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Light Painting of blues and purples

Mr. Roboto

February 24–June 30, 2024

San Francisco (December 12, 2023)– The Museum of Craft and Design is pleased to announce the opening of Mr. Roboto on February 24, 2024. Guest curated by Virginia San Fratello and Eleanor Pries, Mr. Roboto showcases a collection of design activities and experiments that test the creative possibilities of collaborating with a robot. Conducted by approximately 60 San José State University students, this exhibition demonstrates how designers and robots can work together to generate new ways of creating the world around us. Mr. Roboto will show a range of experiments within four different design groups, lighting, stop-motion animation, color materials and finishes, and typography. Using a UR5 robot arm, the students explored questions such as: How can we design a 3D pathway for light in space? Can we 3D-print flexible and porous “textiles”? In film production, what if a robot were the cameraman? Can a robot craft a new type of letterform?

Photo of student working with a robot arm to create stop motion animation.
Meghan Graham and Megan Cheung, Roadkill Jamboree.

Each group had individual design goals for their robot collaboration. However, they all had a common goal, to develop a working method for collaborating with the robot and creating co-authored designs that could not be made any other way. The lighting design group used the speed and fluidity of the robot to paint paths of LED light and color that change in a hemispherical space. Whereas, the typography design students worked with the robot to discover new letterforms made of complex lines and curved strokes with varying thicknesses.

Robotic Arm printing 3d Printing textileGrids of 3D Printed Textiles in black, orange and grey.
(Left) 3D printing: Photo courtesy of Jonathon Anderson
(Right) 3D printed Textiles: Kohar Scott, Jinming Lin, Parker Bee, and Olivia Scheele

Virginia San Fratello notes, “The work in Mr. Roboto expands the customary role of the robot… by inviting the robot to be a collaborator, not just an executor of repetitive or dangerous tasks, we create possibilities, discover ways of making, develop design innovation, experiment with materials, and forge a future that we could not build alone.”

Mr. Roboto will feature over 100 objects, including 28 3-D printed textiles, 26 robotic letterform drawings, 36 robotic light paintings, and a robot-aided stop-motion animation. Through the objects on display, the exhibition will highlight how this type of education and experience can open the door to the future of craft and design for the next generation and give them the space, skills, and imagination to explore new activities and opportunities.

The Museum of Craft and Design’s exhibitions are generously supported by Anonymous, the Windgate Foundation, and Grants for the Arts. The work in the Mr. Roboto has been generously supported by the College of Humanities & Arts Artistic Excellence in Programming Grants.

Top Image: Nathan Shehadeh, Architecture of Light, 2021. Courtesy of the artist.


For more information and interview requests, contact Sarah Beth Rosales, Marketing and Communications Director, Museum of Craft and Design at or 415.773.0303.

About the Curators
Virginia San Fratello is an educator, designer, and creative technologist. She is the Chair of the Department of Design at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley and an International Interior Design Association (IIDA) Educator of the Year recipient. She is a design activist, author, and thought leader within the fields of additive manufacturing, architecture, and interior and product design. She has served in the role of Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Arkansas, and the University of Queensland.

San Fratello is the co-author of Printing Architecture: Innovative Recipes for 3D Printing (Princeton Architectural Press 2018), a book that reexamines the building process from the bottom up and offers illuminating case studies for 3D printing with materials like chardonnay grape skins, salt and sawdust. She is also a partner in Emerging Objects, a creatively driven, 3D Printing MAKE-tank specializing in innovations in 3D printing architecture, building components, environments, and products (a short documentary of their work can be seen here). You can find her creative designs in the permanent collections of SFMOMA, MoMA, the Smithsonian, and the Design Museum in London.

Eleanor Pries is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Design at San José State University. Trained and captivated across multiple disciplines, her research explores the legacy and destiny of civic infrastructure, hydrologic architecture, and absorptive materials. Pries holds a BA in Visual and Environmental Studies from Harvard University, MA in Architectural History from the University of Virginia, and MArch from the University of California, Berkeley. She received the Frederick Sheldon prize fellowship and John K. Branner prize fellowship. Pries has also been practicing for over ten years; her firm engages in architecture, urbanism, and strategy. Pries serves as an Advisory Board Ambassador to San Francisco’s Youth Art Exchange.

About the Museum of Craft and Design
The Museum of Craft and Design (MCD) is San Francisco’s only museum devoted to craft and design. Founded in 2004, MCD showcases designers, makers, and artists through an exciting and distinctive series of craft and design-focused exhibitions and public programs. MCD explores the creative process and current perspectives in craft and design through inspired exhibitions and experiential programs. Learn more at


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