An honored member of PNCA and the greater design community has passed away. Byron Stanford Ferris died on December 15, 2011 at the age of 90.
For almost six decades, Ferris was one of the most critical design voices in Portland and the Pacific Northwest. He was a renaissance man within the design realm: industrial designer, graphic designer, author, arts patron, critic, historian, and philosopher. He joined the PNCA community in 1959, first teaching a design and letterform class as an instructor at the Museum Art School. He was later appointed Chairman of the Museum Art School’s Trustee College Committee (In Spring 1981, the Art School’s name was changed to Pacific Northwest College of Art).
Former PNCA president Sally Lawrence remembers “the power of all his years of teaching delivered in his calm, intelligent and genuine deep caring manner.”
“I’m sitting here thinking about sitting, which is half way between standing and lying down. We all do a lot of it.” wrote Ferris for his first of a set of essays for the “Design Sense” feature for the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert for The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. Writing about design was one of Ferris’ fortes, and he went on to write “One of the most difficult design tasks must be shaping a chair for the dentist’s waiting room. It shouldn’t be too comfortable, because the sitters really don’t want to be there. On the other hand, they’d like to be comforted, in the hope that the nurse won’t call their names.”
More of Ferris’ “Design Sense” essay can be read on Pinch, a design blog.
Ferris’ sphere of influence was not limited to the PNCA community. He was a Trustee for the Portland Art Association, worked as an associate editor for Communications Arts magainze, helped form the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, was the first US delegate to ICOGRADA, worked at Design Council, the renowned British design firm, and wrote numerous essays and longer works.
Ferris’ efforts to support arts and design education has created a lasting legacy in the halls of PNCA and beyond.