Bryon Fitzpatrick with a full-size rendering of his first car, a Citroen Light 15

Bryon Fitzpatrick: Man, Legend, Drawing Machine

Commemorating the legendary Drawing Machine

Passion, persistence and the pursuit of perfection. Words to live by perhaps, but few of us can pretend to have successfully managed to embody all of these over the course of our time here on earth.

This was Bryon Fitzpatrick’s mantra, and one of the reasons why the greater car design community is in mourning over the loss of the legendary designer, professor and mentor who passed away at his home in Brisbane, Australia this week. He was 84 years old.

An internationally acclaimed designer, Bryon Fitzpatrick worked for British Motor Corp. (BMC), Ford of Europe, as a consultant for a number of automakers and for renowned design firms in Europe, Australia and Asia. But it was his desire to impart his passion, knowledge and technique to aspiring designers that drove him towards a career in education.

Professor Fitzpatrick was a star within the design community. Having taught at both Art Center campuses (in Switzerland and California) as well as the College of Creative Studies (CCS), Rhode Island School of Design, Queensland University of Technology, Adelaide School of Design and the Canberra College of Advanced Education, he guided generations of current designers to achieving their professional dream.

The outpouring by his former students over social media this week is testament to the lasting impact he had on the lives of those he educated and encountered, many calling him an “unbelievably talented artist,” an “amazing human” and an “incredible teacher, mentor and leader” who was “wise and witty, kind and generous.”

Born in Nelson, New Zealand, in February 1931, Bryon’s father moved the family to Australia soon after. As a property businessman and hotel owner, he thought his son should follow in his footsteps and didn’t approve of Bryon’s penchant for design, nor did he understand why someone would want to study it.

“It was a new thing in the 1950s,” says Leon Fitzpatrick, the youngest of Bryon’s eight children with his wife Philippa, whom he met at art school. “Even more so in Australia, which was so isolated from the rest of the world. It was a very unusual thing to do.”

But Bryon persevered. He enrolled and initially started studying architecture at the Queensland Technical College in Brisbane, Australia. He later became interested in Industrial Design after reading about it and decided to shift into that direction.

“It didn’t exist at that school, so he went to the head of school and said that’s what he wanted to do,” says Leon. “They assembled the course themselves from multiple different disciplines, which also included courses from the US.

“He literally pioneered the study of Industrial Design here in Brisbane.”

Upon graduating from University, Bryon got a job at BMC in Sydney, where he worked until a better position at Ford in Germany came along. He applied and got it.

“This is where the rendering, perspective and sheer speed and accuracy of his skills developed — doing cars.” Leon says he traced the skillset back to the size and scale of the renderings that his father was tasked to do in honing his talent.

Bryon later applied these techniques when designing products and motorcycles, such as the famous Triumph Trident and BSA Rocket III he penned during his time at British design firm, Ogle Design.

“It was back then when Industrial Design was a broad field and he felt if the core skills were applied, why stick to one thing? He fostered this skill and to the day he died was still doing sketches, canson renderings, line drawings, doodles, everywhere and anywhere there was a blank sheet of paper, napkin, wall…”

Professor Fitzpatrick’s incredible ability led him into a product design career that spanned decades, first with Danish design firm Bernadotte and Bjorn and later at Design Ink, a design consultancy he founded in the 1980s.

He worked with clients in the automobile industry, industrial equipment and electronics industries; he designed glassware, photographic equipment and furniture. The projects born from Fitzpatrick’s pen earned him European Gold Medals for Design Excellence and gained Australian Design Award recognition. In 2013, he was inducted into the Design Institute of Australia Hall of Fame.

After serving for six years as Chairman of Transportation Design at CCS, Fitzpatrick became interim chair at the reputable design school and was named Professor Emeritus in fall of last year. Most recently he was retained by GM/PATAC to teach his illustration and rendering skills to the automotive giant’s designers in Asia, Australia and India, conducting group workshops and one-on-one tutorials.

But it was the speed at which he could work that earned him the nickname ‘The Drawing Machine’, which was first used during the 1984 Artistcare workshop that toured Australia; footage of which is shown in the video above.

“I would guess it was Imre Molnar [former CCS Provost who passed away in 2012] that would have coined that since he was the instigator of the workshop and so much else in dad’s life,” Leon recalls. “He was the catalyst to dad’s drawing machine.”

Professor Fitzpatrick’s legacy will not only live on in the design community and amongst the designers and artists he mentored and guided, but also within his family. Unlike Bryon, his children all followed in their father’s footsteps and continue to work in creative and multidisciplinary fields of industrial design, architecture, fashion design, writing, jewelry design, art curation, illustration, graphic design, fine art & sculpture and filmmaking. Their professions are varied, but it’s clear that Bryon inspired many people to create in many ways.

“Mostly it’s the pursuit of perfection, which we all seem to have inherited,” says Leon. “He never rested on his laurels and was always focused on not what you’ve done, but what you can do.”


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