Decoding Design

In Boston, coffee talk with Samsonite's Design Director for the Americas

Posting in Cities

Jason Gifford, Samsonite's Design Director for the Americas, visits the latest Creative Morning in Boston to talk design, travel, and toilets.

In a small back room of the Grand Circle Gallery, Jason Gifford, Samsonite's Design Director for the Americas spoke to a crowd heavy with hipsters, thick rimmed glasses, and people who like free coffee. Those groups, of course, are not mutually exclusive. Gifford was kicking off July's Creative Morning series in Boston's Fort Point Channel district, otherwise known as the Innovation District.

During his short but enlightening talk, Gifford traced his love of traveling and how his travel experiences influence his approach to design. Using the wide variety and familiarity of toilets that one finds around the world, he delivered a message to be brave, release, and immerse yourself.

When one thinks of global influence on design, things like materials, patterns, and other surface qualities come to mind. But Gifford believes that seeing how people in other parts of the world use things is just as essential to bringing home innovative, applicable ideas. Once filled with new notions and perspective, a big challenge is to work against perception.

One recent example Gifford provided is the roller bags that roll along on a person's side, instead of behind them. Gifford and his design team had seen the side rollers years ago in Asia and Europe. Although the designers were excited by the idea, the corporate team decided the male part of the U.S. market might not yet be in touch enough to accept the new way to tote luggage. Given a few more years and a little metrosexual acceptance, though, and the side roller is Samsonite's most successful recent innovation.

Gifford's talk coincides with the final month of the Getting There: Design for Travel in the Modern Age exhibit coordinated by the Design Museum Boston and sponsored by Samsonite. The exhibit explores "how design shapes and transforms the experience of traveling by ship, train, and plane." Displays include the design evolution of accessories (e.g. sanity saving noise-canceling headsets), plane and train interiors, and designs from Bose, Samsonite, Teague, and IDEO. The exhibit runs until September 1, 2012.

Creative Mornings is a free monthly breakfast lecture series by and for creative types. Videos of previous Creative Mornings, which are held in cities across the world, can be watched on the organization's website.

Images: courtesy Design Museum Boston

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure