James Gardner 1907-1995

James Gardner was a jack-of-all-trades designer, equally at home designing a showboat for an amusement park or the superstructure of the QE2. He had an extraordinary ability to envisage a design at the outset down to the smallest detail, and transfer those thoughts on to paper.

Waspish reviews of his autobiography The ARTful Designer by those who could not understand how a man trained as an illustrator could claim to be a heavyweight designer is symptomatic of the snobbery he reviled. A man who lived for his work, he could not imagine anyone else producing a better solution than the one he had just formulated.

Museums and exhibitions were only part of his remarkable range of skills, and yet his work here has been influential in turning museum displays towards the experiential.

My abiding memory will be of him standing on Hartlepool dockside with 100 000 people on a June evening in 1992, his face lit by fireworks exploding over the Royal Yacht Britannia. He couldn’t understand why people didn’t cheer. RIP.

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