(written from a Production point of view)
Carole Lee Cole, usually credited as "Lee Cole", was a graphic designer on Star Trek: Phase II, its successor Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. She also wrote a few books on Star Trek.
Cole was brought in on the Phase II television project in July 1977 by Art Director Joe Jennings, with the express intent to redesign the bridge instruments and their lay-out of the refit-USS Enterprise, and stayed on when the project was upgraded to a movie project in November. (Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, p. 28) She recalled wanting to do a different style bridge as was ultimately seen on screen, "We did a lot of research in getting the bridge together. We talked to a lot of scientists about what advancements might occur by the 23rd century. But despite our research and our contact with all these brilliant minds, we often couldn't use our findings for the film. I had originally designed the Enterprise consoles to be entirely smooth. They were to be heat sensitive, so a crew member could execute his or her duties by simply waving a hand over the console. No buttons or anything would protrude from the surface. But Robert Wise said, and rightly so, that those sort of designs just wouldn't be dramatic. In his director's role he explained that, in a really dramatic sense when Sulu's hand is grasping at this lever in an attempt to save the ship, it wouldn't be very exciting not to have a lever there for him to grasp. So we had to violate some scientific principles in order to come up with some big knobs and levers." (Future Life, issue 17, p. 45) Cole's "entirely smooth" consoles eventually did turn up ten years later in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Much of her work, Lee laid out in the "Enterprise" Flight Manual, an internal studio guide intended to instruct the stage effects technicians on wiring up all of the work station's control panel backlits, working switches and indicator lights, as well as giving the actors basic button-pushing lessons on the bridge sets.
Aside from the visual look of the bridge instruments, she also designed all the Federation signage seen throughout the movie. She repeated her role and work for The Wrath of Khan, and has published her Motion Picture signage graphics work in a spin-off sticker book. Cole's role on the two Star Trek features was exactly the same as that of Michael Okuda, who, now titled Scenic Artist, followed in Cole's footsteps from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home onward for the remainder of the entire Berman-era live-action franchise set in the prime universe, and who has, like Cole, published a sticker book with his signage graphics.
Career outside Star Trek
A University of California, Los Angeles graduate, Lee Cole has had a relatively modest designer career in the motion picture industry. Phase II has been her first recorded credit as such. She was singularly well suited for her assignment though, designing graphics and laying out the bridge design, as she had prior to her first motion picture project worked for the TRW Inc. aerospace corporation and Rockwell International, designing circuitry for nuclear submarines, and wiring on-board computers on the Apollo moon flights. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 86)
Other motion picture productions she has worked upon afterwards as graphic designer included The Creature Wasn't Nice (1981) and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983). As set designer she has worked intermittently for the industry with credits few and far apart and which consisted of The Man Who Saw Tomorrow (1981), Downtown (1990), Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Child's Play 3 (both 1991), Almost Blue, Wild Bill (both 1993), The Pest (1997), the television series The Hughleys (1999) and the 2001 movie Scary Movie 2 as her last recorded credit.
- "Enterprise" Flight Manual, 1979 – Co-Author/Illustrator
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture Peel-Off Graphics Book, 1979 – Author/Illustrator
- Star Trek Maps, 1980 – Co-Illustrator, credited for Technical Graphics
Star Trek interviews
- "Lee Cole: Designing the 23rd Century", Ed Naha, Future Life, issue 17, March 1980, pp. 44-47, 81
- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (The Director's Edition)-special feature, "Designing Khan" (2002)
- Return to Tomorrow - The Filming of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, December 2014
- The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1980
- "Behind the Scenes: The Art Department", Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 5, September 2002, pp. 66-73
- Star Trek Phase II: The Lost Series, 1997