Two New GDC Fellows

GDC Awards it's Highest Honour to Dale Simonson and Jim Rimmer in 2007

Among the more heartfelt and thoughtful presentations at the 2007 AGM in Montreal in late April were nominations for GDC Fellowship to Dale Simonson and Jim Rimmer. The many accolades, historical notes, stories and descriptions of recent work of these tireless individuals were captivating. Some of the excerpts and notes from the presentations are recorded here below and are well worth the read as an inspiration and a reality check for those of us who think we have a lot on our plates. Dig in.

Dale Simonson FGDC

Dale earned a Graphic and Communication Arts diploma from Douglas College, Surrey, BC, in 1977, and attained professional certification from the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada in 1982. He began his practice with employment in various design agencies in Vancouver, BC, and as an in-house designer for the Expo 86 world's fair. At the close of Expo he co-founded Studio Allsorts, and in the ensuing years built a reputation as an award-winning communication designer, with works exhibited and published locally, nationally and internationally.

His activities on behalf of the profession have encompassed action on boards and committees of organizations including Design Vancouver, Design Now, the Alliance of Professional Design Associations, Design Access, and the Alliance for Canadian Design. As well, he has served in numerous roles for the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC), including Graphex Design Exhibition Chair, BC Chapter President 1988-1989, National Secretary 1992-1999, and National Treasurer 2002-2006. Invitations to lecture at conferences, seminars, and in classrooms led Dale to teaching design at the University College of the Fraser Valley, and Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. In 2000, he embarked on his full-time commitment to design education, and in 2002, joined the faculty of Kwantlen University College.

Over the last few years, he has been a member of the development team for a new Bachelor of Design program at Kwantlen, and teaching across a diverse spectrum of the program curriculum. His teaching areas include conceptual development, image development, typography, information design, interactive design, interactive and print software applications, production technology, business processes, and mentoring.

From Brenda Sanderson, Icograda:

I think it was at the AGM in Winnipeg that Dale and I figured out we'd first met in Halifax in 2001 – not at the meeting itself but over a beverage in one of the many social occasions that accompany these annual gatherings.

Since then, Dale and I have sat at the Council table in Ottawa, Victoria,Winnipeg and Edmonton. We served together on the national executive. In these settings, I gained an enormous respect not only for Dale's ability to craft a budget that saw the GDC emerge as a financially sound organisation but also for his passion for the profession. He has devoted countless hours to the GDC, even more to building a great program at Kwantlen and still more to engaging in the debate about what it means to be a designer today and imagining what that might look like tomorrow. And it is those debates that I enjoy the most. We've had them in hallways, during coffee breaks at conferences, and most often in the wee hours of the morning during AGM weekends. Not only does Dale deserve the GDC 'Energizer Bunny'; award for the one who just keeps on going, but he also deserves recognition as a Fellow – his accomplishments on behalf of all Canadian designers should not go quietly unsung. Cheers Dale.”

From David Coates, FGDC, GDC National Website Chair:

Where does one begin with Dale Simonson? I've had the privilege of working with Dale on both the BC and the National Executives over the past twelve years. He was involved many years prior to that as BC president and he continued long after my exit from the National exec. He is one of those individuals who doesn't make a big deal of his achievements or contributions – he simply gets things done quietly and humbly, preferring to be in the background. Besides being an excellent award winning designer, Dale's work with the educational community has helped forge valuable liaisons with the GDC, his work as treasurer on the National has brought the GDC into a position of effective, responsible accounting practices that put the Society in a position to be both audited annually and fully accountable to membership. No small task! When Dale and I worked on the BC exec, he brought continuity to a fledgling group with no experience and I owe him a debt of gratitude for that. Dale has the ability to make hard work fun and to bring a real humanistic approach to often mind numbing meetings – remember the 14 hour constitutional discussions in Windsor? I'm proud to call Dale a good friend, and glad that this long overdue Fellowship has been put forward. Congratulations Dale!

From Dalia Ibrahim, GDC Graduate:

“Dale Simonson is the teacher who you have to love; he is your buddy. The teacher that is never afraid of saying “I donʻt know” as an answer in the class but never hesitates to try his best to find the answer so enthusiastically. The teacher who will stay after class hour tutor you or
give you his opinion in your work. He never hesitates to tell you his true opinion even if it is going to hurt. But he will make his best effort to let you forget about it and try for a better solution. It is enough to say that every time we send out an invitation for a reunion for our group, he will be the only teacher who replies and show up to share a good time with us: his former students who, now are somehow his peers.”

From Gwen Hetherington, MGDC:

“In the years that I have been involved with the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, Dale Simonson has been an inspiration. His energy, his passion, his attention to detail and conscientious concern for responsible fiscal management has truly impressed me. Add to that the poorly kept secret that Dale is a bona fide 'nice guy'; a genuine and compassionate individual with a wide streak of honesty, quick to smile and even quicker to find the punchline in any situation, and you can very nearly imagine just how much of a pleasure it has been to have occasion to know him and to work with him.

Dale has really done a great job on behalf of GDC, working tirelessly and racking up a great number of volunteer hours. He has established some great accounting practices, taking the Society forward into maturity. He leaves behind a very good template for others to follow, and that legacy will have a lasting impact. I would be proud to see Dale listed as a fellow of GDC.”

From Peggy Cady, FGDC, National Past President:

“Dale has been passionately involved with the GDC as far back as I can remember, and we worked together on the executive during his terms as National Secretary and National Treasurer. He is a treasure trove of GDC history and lore. He always did his utmost to make sure the executive was on track, considering all sides of a question and maintaining the integrity of the society. His background and perspective as both an experienced designer and an educator were extremely helpful to both the executive and council. He could party with the best of them - what would an AGM be without him? Congratulations Dale!”

From Robert L. Peters, FGDC:

“Dale is a constant source of enthusiasm - at times it seems to overwhelm him (dousing those around him) as it gushes from some hidden source within his diminutive frame. I have fond memories of the years spent working with the tireless Dale while serving on the GDC's National Council - he's as good and steadfast a professional colleague as anyone could ever hope for. Go, Dale, go!...”

From Sheryl McDonald:

“What can I say other than “what a cute little leprechaun.”

Many years ago I somehow got hold of a business card that said “Allsorts” and I was impressed by it. Now keep it mind that I don't know anything about graphic design but low and behold and few months later I end up at GDC and meet this fellow whose card I had received. He had “all sorts” of character and at my first AGM I realized he was on of the three musketeers (David, Matt & Dale). Here I was a little old lady from Pasadena and these three young whippersnappers took me under their tutelages. I could never understand how Dale had the stamina to party all night and still attend the meeting the next morning. I can't say that his colleagues always made it on time but you could count on Dale to be holding his head and still keeping track of the meeting. This was particularly hard when he was Secretary and had to record the minutes. Next to impossible for most people let alone someone who generated those stories of what he had been up to the previous night. My impression of Dale is that he is always ready for a good time but when he made a commitment to GDC he certainly was always there to fulfill his duties.

As Treasurer of GDC he really showed his stuff (once he got it done). He certainly brought the accounting and bookkeeping up to a higher level, which was most important. He submitted financial reports and statements and always kept in touch with the accountant and National Office to ensure GDC was operating within its limits.

Dale, you were great fun as well as a committed GDC executive member and always did your best on behalf of the profession and members as well as the many students you have influenced. You are someone that will die with his boots on, however they really don't make a fashion statement. You shouldn't be allowed out of the house with your boots and shorts on. It is a pretty scary sight. All joking aside I miss all of you and in particular I want to wish Dale all the best in the future.”

From Dean McNeill, GDC Nat'l President:

“My first experience with Dale Simonson was at my first GDC AGM. He introduced himself and quietly apologized that he wasn't an accountant, hadn’t any formal training in "numbers" but was handling the treasurer position as best he could. Over the next 30 minutes I was astounded at both the level of detail he supplied in his financial report and the clarity which he provided – I actually understood what he was saying and could follow the money trail he was laying!

The financial stability that we in the GDC enjoy today is due to the efforts of many people. One of them undoubtedly is Dale. The fact that we are even talking about this would be a true embarrassment to him... which exemplifies the humbleness he brought to this key position.”

From Rick Cuff, Kwantlen University College:

“It's been my pleasure to work with Dale as our team builds the Graphic Design for Marketing program at Kwantlen. Dale is an excellent designer, an excellent design instructor, and an excellent friend, who I'm lucky enough to have as an office mate. An extra bonus is access to his wealth of information about developments not only in GDC, but also in other organizations in the graphic design profession.

I'm delighted that Dale is to become a Fellow, joining those other wonderful Fellows who enrich all of our lives.”

From J. Dean Kulbida, President, GDC South Saskatchewan Chapter:

“In the time I have known Dale, I came to the understanding that he is extremely knowledgeable and more than willing to help out in any areas concerning the Graphic Designers of Canada. He has proven that he is very unselfish with his time and is always willing to listen to others regarding not only matters of the GDC, but also on any other aspects of Graphic Design. Because of his outstanding work, sincerity, commitment and his genuine love of the profession of Graphic Design, I believe that the GDC should recognize and bestow the honour of Fellow to Dale Simonson.”

From Melanie MacDonald, GDC Administrative Director:

“I was delighted to hear that you had been nominated by your peers for GDC Fellowship. I know first hand how deserving you are of that honour and priviledge. Congratulations!

Many people know you as a graphic designer or as a professor. I knew you as the GDC National Treasurer, and later as a friend. The role of Treasurer requires many, many hours of personal sacrifice. Knowing this, I appreciated even more the extra hours you spent going above and beyond to ensure that I fully understood policies, procedures, and background. You made joining the GDC such a wonderful and positive experience! Thank you.

I would like you to know that I always admired your ability to perform your responsibilities with humour and patience. That, and your boundless energy! Dale, it was my honour and privilege to have worked with you!”

From Matt Warburton FGDC:

“It was a dark and rainy night back in 1989 when I attended my first GDCBC event. I can't remember who the speaker was or if there was an exhibit, but I do recall being given a ride home afterwards in an ancient (but cool) Detroit-style car by this incredibly enthusiastic and animated guy by the name of Dale. Dale and I have closed down many a GDC event since that night, and to this day I'm still amazed, and inspired, by his endless reserves of energy, be it to discuss design issues at 4am, or to review student portfolios at 2pm. Dale has given so much to the GDC over the years: presiding over the BC Chapter and organizing Graphex back in the 1980s; transcribing National AGM minutes (with exquisite typography of course) from boxes of cassette tapes; organizing our financial reporting systems, etc., etc. But mostly, for me, it’s Daleʼs constant drive to make the GDC, and Canadian design, a better and more relevant organization and profession and to inspire those who have the pleasure of working with him to have a good time doing it!”

From Hélène L’Heureux, Directeur, SDGQ

Je n’ai pas longuement fréquenté Dale Simonson. L’ayant croisé une première fois à la Biennale du design de Montréal, en 2000, nous nous sommes rencontrés lors des assemblées générales de la GDC auxquelles j’ai eu le privilège d’assister. Je ne l’ai donc pas longuement fréquenté, mais il m’est toujours resté de chacune de ces rencontres une petit morceau d’anthologie, une leçon de vie, un regain d’énergie, un renouvellement de ma foi en la vie ! Dale Simonson est un designer, un enseignant, un communicateur, un directeur financier. Dale Simonson est aussi un libre esprit, un contemplatif actif, un hippy doublé d’un directeur de finances. Il porte une veste qu’il peut retourner comme il veut, quand il veut. Quand il doit présenter les états financiers à l’Assemblée de la GDC, il porte, non pas des souliers neufs, mais des bottes de sept lieues. Car il sait où il va et il y va sans détour. Il est rigoureux, rigolo. Consciencieux, conscientisé, contestataire, il reste toujours convivial ! Ce qui m’épate le plus, c’est l’habileté, l’aisance avec lesquelles il s’est attelé à la complexe tâche de présenter les états financiers, de les expliquer, de soutenir des propositions avec la sérénité d’un ministre des finances. Dale s’est consacré à la tâche la plus ingrate d’une organisation, celle de trésorier. Il s’en est acquitté pendant plus de 4 ans avec conscience et brio. C’est pourquoi je soutiens sa candidature de membre honoraire de la GDC.


Jim Rimmer FGDC

Jim Rimmer was born on April Fool's Day, 1934 in Vancouver BC. Enough said.

His education was scant, his  career in Graphic Design and letterpress printing based only on the naivete that all one needed to do was to love to draw. He attended Vancouver Technical School, which gave an introduction to metal type and presses through the school's large printing trade shop. He began his apprenticeship as a compositor and (although he had no hint at the time) typefounder. After six years of apprenticeship he moved on to work on various daily and weekly newspapers.

His first taste of working in "art" came about while he was a Linotype and Monotype operator/floor compositor at the Williams Lake Tribune. ON several occasions it seemed to him a good idea to present a print client's letterhead as a gouache and brush layout, rather than going straight to the type case. When it was discovered that the kid could draw a little, the publisher asked him if he could knock out a cartoon once a week. He did this for the sum of five dollars for each. The money was beginning to roll in.

When it looked like he had reached the cash ceiling, he and his wife and family of three returned home to Vancouver, where after two more comp room positions he decided to try in earnest to break away from the rapidly shrinking letterpress trade he attended two semesters of evening classes in graphic design at the Vancouver School of Art, under the instruction by designer and illustrator Graham Booth. His first interview for a design position landed him his first real job in the field at The Columbian Newspaper/ Craftsmen Press in New Westminster. He remained in this position for seven years, and in 1969 moved on to work at Brock Weber Printing, then on to Tri Graphic Studios and then Creative House. In 1973 he rented a spot in Gastown and began a freelance career that would last 32 years, until his retirement in 1999. In the last four years of his working life he was Type Director of Giampa Textware/Lanston Type Co, who were busily digitizing revival faces from the holding of letter patterns from The Lanston Monotype Machine CO.

During his freelance years he worked on projects for the major agencies and design studios in Vancouver, for corporations, airlines, mining and forestry companies. A large part of his work entailed letter design and lettering projects.

He designed and cut in metal his first typeface, named Juliana Oldstyle in 1981, and because he had in his hands the matrices for this face, found it necessary to acquire more type casting machines. Some years later he located three pantographic engraving machines, and more casters. Since they needed to be kept working, he design and cut more faces in metal: Nephi Madiaeval; Albertan; Fellowship; Duensing Titling in seven sizes; Canadian Syllabics (Cree); Quill; and Carl Dair's Cartier. One of his latest designs is 18 point Hannibal Oldstyle, made to run on the Monotype Composition Caster, and for his printing of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Since retirement he has hand set and printed four books: Shadow River, Pauline Johnson; A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens; and his autobiography, Leaves From the Pie Tree. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is in progress at this writing.

Because of his growing reputation in typography he was invited to teach, and did so off and on on a contract basis for Capilano College, ECIAD, Langara College, Kwantlen College, Richmond and UCFV, Abbotsford.

He is still in contact with some original students and a handful who are new to him, and come to look and some to learn. On Occasion he conducts workshops in printing, typecutting and book binding at his workshop. Students are from such far-flung places as San Francisco and Chicago

In 1998, he began producing his own digital library of typefaces, many his own design and some revivals. He produces 190 or so individual fonts, which are now marketed by P22 Type Foundry of Buffalo, NY.

Jim is member of The American Tyecasting Fellowship, for whom he has spoken several times. His printing and typefounding workshop is visited by groups from libraries, universities and colleges. He was feted in November of 1996 by Simon Fraser University at an event called "Rimmerfest". A large collection of his work and papers are lodged in SFU's Special Collections in The Bennett Library.

He hacks away at the garden, draws, makes new type, prints new books, holds cats on his lap, has cut letters in marble, still plays jazz on his cornet, gathers carving wood on the banks from the Fraser River and has started to build a steel string guitar.

From Mark Busse, MGDC, President, GDC BC Chapter

“I feel a rather humbled and a little bummed out since attending Rimmerfest at SFU downtown on November 25. It was both an inspiration and an honour to be among Canada’s Graphic Design elite to celebrate and honour one of Canada’s living national treasures, the printer, publisher, and one of the few remaining typography and letterpress craftsmen alive today, Jim Rimmer.

To say Jim Rimmer has made many friends over his over fifty year career would be woefully inadequate. Jim has mentored, inspired and befriended numerous printers, type designers, publishers, students, teachers, design firms, type founders and book lovers. Just Google Jim Rimmer and you’ll see what I mean - there are too many links to post here. So why am I feeling so humble and morose?

I’ve called myself a Communication Designer for a while now, but as I sat in that audience listening, I was more than slightly overwhelmed with the realization of how little I really know about the history of my own profession. Or perhaps more accurately how much I’d forgotten and failed to honour. Even with training and years in the graphic arts field, I felt like I had failed to properly remember and pay respect to the early innovators of graphic design that paved the way for me.

I sometimes forget that I was a young typesetter and apprentice pressman once long ago. Hell, the truth of it is if my Graphic Arts teacher hadn’t have shown me how to use the letterpress in my high school, I doubt I would have pursued any sort of career in graphic arts, eventually working as an junior pressman in the late eighties during my university studies before training in the design field. It seems like a lifetime ago. So you can imagine how nostalgic I felt looking around this room full of dinosaurs and legends listening to their stories of “the old days".

As the evening continued I started feeling badly that my professional association GDC, celebrating a comparatively young 50th anniversary this year, wasn’t giving him any kind of presentation to Mr. Rimmer. In fact, there were only two GDC representatives present, Linda Coe (BC Chapter Ethics Chair) and myself. Perhaps no one asked and it didn’t occur to us to offer, but as the official national Society of Graphic Designers in Canada, we owe craftsmen like Jim Rimmer a huge debt of gratitude and a great deal of respect.

It is with this thought in mind that I nominate Jim Rimmer for Fellowship in GDC.”


Jim Rimmer, is currently (in 2007) enjoying his fifty-fifth year in the pursuit of fine typography, graphic design and lithography. His background includes years with hot metal type in the composing room, and in the operation of the linotype and the Monotype – of which he still has a large and active collection of differing machine models. He is still designing and cutting faces in metal in concert with those that he is designing for digital format on his Macintosh. In 2000 and 2001 he completed two hot metal faces and has recently finished a third: Hannibal Oldstyle for the printing of the book: Tom Sawyer in 2006. He goes on to use these typefaces in the books that he designs, illustrates, prints and occasionally writes for his own private press, the Pie Tree Press in Vancouver.

His experience in graphic design covers over 40 years, encompassing positions in advertising agencies and design studios. For more than 25 years he has had the good fortune to experience the mixed blessings of freelancing as a letterer, designer, and illustrator. In addition he served as Type Director of Lanston during its time in Vancouver and made the digital versions of the Cloister, Deepdene and Garamont fonts for the Lanston Type Company.

Rimmer Type Foundry is the gathering of Jim’s metal typefounding knowledge and hand skills with his many years as a lettering artist into something useable in the digital font world. The foundry leans in the direction of traditional type forms but does address the need to offer more contemporary type styles.

Jim deserves our recognition. I know Jim personally and he recently recounted the story of when he designed the current BC Flag for Baker Lovick Advertising many years ago, but was never given proper credit for it or considered to be its official designer, because the Creative Director took all the credit and he never pushed it. That's the kind of person Jim is. Kind. Generous. Humble.

From Jim "I often design my typefaces on the back of an envelope. I draw on whatever is at hand at the time. It makes for a pretty shaggy archive, but it keeps the types spontaneous if nothing else." Jim is old school, yet still active and relevant. He finalizes his sketches in Adobe Illustrator on a Mac.

From Denise Carson Wilde (artist, typographer, printer and owner of Paper-Ya in Vancouver):

As you may know, Jim has been awarded several GDC certificates of design excellence over his long career. Several of these came from self-promotion, or for “ephemera”. I think that Jim always shinned the brightest when he was just doing his own thing. He is really quite a maverick. This quiet white haired man never made a fuss of any of his accomplishments. Jim is really a renegade. He follows his own unique path, completely. And all the while generously encouraging and giving to all those around him.

I think that the wider circle of professional acknowledgment that has been given to Jim of late is so refreshing. It gives every designer/artist hope! It reminds me of an old classic western movie. Where the good guy does get the girl and rides off into the sunset. Jim already has the girl.... for Jim “the girl” is making linocuts, designing type, and producing letterpress limited edition books. The acknowledgment of his accomplishments and contributions is the sunset. There is no question that he deserves a spectacular sunset.

From Dick Kouwehoven, owner Hemlock Printers):

Jim's contribution to our community of printers, designers, illustrators and publishers is huge. He continues to lead a vibrant private press culture, with his passion for typography. Jim is an amazing, creative, faithful traditionalist.

From Matt Warburton, FGDC:

Few individuals have given as much as Jim Rimmer has to the Canadian design community, yet received so little in return. A master typographer in both lead and pixel, Jim has conveyed his love of the craft aspect of our profession to countless students, either in his classrooms or simply through allowing designer to enter his sanctum of letterpress in the basement of his New Westminster home. Jim fluidly moves from the printing presses and molten metal that are from a bygone era to the world of vectors and bezier curves, applying his knowledge and expertise to both arenas. His has the unique ability to link practitioners from all areas of design across Canada and beyond, from book binders to typographers, infusing everyone he meets with his own enthusiasm and passion for the profession.

As a spokesperson for design and presenter at many GDC events over the years, he continues to inspire generations of designers to embrace the beauty of type, and the feel of letterpress. His contributions to the GDC also includes the creation of custom cast metal fonts for the Graphex trophies dating back to 1997 and recently the GDC@50 momentos.

I have had the pleasure of working with Jim on numerous projects over the years, as well as spending time in his workshop and am humbled by his abilities, yet inspired by them at the same time. I proudly use one of his first digital typefaces, Albertan, on my own company's stationery.

I cannot think of a more worthy nominee for GDC Fellowship than Jim.

At Rimmerfest, poet and typography guru Robert Bringhurst, who admitted to being "in a tragic frame of mind recently" told the sad story of the history, demise and unfortunate state of the typography industry. Concluding that metal type composition was two generations past, the remaining machines are cared for by "few people shouldering the responsibility, people like Jim Rimmer." When Jim goes, whose left?

Well, thanks to Jim, there are young, motivated, passionate designers-typographers-printers to carry on the traditions. While serving as an external advisor pre-judging Communication Design Grad work, I discovered a written, photographed, designed, laid out, printed and hand bound book honouring Jim Rimmer by a young man named Ryan Mah. Take a look at it yourself.

From Ryan Mah:

I met Jim Rimmer for the first time in Spring of 2004. I had been seeking some advice on letterpress printing technique. All my leads from various instructors had pointed in Jim’s direction. An e-mail later, I arrived at his home in New Westminster. It was damp outside as the leaves from last fall still laid on the pathway to his house. I remember walking down the gravel path to the side of his house and peering into a very dusty window. In the back of his dimly lit shop, I could scarcely make out the silhouette of a person working on a large iron machine. Excitedly, I knocked on the glass pane door where I was warmly greeted and invited in.

The sight of the large black iron machines, the sound of metal gears clinking in the background, and the smell of ink and wood had me in awe as I stood at the entrance to his shop. During my stay, I witnessed magic as Jim transformed the raw materials; lead into refined jewel-like letterforms. From these letterforms, books were produced and all completely bound by hand. Metamorphosis from lead to finely crafted book illustrates an aura of fine craftsmanship with each page turned. I had the opportunity to view these books and, once in my hand, I realized I was holding onto something incredibly special.

Jim has passed on new inspiration of this forgotten art to his many students, including myself, that have come and gone through his shop. He has taken us to a place where the computer is not the only solution to a problem. These collections of photographs are from my many visits to his shop and with them I hope to inspire others. It is rare to meet someone that can have such a positive impact on one’s life. Jim Rimmer is one of these few exceptional people.

Marke Busse concluded:

After meeting Jim, touring the dark, greasy caverns of his print shop in New Westminster, his life changed and he fell for type. He fell hard for letterpress printing. He now owns a fully functional print shop in his parents' garage complete with three presses, a cutter and full compliment of movable type. Thanks to Jim, Robert Bringhurst may be wrong–and that doesn't happen often. Ryan, and the many others whose lives Jim has touched, are the keepers and future of traditional graphic design, typography and printing.

Jim deserves the honour of GDC Fellowship. Thank you Jim.