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Real world article
(written from a Production point of view)

For the in-universe articles on entities named after him, please see below.

Richard "Rick" Michael Sternbach (born 6 July 1951; age 73) was the (senior) production illustrator/designer for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek: The Next Generation, the first two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and Star Trek: Voyager. He was also the scenic artist for Star Trek Nemesis, providing designs for everything from the Argo shuttle to a Romulan Valdore-type sculpture. Sternbach's most recognized work by far has been the designs of the PADD, Deep Space 9 and USS Voyager.

Rick Sternbach was offered his (otherwise uncredited) illustrator position in the art department on Star Trek: The Motion Picture in April 1978. Working alongside such colleagues as Lee Cole and Mike Minor, he designed control panel layouts and signage for the starship sets, and co-authored the updated internal document "Enterprise" Flight Manual. He also helped design the animated asteroid wormhole sequence and also helped to obtain source material from NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) that was used in the design of V'ger. [1] A noticeable contribution Sternbach had made for the movie were the backlit transparencies, based on concept art by Matt Jefferies, seen on the wall of the recreation deck, showing historical vessels named USS Enterprise. (Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection, issue SP11, p. 8)

Sternbach was slated to receive an official "[Production] Illustrator" credit on the film's end credit roll, but for reasons unknown this did not come to fruition. (The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, p. 218)

Recalling how he was hired for the television franchise, Rick Sternbach has reminisced, "The story I usually tell is that late in 1986, when Paramount announced TNG, I heard it over the radio while driving on the freeway, pulled off to a pay phone, and talked to Susan Sackett, Gene's assistant, all within about 25 seconds. I had a few meetings with Robert H. Justman, Gene, Dorothy Fontana, and David Gerrold, left my portfolio, and was officially hired on in January 1987. Andy Probert and I were the first two artists brought in, even before an art director, and for the first few months we worked up a foamcore model of the bridge and hundreds of sketches of all the things a good Star Trek production should have. We initially worked up generic items, but eventually we got into story-specific sets and props for "Encounter at Farpoint"." [2] When Probert left the franchise upon the conclusion of The Next Generation's first season, Sternbach succeeded him as senior illustrator or the television shows. He has designed a multitude of starships and space stations, and was responsible for the design of hundreds of props and set pieces, including the mural painting of the Enterprise-D in Picard's ready room, which was painted by Probert. He also developed weaponry, PADDs, tricorders and communicators for Starfleet, Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian, Bajoran, Kazon, Ferengi, and other races. As a big fan of Japanese animation, he secretly placed anime references in many of his designs, notably "the Egg", a design borrowed from the Dirty Pair.

Together with Michael Okuda, he served as a technical consultant to the script staff, maintaining technical and chronological continuity and inventing scientific terms and technobabble, resulting in internal documents as Star Trek: The Next Generation Writers' Technical Manual and Star Trek: Voyager Technical Manual. In 1980 he created several illustrations for the Star Trek Spaceflight Chronology by Stanley and Fred Goldstein. He also co-authored the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Technical Manual, and the Star Trek: The Next Generation USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D Blueprints, as well as the "Starfleet Technical Database" articles for Star Trek: The Magazine.

Sternbach started out making his designs the traditional way, with paper and pencil, but acquired skills in computer generated imagery (CGI) modeling as well (skills he picked up while working in 1983 on the science fiction movie The Last Starfighter), turning in design concepts at a later stage both in paper and pencil and rudimentary CGI models. (Star Trek: The Magazine Volume 3, Issue 12, p. 94–97) Sternbach constructed his CGI model concepts in the Macromedia Extreme 3D software initially, before switching over to Autodesk Maya, unlike the visual effects houses who ultimately used the LightWave 3D exclusively for the live-action production CGI models. As a result, Sternbach's CGI builds were intended to serve as concepts only, though he "(...)found that putting together a model with this basic level of detail, minus the textures, got all the main design elements across, and I could even email the files to the CG facilities so they could do their magic." [3]

When Sternach embarked on his work for Nemesis he came full circle in more than one sense: The Motion Picture was his first Star Trek work, while Nemesis was his last (as well as the last in the prime universe movie series).

He has been critical of the production design of the 2009 alternate universe film Star Trek, specifically that of the design of the USS Enterprise. He criticized the apparent lack of line of sight for the nacelles to open space, proportions of various sections, and an overall lack of knowledge of Star Trek technology. "Perhaps the designers didn't know exactly how the different hardware bits worked". [4]

While no longer working on Star Trek, Sternbach continues to create futuristic designs for sci-fi productions. He also actively maintains contact with the Star Trek fan base through Internet blogs like The Trekbbs and more recently the DrexFiles(X) by answering questions and explaining his thought processes on his work for Star Trek. He has also volunteered his input and knowledge to Ben Robinson's 2013-2020 Star Trek: The Official Starships Collection partwork publication, especially where the issues showcasing his own designs are concerned. Currently, Sternbach has opted to maintain contact with the fan base through his personal Facebook page.

In November 2014, Sternbach returned to the Star Trek franchise when he was invited to join a team of experts – including a host of former Star Trek alumni – to oversee a new restoration of the original eleven-foot Enterprise studio model, residing at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, for its 50th anniversary. [5] Having accepted the prestigious assignment, Sternbach was flown in for the team's first work meeting on 13 May 2015. [6]

Career outside Star Trek[]

A Connecticut native, Rick Sternbach enrolled in that state's university in 1972 with an art major, but switching after a couple of years to marine biology. [7] Nevertheless, he became a book and magazine illustrator upon graduation, among others for the Galaxy Science Fiction and Analog magazines, having for example provided the cover and interior art for Starlog Press' Future Life issue 17 of 1980. During this time he helped found the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), an organization which aim it was to tender legal advice to science fiction and fantasy artists on contracts and copyrights.

Inspired by artist Ralph McQuarrie's example, who left the aerospace industry to work for George Lucas on Star Wars, Sternbach made the decision as well to move to California in order to seek illustration work in the motion picture industry. After some work for Disney and PBS, the latter of which he did preliminary work for on Carl Sagan's television series Cosmos, he was offered the position in the art department for The Motion Picture. Around the same time he had worked for JPL, where he collaborated with Charley Kohlhase and Jim Blinn on the real world Voyager 1 Jupiter flyby movie, creating textures for the Galilean satellites. That flyby movie became the primary inspiration source for Alvy Ray Smith (at the time a co-worker of Sternbach at JPL) and Loren Carpenter at ILM Computer Graphics, when they designed the very first fully textured CGI effect seen by the general public, the "Genesis Demo", for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

After his tenure on The Motion Picture he returned to PBS to resume work on Cosmos, which he continued to do for the entire run of the series. Despite Sternbach's noticeable visual contributions to the Star Trek universe, his work has never been acknowledged with an Emmy Award nomination, yet he did receive, and won, one in 1981 for his work on the Cosmos episode, "The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean".

Other motion picture projects he has worked on, predominantly as illustrator/graphic artist were, Rich and Famous (1981, uncredited), the documentary Future Flight (1987), The Last Starfighter (1983, for which he also story-boarded visual effects sequences and developed texture maps for CGI space scenes), and the remake of the science movie Solaris (2002).

Outside his Emmy Award, Rick Sternbach's illustration work in the 1970s has garnered him two consecutive Hugo Awards for "Best Professional Artist" in 1977 and 1978. Considered by the usenet newsgroup as a leading expert on the various paint schemes used on the Saturn V booster, Sternbach has until recently, through his official website, "Space Model Systems", sold accurate decals for model kits of the Saturn V, as well as the Apollo Command Module.

Starship and Space Station designs for Star Trek[]

Rick Sternbach's designs for several new studio models, including:

Because of his work, a number of references were made to him during the course of his time with the Star Trek franchise, including the artist Rick Sternbach, Dr. Rick Sternbach, Captain Rick Sternbach, Ensign Rick Sternbach, the Sternbachium element, the astronomical object Beta Sternbach, and Rick Sternbach Raymond.

Commercial availability[]

Hallmark Romulan Warbird stand concept design by Rick Sternbach

Sternbach's unused concept design for a stand for Hallmark's 1995 Romulan warbird ornament

In May 2000, Rick Sternbach established on internet retail and auction site eBay his own webstore, appropriately called "intrep74656" – a contraction of USS Voyager's class, and registry designations. Through his webstore, Sternbach intermittently sells commercialized reproduction editions of his (design) work as on-order-only publications, and which are not distributed to the general public through other channels. [8] Most of his original design, and artwork, Sternbach has sold in various prior Profiles in History and Propworx Star Trek auctions, though did on occasion use his webstore to sell some of his original designs, such as his alternative design for the USS Pegasus.


note: this list is currently incomplete

Star Trek credits[]


Star Trek interviews[]


Further reading[]

External links[]