Legendary aviation artist Walter “Matt” Jefferies (12 August 1921 – 21 July 2003; age 81) is best known for his work as art director of the original Star Trek television series—and for designing the most widely recognized spacecraft of all time, the U. S. S. Enterprise.
In his lifetime, Jefferies worked on set and art designs for over fifteen movies and TV series, including Little House on the Prairie, Dallas, Father Murphy, Ben Casey, and Love American Style; he also produced many aircraft paintings and technical designs. His paintings have been exhibited in museums all over the world.
He was the art director and designer in the original series who designed the original Enterprise with its saucer-shaped hull, engineering hull, and two nacelles, as well as the type 1 and type 2 phaser designs seen in the original series, for which he did drawings.
In his honor the crawl spaces on all Starfleet vessels are named Jefferies tubes, a reference used throughout the entire Star Trek franchise. In addition, the Star Trek: Enterprise episode “First Flight” mentioned Captain Jefferies, who was also named in honor of Matt Jefferies.
In 1964, Gene Roddenberry asked Jefferies to design a starship for his new TV series. The design survived and influenced starship designs in subsequent Trek series. As influential as his starship designs was his bridge design. Apart from these, he designed numerous sets, landscapes, props, and other ships (most notably the Klingon D7-class) for the original series and was highly regarded by producers Roddenberry and Justman.
Jefferies worked as production designer on the two Star Trek pilots, then became both production designer and art director, starting with the first season in 1966. He worked with fellow art director Rolland M. Brooks on the first season and the beginning of the second. After Brooks left the series, Jefferies became the sole art director for Star Trek.
The series of interviews Jefferies has given for the 2000 run of the publication Star Trek: The Magazine were the most elaborate ones, done on his work on Star Trek, and has helped to clear up some of the misconceptions that had evolved over the years on some of his work in Star Trek lore, such as the origins of the Enterprise registry number and the raison d’etre for the D7-class studio model. Jefferies, along with his brother John, sold off virtually all of their Original Series production items, including all of his design art, still in their possession in the Profiles in History The Star Trek Auction of 12 December 2001, in order to raise funds for the charitable organization “Motion Picture & Television Fund”. Prior to the auction, most of Jefferies’ Star Trek design art was published in Star Trek: The Original Series Sketchbook and the interview issues of Star Trek: The Magazine.