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InspirationNov 02, 2022

Design in Toronto from the Canada modern archive

Toronto is home to DesignThinkers, Canada's largest graphic design conference, which took place last week in person after being a strictly virtual event in 2020 and 2021. To celebrate and express our love for the city, the RGD shares work by Toronto-based designers between 1961 and 1982.

Aerotype Litho

Burton Kramer RGD Emeritus, 1970

Archive: TM72

Aerotype (Services) Litho was a commercial print house located in downtown Toronto. Records show that the company did work for both the Federal and Provincial governments, and also printed high quality books and brochures. One such piece was the art book/catalogue for the travelling exhibition ‘Changing Visions/Aperçus Divers’, designed by Burton Kramer Associates (which also designed this logo). This book used a green, vinyl formed outer cover, inset with artificial ‘astroturf’ and 2 separate booklets, secured inside using hidden pockets. An extremely innovative solution for the time.

The symbol itself, masterfully encapsulates the process of printing, capturing both the movement of lithographic cylinders and reproductive nature of printing and furthermore manages to embed the letter ‘a’ into the logo for perfect measure.

Mount Sinai New Symbol

Stuart Ash RGD Emeritus, 1968

Archive: CM134

The story of Mount Sinai Hospital began life in 1913 when four immigrant women from Toronto’s Jewish community started knocking on neighbourhood doors to raise money for a new hospital. 10 years later, in 1923, The Hebrew Maternity and Convalescent Hospital (as it was originally called) opened its doors. In 1973 the Hospital moved to what is now called the Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Health Complex. As part of this move, G+A were selected to redesign the Hospital’s identity. Part of that project included this announcement to publicize the new symbol and explain some of the rationale behind the design. From the contents: “The Star of David, which makes up the heart of the new symbol, is seen streaking outwards and upwards. This design symbolizes the interrelationship of the Jewish community with the community at large and, at the same time, portrays the movement and achievement of Mount Sinai Hospital in the health care field.”


Burton Kramer RGD Emeritus, 1977

Archive: CM158

Opening in 1960 as the O’Keefe Centre, Meridian Hall (its current name) is a major Toronto venue designed in the Mid-Century style (it is also the current home of DesignThinkers Toronto!). It remains to this day, Canada’s largest ‘soft-seat’ theatre. It also. Happens to be the stage where Mikhail Baryshnikov defected to the West in 1974. Burton designed the original signage for the Centre, as well as the cover for this programme, produced in a magazine format. Five interlocking sections around a central star create a 3D optical illusion, giving the image a sense of energy and motion. This particular issue was the first one produced after Lotfi Mansouri took over as General Manager of the Canadian Opera Company and the programmed has a significant focus on opera and the Company’s upcoming season.

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir

Margrit Kapler, 1968

Archive: TM48

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir is one of Canada’s oldest, largest and best-known choral ensembles. Founded in 1894 by Augustus Vogt, the Choir presented its first concert in Massey Hall, as part of the Hall’s inaugural season, on January 15, 1895. John D. Weatherseed Associates operated as a printing broker in Toronto through the 60s, 70s and 80s. It became the task of Swiss-born Margrit Kapler who provided design for many of its clients in a freelance capacity after the demise of Clairtone (where she had worked under Burton Kramer). The identity presents a stylized M that combines an open libretto with swirls that are drawn from musical notation. The signature red/black colour scheme contrasts with a more fashionable (at the time) orange/pink alternative palette for a more expressive execution on printed items. This was a notable visual change for the choir, taking them in a more progressive and contemporary direction.

Toronto Calling

Geoffrey Traunter, Peter G. Robinson (symbol), 1976

Archive: CM15

This book uses the 1976 Olympiad for the Physically Disabled to capture an interesting time in Toronto’s development, largely through Ted Czolowski’s photography. The result was designed to give people a fresh look at the city, not just visitors but also Toronto’s residents, who were "still struggling with the fact that the whole world seemed disenchanted with their city just a short time ago.” All that said, the most interesting aspect of the book is its striking cover.

The 1976 Toronto Games were the first to use the title “Olympiad for the Physically Disabled”, a single international event where for the very first time athletes who were blind or partially sighted and amputees could compete along with wheelchair athletes. The identity (created by Toronto graphic designer Peter G. Robinson) featured a pictogram of a human figure with arms raised in a gesture of achievement over three interlocking Olympic rings (representing the three disabilities of blind, amputee and paraplegic athletes).

List curated by Blair Thomson, Founder and Creative Director, Canada Modern

About Canada Modern

Canada Modern is a physical archive of modernist Canadian graphic design focused on the period 1960-1985. It exists to preserve, document, educate, inspire and build a richer understanding of a seminal point in Canada’s development as a nation. The collection is primarily interested in identity design, typography and graphic communication and is shared online via its own website. We cannot find the way forward without clear knowledge of where we began — perhaps through fostering a greater understanding of Canada’s first golden era of design we can begin the process of heralding a new one. Online archive | Instagram | Twitter Support Canada Modern as a patron do you have materials you’d like to donate, now or in the future? Email


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