Juan Noguera receives 2024 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Design

Noguera is one of four designers recognized with this year’s Vilcek Foundation Prizes in Design

Scott Hamilton

Assistant Professor Juan Noguera has been selected to receive the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Design. Noguera is one of four designers from across the country to receive the award.

Designing with a mindset of equity, empathy, and inclusion has earned Assistant Professor Juan Carlos Noguera the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Design. Noguera is one of four designers from across the country to receive the 2024 Vilcek Foundation Prizes in Design.

The Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in Design recognizes early- and mid-career immigrant designers under the age of 40 whose work represents an important contribution to their field and exemplifies the potential for design to change the way people interact with the world. Recipients of the Creative Promise Prize each receive an unrestricted cash award of $50,000 and a commemorative certificate.

“I am very much overwhelmed with excitement and gratitude. This award is an acknowledgement of my efforts trying to design with empathy, accessibility, and equity in mind,” said Noguera. “I believe that designers have the responsibility to create products and experiences that serve a broad and diverse audience, and my experience as an immigrant gives me a unique perspective to do so.”

Totaling $250,000 in awards, the Vilcek Foundation Prizes in Design celebrate immigrant professionals in graphic design, industrial design, and product design whose work has had a profound impact in their specific field of work, as well as on design and design thinking and practice more broadly in the United States. These awards are given annually as part of the Vilcek Foundation Prizes program to build awareness of the vital role immigration plays in enriching intellectual and cultural life.

“Design enables us to interact with the world with elegance and artistry,” said Vilcek Foundation Vice Chair and Co-founder Marica Vilcek. “With the Vilcek Foundation Prizes in Design, we celebrate four immigrant vanguards whose work exemplifies the perspective, innovation, and creativity that immigrants bring to business and society in the United States.”

Born in Guatemala, Noguera came to the United States in 2013 to pursue a master’s degree in industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design. Since graduating and starting his career at RIT, he continues to return to Guatemala to work on design programs and projects that benefit the communities he grew up in.

The foundation cited Noguera’s empowering and equitable approach to product design in a press release announcing the awards, with a particular focus on his work to develop accessible wheelchairs and educational tools that democratize society by promoting social and scientific engagement.

“My commitment to an equitable approach in design stems from my belief that everyone deserves access to products that improve their quality of life. I always tell my students that empathy is their number one tool as designers, and that walking a mile in someone’s shoes is irreplaceable information,” Noguera said. “This mindset, in my opinion, is crucial in educating the next generation of designers and makers and in cultivating a culture of design that is universally inclusive and breaks down existing barriers.”

Noguera added that his work—particularly in developing accessible wheelchairs and educational tools—has always been about more than just the end product.

“It’s about challenging the status quo, pushing the boundaries of traditional design, and demonstrating how innovation can come from anywhere, regardless of one’s background. Winning the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Design is a testament to the power of design as a tool for social change. I am motivated to continue this journey, and to explore new ways to make a difference through design,” said Noguera.

To see more of Noguera’s work, go to his portfolio website. For specific details about the designs that earned him the Creative Promise award, read the recent Core77 article about Noguera.

About The Vilcek Foundation

The Vilcek Foundation raises awareness of immigrant contributions in the United States and fosters appreciation for the arts and sciences. The foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. The mission of the foundation was inspired by the couple’s respective careers in biomedical science and art history. Since 2000, the foundation has awarded over $7 million in prizes to foreign-born individuals and has supported organizations with over $6 million in grants. To learn more, go to the Vilcek Foundation’s website.

Juan Carlos Noguera | Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Design

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Juan Carlos Noguera receives the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Design for his equitable approach to product design.