IDSA Life Member Remembered as Godfather of New Zealand ID

Gifford Jackson Passes Away at 93

Nov 4 2015 - 9:52am

The IDSA Life member known as the "Godfather of New Zealand industrial design," (Alban) Gifford Jackson, has died at the age of 93. The Designers Institute of New Zealand says Jackson's "gentlemanly manner, professional skills and generous mentorship were greatly valued by clients and colleagues."

Jackson began his career with New Zealand-based, global appliance maker Fisher & Paykel in the 1940s. Then he traveled across the world to work for nearly two decades with major design firms in New York City. He spent ten of those years, from 1954-1964, working for the legendary Walter Dorwin Teague, FIDSA. In a 2013 interview, Jackson told the New Zealand Herald that he continued to be inspired by Teague, who, in Jackson's words, "established the benchmark for professionalism." 

Jackson also told the newspaper his time in the Big Apple was "electric." "The work that they are bringing out is always at the cutting edge," he said of New York City designers. "It gives you a standard for your own work and socially, of course, it was facsinating because it was so cosmopolitan."

Jackson returned to New Zealand in 1966 and set up his own design consultancy at the Devonport house. The practice continued until Jackson reached his 80s.

In 1988, Jackson was honored with the John Britten Award, the Designers Institute of New Zealand’s highest accolade. In the 2013 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Jackson was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Also that year, a survey exhibition, "Gifford Jackson: New Zealand Industrial Design Pathfinder" was launched at The Depot Artspace, and a book of the same name was written and published by exhibit curator Michael Smythe. Examples of Jackson's design work, including Clearlite baths, Feltonmix showers, a PEC gas pump, a toy sundial wristwatch and electric fence products, were featured. Jackson's other designs included toasters, trains, boats, televisions, dental x-ray machines, American Standard sinks and Bic office trays.

Jackson summed up his thougths for the New Zealand Herald. "It's a very mysterious thing, what style is. For me, it's about what's left, when nothing can be added or subtracted."