Louis Nelson, FIDSA


A visionary designer, artist, business consultant, and writer whose work has touched lives for more than 50 years, Louis Nelson, FIDSA, is a long-standing IDSA member whose contributions are highly deserving of Fellowship. Among his countless achievements, Nelson designed the Mural Wall of the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, winning an IDEA in 1996, the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal for the United Nations, and the nutrition facts label for the Food & Drug Administration and America’s food packages. 

“Louis Nelson is an important leader of design in the world and locally in New York City,” writes Tucker Viemeister, FIDSA. “Enriched by boundless curiosity and a rare sensitivity to the world around him, his career encompasses helping travelers find their way at America’s leading airports; branding and identity programs for global corporations and start-ups; and product development in the fields of mass transit, museums, telecommunications, entertainment, construction, and government.” 

As director of the multidisciplinary design and planning firm Louis Nelson Associates in Manhattan, Nelson has delivered award-winning and profitable work in product development, interiors, exhibitions, environmental graphics, information systems, corporate communications, and packaging. His clients have included multinational and local corporations, professional associations, foundations, and city, state, and federal governments. 

Nelson served in IDSA’s New York Chapter between 1970 and 1978 and worked at the highest levels to advance the World Design Conference and the World Design Foundation, now the Design Foundation. He has contributed to numerous IDSA chapter and national events, including the IDSA/ICID 1985 World Design Conference and the IDSA 2005 National Conference, both held in Washington, DC.  

“Louis was one of the first members of the Society that I met when I joined in 1972,” writes Peter W. Bressler, FIDSA. “Louis, through his superior design work and always charming and supportive manner, has been a mentor and role model for me and so many other designers, helping us find our way in what is, from time to time, a challenging profession. To many of us, Louis was the north star of the independent design consultant. His support for IDSA has been unwavering and his contributions to the success of the profession are innumerable.”  

Nelson has received a Rowena Reed Kostellow Award, Career Achievement Award, and 125 Icons distinction from his alma mater, Pratt Institute. He graduated with a degree in industrial design from Pratt in 1958; served in the U.S. military from 1958 until 1962, becoming a captain and helicopter instructor; amd returned to Pratt, graduating with a master’s degree in industrial design in 1964.  

RitaSue Siegel, FIDSA, met Nelson when he was a graduate student and she was an undergraduate at Pratt Institute. “The chair of the department, Rowena Reed Kostellow, FIDSA, spoke very highly of him, and we became the close friends we are today,” Siegel writes. “Louis was the first designer and the only one I have ever met to refer to himself as both an artist and designer. When I review the work he has accomplished over the years, listen to him reason and develop ideas on multiple levels for a wide range of interests, I know it is an accurate reference.” 

For 14 years, Nelson served as chair of the Rowena Reed Kostellow Fund at Pratt. Under Nelson’s leadership, the Fund sponsored the research, writing, and design of Elements of Design: Rowena Reed Kostellow and The Structure of Visual Relationships for design students and designers. Nelson also wrote the book Mosaic, describing the history of monuments and the story of how the one he designed was developed. 

“Louis Nelson has conducted himself both personally and professionally by contributing to IDSA and the general public at the highest levels of design,” writes Michael Cousins, owner of Cousins Design in New York City. “His work has encompassed both the public and private sectors, making important contributions to our lives and to society at large. Louis is truly deserving of this honor of recognition by his IDSA peers.”