McGarry, Lieutenant Commander T. Ziegler, Lieutenant J. Lyman, Lieutenant S. Seaborn, Ensign Claudia J. Craig (intentional misspelling) and Ensign Charles Young. Plait reported contacting Okuda who revealed that Okuda and his wife, Denise and graphic artist James Van Over, were all huge fans of The West Wing. Plait also contacted actress Jeri Ryan, who played Seven of Nine, and whom Plait describes as "a huge science nerd", who was also unaware of the sight gag until contacted by Plait. Okuda is reported as saying that "one of my rules regarding jokes was that they should never be apparent to the casual viewer. If they were, they would yank the viewer out of the story, and that would be a serious disservice to both. For this reason, I generally tried to keep the text on such gags at the ragged edge of legibility."
Work for NASA
Okuda designed logos for a number of NASA missions and programs including the STS-125 mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis to repair the Hubble Space Telescope and the Ares I-X development test flight. His work for Project Constellation, subsequently cancelled, included logos for the Ares booster, the Altair lunar lander, and the Orion spacecraft, designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and to return humans to the Moon. The Orion logo was unveiled on August 26, 2006. Okuda also designed a team emblem for the planned STS-400 rescue mission, which would have been launched if there had been a major problem during the STS-125 mission.
For his work as the designer of many NASA mission patches, Okuda received the NASA Exceptional Public Service Medal. He was presented with the award at a ceremony at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas on July 9, 2009.
As of 2015[update], Okuda is currently working as a visual consultant for the up and coming Firestorm pilot; a crowd-funded project set up by Jamie Anderson, son of Gerry Anderson creator of Thunderbirds. Firestorm is to utilise advances in animatronic marionettes, props and miniature set design dubbed 'Ultramarionation'.
- Day, Dwayne (September 2008). "Graphic artist on the final frontier: an interview with Mike Okuda". TheSpaceReview.com. Retrieved 2008-09-22.
- Michael Okuda at the Internet Movie Database
- Bormanis, Andre. "Andre Bormanis interview". BBC Online. Retrieved 2009-11-08.
- "Reconfigure the Modulators". Time Magazine. 1994-11-28. Retrieved 2008-10-05.
- Startrek.com (September 2011). "The Next Generation Blu-rays Launch in 2012". startrek.com. Retrieved 2011-09-28.
- Star Trek and West Wing: Captain Janeway Killed President Bartlett. When Federalists and the Federation Collide, Phil Plait (Bad Astronomy blog), April 13, 2013, accessed April 15, 2013
- "NASA officially debuts Project Orion logo".
- Lewinski, John Scott. "Star Trek Designer to Receive NASA Public Service Medal". Wired. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- Trenholm, Rich. "CNet". www.cnet.com. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
- Okuda, Denise; Okuda, Michael (2013). Star Trek The Next Generation: On Board the U.S.S. Enterprise'. Barron's Educational Series. ISBN 0-764-16606-9.
- Okuda, Michael; Clark, Margaret with Doug Drexler (November 2006). Star Trek: Ships of the Line. Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group. ISBN 1-4165-3243-9.
- Okuda, Michael; & Sternbach, Rick (1991). Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-70427-3.
- Okuda, Denise; Okuda, Michael; & Mirek, Debbie (1999). The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-53609-5.
- Okuda, Denise; & Okuda, Michael (1996). Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future. Pocket Books. ISBN 0-671-53610-9.
- Michael Okuda at the Internet Movie Database
- Michael Okuda at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)
- Biography at StarTrek.com