CSU Voices and Views

From Vision to Reality

By Raul R. Rodriguez (’69, Art)
1993 CSU Long Beach Distinguished Alumnus
College of the Arts

A Rain Bird® float by Raul R. Rodriguez takes shape behind the designer.

A Rain Bird® float by Raul R. Rodriguez takes shape behind the designer.

Note: Raul is featured in the “Working for California” project.  He is an award-winning and internationally recognized designer who has created hundreds of floats for the Tournament of Roses Parade.  Each year, float designs by Raul are brought to life by float builders, and thousands of workers and volunteers, to be shared with millions of people across the United States and abroad. 

It is a blessing to be able to capture a vision in my mind and then express that vision on paper.  I’m even more fortunate to see that design translated into a float, a building façade or an architectural detail.  It is thrilling to look at the final product and know that I was the first person to visualize this concept, which now has a physical presence.

I design many things for a living.  Some of my designs are whimsical, serious or simply gorgeous.  While designing, I look for inspiration wherever I can with nature being one of my favorite sources.  I believe that few designs are entirely new, yet the art comes from the perspective of the individual with a different way of looking at everyday things.

I see this pattern in my own life.  I certainly had inspiration in the form of a supportive father, an artistic mother and a great-uncle who made a living painting for California land grant families. I even have paintings by my great-uncle hanging in my home.

Yet, throughout my life, others have helped me gain perspective. My first float design for the Rose Parade® began with a competition for high school students sponsored by the City of Whittier.  This competition gave me two opportunities to challenge myself in bringing vision into perspective.  As a teenager, I had already seen two of my float designs brought to life.

At Cal State Long Beach my professor and mentor Richard Oden helped give me more of the tools I needed to see the world differently and create what I saw.  Professor Oden set high goals and pushed me to meet them.  The last time I saw my mentor was at the 1993 distinguished alumni reception at Cal State Long Beach.  At that reception, I had one last chance to express my gratitude for his mentoring and friendship.  Professor Oden passed away later that year.

The memories of my parents and Professor Oden remind me on a daily basis to relate my life to something positive.  This desire for the positive life is the reason I get such joy from the Rose Parade®, and the reason that one float stands out for me above all the others – the float my parents rode on as the anniversary couple.

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