Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the route is ta'en,
Beneath the moon's pale beams;
There, up the cove, to stray and rove,
Among the rocks and streams
To sport that night.
On Thursday evening, AIGA Portland hosted the second installment of Designspeaks at The Cleaners at Portland's Ace Hotel. Our guest for the gathering was Byron Ferris, the elder statesman of all things design-related in this region. Byron was born in 1921 and has been practicing design since the 40's here, as well as in San Francisco, New York and London. He's an industrial designer, graphic designer, writer, critic, arts patron, philosopher and epic joke-teller. His resume unfolds like Phil Meggs' tome, A History of Graphic Design: the first U.S. delegate to ICOGRADA; instructor of design and letterforms with Lloyd Reynolds at the Art Museum School and Reed College; Educational Auditor at Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, Germany; Associate Editor of Communication Arts; partner at Bachman-Ferris Advertising (which later merged with McCann-Erickson Advertising) and of course, Design Council; founding member of Sitka Center for Art & Ecology; writer of countless essays and longer works, including the "Annuls of Design" a history of design from Ben Franklin to Bill Bernbach, and Fell's Guide to Commercial Art.
As I mentioned in my introduction that evening, I had hoped that more of our region's founding fathers (and a few mothers) of design could have been on hand. Doug Lynch, Charles Politz, Peter Teel, Dick Wiley, Joe Erceg, Clyde Van Cleve, Annie Marra, Wes Waite, the Rickabaughs, Irwin McFadden, Warren Eakins, Mel Ulvin, Homer Groening, the aforementioned Mr. Reynolds. Some were there that evening. Some have moved on and some have passed on. And then you have those rare birds like Byron, who continue to make brilliant work, as he has for more than 60 years. It becomes clear when you see the breadth and depth of his work, that Mr. Ferris has been the hub from which much of the best work in this town — perhaps the creative instrument of the town itself — has spun. In 2008, he couldn't be more current or more relevant.
That evening, I was honored to meet Mr. Ferris' wife, Carol, and see Tim Leigh and Loren Weeks in the house. Among others in attendance (and some for whom I've not seen in entirely too long) were Heather Barta, Lloyd Eugene Winter IV, Johnny Levenson, Tiffany Jackson, Debra Haines, Heather Dougherty, Mike Buchino, Alice Baldwin, Bram Pitoyo, Amber Case, Mark Evans, Tyler Ashcraft, Jackson Sherwood, Melissa Delzio, Mark Conahan, and Eugene Ehrbar. There are others, and I apologize for forgetting them here. I'm getting older and the memory just ain't what it used to be. A very special thanks to Erik Ratcliffe for chairing the event and to Adam McIsaac (yes, that Adam McIsaac) for handling the A/V duties. Of course, FILTER and Steve Gehlen of The Portland Creative Conference (Cre8Con) deserve their propers for sponsoring the event. The evening was nothing short of brilliant and that's thanks to all of you. But especially you, Byron.
This is the fourth essay in a collection of twelve written by Byron Ferris for the "Design Sense" feature of the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert of The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. – Ed.
In late fall 1982, one of the six persons who determine the world's future fashion colors visited Portland. When Nancy Murgatroyd, fabric designer for Alexon, England's quality fashion house, showed her forecast color-range selections to Monica Monaghan of Pendleton Woolen Mills, the two women found that their choices for the '85/'86 fashion color season matched with some precision.
Because the production of fabric dyes, weaving of fabrics, manufacture of garments and their distribution to sales rooms take three years, the decisions about which colors you will wear next year were made in 1982.
We traveled to New York with Murgatroyd to interview the color-trend experts at the Pat Tunsky firm, the company that publishes a quarterly "Colors Advisement" bulletin for the fashion industry. Murgatroyd's British color range forecasts were in tune with theirs.
This is the third essay in a collection of twelve written by Byron Ferris for the "Design Sense" feature of the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert of The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. – Ed.
I like my car, and I like the design of it. I don't mean just the outside appearance – that's for others to see when I'm driving the car. All I see is the hood. That's nice – a nice color. But it's the inside that's so satisfying.
The wheel's in the right place, and the bucket seat is comfortable, perhaps the most comfortable chair I own. The floor has deep carpeting, and all the glittering dials in front of me give me a sense of control. The radio is excellent, and the stereo tape player, with its good speakers at either side of the dash bouncing sound off the hard surface of the windshield, gives me the best personal sound system I can think of.
Altogether, my car has an admirable design as a comfort and entertainment environment, all very soothing and relaxing as I speed along the highway driving the most dangerous piece of equipment most of us come in contact with in ordinary living.
Automobile design has traveled a good many road miles since Karl Benz drove the first benzine-powered car in 1885 Germany. His auto had some sensible design innovations – two drive wheels in back, but a single wheel in front linked to a steering lever. Though the single wheel for steering sounds sensible, the idea didn't last very long. The bad roads of the time caused the three-wheeler to waver, and Benz's competitor, Gottlieb Daimler, soon produced a four-wheel car.
Innovation is hard to come by in car design. Today's cars are still essentially boxes with wheels at the four corners, in the tradition of the horse-drawn wagon. In the lobby of the Boyd Coffee Co. out on Northeast Sandy Boulevard sits a fine example of the bare-bones American Model T Ford. It is a joy to examine simply because you can see how it works. The steering wheel linkage is apparent under the engine box, and the braking mechanism looks as though it just came out of the carriage works. Henry Ford designed the Model T in 1909 and sold over 15 million of them.
Just across the lobby is a 4/5ths model of Boyd's original horse-drawn red delivery wagon of 1900. Comparing the wagon and the Model T makes it rather obvious that Henry just left off the horse.
Now here's a thought: Benz, Daimler and Ford might better have used the sailboat as a model, rather than the wagon. The hay wagon was fine for horse speeds, but now that we're driving our four-cornered wagons at 55 miles per hour, the blunt fronts and backs don't make much sense.
Wouldn't you feel safer driving along at 55 in a boat-shaped car with those strangers in the oncoming lane also driving pointy- front cars? Having a head-on collision would be quite difficult. The cars would slide past each other, perhaps scuffing the door handles, but the traveling energy would be deflected rather than stopped in a pile of ugliness. And with a pointed-front car, a driver would need considerable steering skill to hit a tree or a lamp post.
Boat hulls are some of the most beautifully designed objects of the world, because they are shaped, naturally, to lessen water resistance. The shapes, of course, also can lessen air resistance on land. Translated to road talk, that means better gas mileage.
Can you imagine speeding along the freeway in your shipshape four-wheeled car, part of a beautiful flotilla – the trucks looking like glamorous ocean liners – perhaps joined by a few confused salmon swimming up 80N to spawn? I think I'd feel a lot more relaxed and safe, because my pointy rear end would protect me from a lethal highway pile-up, I'm sure.
Innovation is still hard to come by in automotive design. Trading the technical images between marine design and the horse and buggy could be a big step.
She told us this was The Best. What else can we say? And besides, it's Tuesday and we're in an agreeable mood.
Editor's note: This article was published in Newsweek magazine forty four years ago this week, on October 5, 1964. The issue's cover story reported initial findings issued in The Warren Commission Report. Tucked snugly into a column titled Education, we spied this call-to-action from Lloyd Reynolds, who at the time was teaching art and calligraphy at Reed College. Reynolds suggested that Palmerian script – with its many loops, tails and curlicues – should be supplanted with an "uncomplicated fifteenth century style called italic cursive." We do hope you'll enjoy.
Eighty years ago, an obscure Iowa schoolteacher named Austin N. Palmer introduced a method of handwriting which, in almost a score of variations, has become an educational standard. When done well, the ornate Palmer method produces a script that is easy to read and not tiring to write. But in careless hands, Palmerian script becomes a scrawl, and more and more these days, as evidenced by the inscrutable notes left for baby-sitters and paper boys, American penmanship resembles Persian cuneiform. Now, as Prof. Lloyd J. Reynolds sees it, the handwriting is on the wall for the Palmer method.
"Learning Palmer takes long hours of dull practice," said Reynolds, who teaches art and calligraphy at Oregon's highly rated Reed College. "Pupils simply don't put in the time it takes to learn it properly. And it's impractical in the classroom. The student with a notebook on his knee or on the arm of a chair hasn't got room to make the necessary sweeping movements of his forearm. It's like a baseball pitcher trying to warm up inside the dugout."
Is the art of typography dead? Look around... Is the ability to use type – correctly – dead? Dying? Hiding in the back of some studio? Or alive, kicking and thriving? Do most people even know good type when they see it? Posted by: Chris Inman, Graphic Design / Communication Design Architect.
Editor's note: Unlike the branding answer we posted a couple of weeks back, the 61 answers provided by the respondents of this question varied greatly. The general idea behind Chris's question pops up among designers on a regular basis, and everyone it seems, has an opinion. And why should we be any different?
I believe that the vigorous response to your question provides at least some insight. While I haven't read every response, it seems that the very issue — while somewhat misunderstood by some in my opinion — is one that many are working to resolve on a daily basis. To be sure, the computer has produced some lazy habits, but I don't believe it is the cause of what might seem a languishing attention to typographic detail. With few exceptions, we simply don't set every character, every word, every line in this day and age, and as such, we allow the computer's limitations to solve problems for us. This can begin with the very construct of the type itself (for which quality, in many cases, has indeed suffered), our understanding of the typesetting tools at hand (more complex than the passive operator might care to master), or the limitations of time and detail that the client has imposed (also a result of the computer's perceived efficiencies). But the computer itself, is hardly the cause of the problem. That is, if you care to look at it as a problem.
My, oh my. How the weeks escape us! The last time we really took stock of the season, we were busy test-driving bathing suits in anticipation of the warming summer months. McIsaac was — as is his spring custom — favoring the bikini. After all, as he'd maintain (and we certainly agree) that as a hulking Scot, he possesses the abs to go strong or go home. And Hillerns? Well, let's just say he was more comfortable with a conservative one-piece. In black.
By and by, the weeks passed with willy nilly regard for the Tuesday Flickr set. Make no mistake, there was hardly a content deficit. No, it was merely an issue of priority and we were heads-down with new business and the strategic side of personal services. Lo and behold, here we are; staring October dead in the eye. Lest we not digress.
Now, as a matter of house-keeping, we should clear the air and address the whys (of why) we hadn't posted this particular treasure a bit earlier. Conahan (and a few others, it seems) had initially stumbled upon this set a while back. Being half Irish and half Japanese, Conahan zeroes in on certain subjects for which many of us simply can't subscribe. To his credit, he likes his whisk(e)y neat and the televised stunts as can only be delivered by the broadcast media of Japan. Culture can have its hits and its misses and who are we to judge which is which? In this case, we shouldn't have sat on our hands. He had a winner all along.
Jane McDevitt (also known as maraid at Flickr) is the English Web designer who posted this set of early twentieth-century matchbooks from Japan. She credits her friend Michael for the set, which was originally collected by his grandfather. The labels apparently date from between the 1920s and the 1940s. We've seen other similar collections of course, but Ms. McDevitt's deserves special mention.
A weekly assembly of what we, here at Pinch. A Design Office., might be talking about, listening to, reading, or otherwise coveting. For the most part, we'll try to keep the links somewhat focused on design. Sometimes, not. Given the current state of government, this week is predictably political. We do hope you'll enjoy.
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