James Hennessey. (Contributed photo.)

James Hennessey. (Contributed photo.)

James Hennessey| 1945-2020


It is with great sadness that the Hennessey family announces the death of Jim on April 6, 2020 following a battle with cancer. Jim was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather as well as an innovator, educator, musician, and passionate collector.

1969 was an important year for Jim Hennessey. He won a Fulbright Scholarship and married his wife of 50 years, Sara. Jim spent his professional career teaching industrial design to students in the U.S. and Europe. As the co-author of the groundbreaking book Nomadic Furniture, published by Random House in 1973, Jim made a profound impact on the future of furniture design. The book foreshadowed the do-it-yourself revolution, featuring designs of items that are now standard in households worldwide. Trained as a photographer, Sara contributed much of the photography for the book and its sequels. Nomadic Furniture remains a widely referenced text, and Jim was honored for his role in co-authoring the book during the Nomadic Furniture 3.0 exhibit at the MAK in Vienna, Austria in 2015.

Throughout his decades in academia, Jim educated countless students as a Professor of Industrial Design at the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), the University of Washington (UW) and of user-interaction design at the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft). He was on the leading edge of the development of what is now called user experience. Jim’s students have gone on to design consumer products, medical devices, and life-changing technologies that will benefit the world for decades to come.

Upon retirement, Jim and Sara moved to Orcas Island, Washington in 2001. Since that time, Jim devoted himself to music and pursuing his many hobbies. A guitar player since high school, he played with local musicians and friends on Orcas regularly. Jim loved to restore and refurbish early design electronics and other collectibles in his free time.

Jim leaves his beloved wife Sara, his sons, Michael, Chris and his daughter Lizanne. He also leaves his brother Richard Hennessey, sisters-in-law Char Hennessey, Zan O’Loughlin and Katy Tschernisch, brother-in-law Sergei Tschernisch, his nieces and nephews Denise Gimmarro and David Hennessey, Cara, Caolán, and Sara-Kate O’Loughlin, Sig and Sacha Tschernisch, his grandchildren Mia and Bram Stolk, Brian Hennessey, his daughter-in-law Heather Hennessey, his son-in-law Joris Ruijter and his step-grandchildren Roos and Joost Ruijter, as well as some very dear friends.

Information regarding a memorial celebration will be announced at a future time. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Hospice of the Northwest (www.hospicenw.org/how-you-can-help/make-a-donation) in his memory.

To share memories of Jim, please sign the online guestbook at www.evanschapel.com.