There is a big difference between what we did and what the computer [based designers] do now
This interview brings together Michael Smythe (Author of “New Zealand by Design”) and seminal designer Gifford Jackson for a colorful conversation about graphic, maritime, industrial, interior and architectural design.
Supported by a wealth of images, Jackson recalls with astounding visual memory, many of the experiences which formed his career: drawing architectural plans for imaginary art deco homes, his passion for model wooden boats, his various jobs and acquaintances around Devonport and Auckland.
We hear about some of his early maritime design education (in Glasgow) and how joining the war effort part way through his education was a blessing in disguise, allowing him to travel to North America. It was on a brief trip to New York that he met Virginia, a woman who would later (1949) bring him back to the Unites States.
This first of a two-part interview finishes with Jackson moving to New York. Perhaps quite telling of the period, part of his voyage there was undertaken in a former air force war plane which had had its bombing bay converted into a cocktail lounge. Jackson recounts a lifestyle in the Big Apple that is part Mad Men (TV series) part Soho bohemian, but with a distinctive New Zealand inflection.
In New York, Jackson was in the eye of the product development and marketing storm that was post-depression America and he came into contact -and worked with – some of the greatest minds and brands of the era (Donald Desky, Walter Dorwin Teague, Karl Otto, Walter van Doren).
Yet, more than just a discussion of a man’s life, this chat takes a look at/draws us into an era when advertising, salesmanship and aesthetics were merging inadvertedly – but perhaps out of a real necessity- to create the consumerist ethos, habits and business attitudes which are still in place today.