Masters of Design: Burt Rutan

Founder, President, and CEO, Scaled Composites

In this conservative economic environment, where most entrepreneurs are hunkering down and playing it safe, aviation legend Burt Rutan is shooting for the stars–literally.


Rutan is the genius behind the Voyager plane, a multipropeller aircraft that in 1986 circled the globe on a single tank of gas. Rutan, who started an outfit in the Mojave Desert called Scaled Composites, has produced more than 300 experimental-aircraft designs. “He is almost single-handedly shaping suborbital flight exploration in pursuit of a universal dream to fly high,” says Ideo’s Jane Fulton Suri. On April 8, Rutan sent his test craft, SpaceShipOne, nearly 20 miles above the Earth–one-third the distance to space. Why not all the way? He received government permission only to burn the rocket for 40 seconds, giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “the sky’s the limit.”

Peak Performers: Four masters who are leading the world of design
Impact Players: Four high-impact projects that shaped the year in design–and the people who launched them
  • William McDonough, Principal and founder, William McDonough + Partners
  • Tom Ford , Former Creative Director, Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent
  • Jonathan Ive, Vice President of Industrial Design, Apple Computer Inc.
  • Marcia Lausen, Founding member, AIGA Design for Democracy
Game Changers: The risk takers and agitators who are rewriting the rules
Collaborators: Champions who help make great design happen
Next Generation: Meet four rising stars who are charting the future
A Jury of Their Peers
Introducing 11 jurors–top leaders from universities, cultural institutions, and business–who helped us select our 20 Masters of Design.
Lessons From the Masters
These five ideas will help you incorporate design principles in your work — and better connect with customers and colleagues.