Like most of the early practitioners of industrial design, Joe had no formal training in a "design school" curriculum. Upon his discharge from the U.S. Navy in World War II, while on scholarship, Joe attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Chicago. He also attended the Elmhurst School of Painting, and soon became an instructor. His variety of talents enabled him to become associated with a consulting engineering firm based in Chicago. With the early retirement of one of its principals, Joe found the funds necessary to buy a controlling interest in the firm. With Joe as president and Frank Banka as partner, they founded Banka Mango Design.
While the growing firm continued to provide specialized engineering services for existing and new clients, Joe soon realized that if his clients were to remain competitive in the postwar "boom" there was need for a "value added" styling or design services.
Unlike similar firms of that era, Banka Mango Design fulfilled basic engineering needs, but also provided styling and design concepts for its clients. Over 200 Design and/or Engineering patents attest to that ability. Joe's basic design philosophy was, "If the 'styled' product cannot be made by the client's facility, it is not a good design." This attitude was at times contrary to the "pretty picture" attitude of competitive studios. This philosophy was probably the major factor in the 50-odd year success of Banka Mango Design.
The Chicago area was a major contributor in the production of consumer products in the postwar era. This area and its industries had capability for the production of basic materials, as well as a host of many household products. Many consumer product organizations flourished in the area. Mango, like many principals of other "start-up" design firms, recognized the need of a "society" to create "standards" as well as an ethical atmosphere for the practice of industrial design. Joe Mango worked tirelessly with other dedicated designers to create organizations that merged and became the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), and in recognition of his efforts was awarded Fellowship in that society in 1965.
As the firm grew from the 1960s and into the 1980s, Banka Mango became a multi-service creative organization. While Joe assumed the major responsibilty for "Sales and Management" for the organization, other senior members formed a cohesive "team." This management team, along with external specialists, were able to create a number of unique operating groups in the area of research, design, development, and merchandizing. With the addition of a shop facility, the firm offered the production of visual models as well as prototypes. Each of these groups operated as an autonomous entity, or, depending on the needs of the client, served as part of a total team structured to meet a specific market or product need of the client. The efforts of these unique groups was always carefully analyzed and creatively criticized by Joe prior to release to the client.
In the era of the 1990s, the business climate was changing. It was the beginning of the digital age and of corporate client takeover. It became apparent that for Banka Mango to continue as a viable design firm, additional capital along with extensive retraining of staff would be required. As the management team was now approaching the traditional retirement age, and after long deliberation, the board decided to sell the firm to a venture capitalist group.
Joe has now "retired" and spends his time between homes in Illinois and Florida. However, if one should happen to drop by his "home studio" one can usually find a "little job" on his drawing board. Joe and his wife Margaret are proud parents of Mary Ellen, Jo Ellen, and prominent New York artist Robert J. Mango.
Written by Bob Arehart, associate, partner and friend of over 30 years.
We are looking for an image of Joe. If you have one please contact Ben Chisholm.