Peter Dorn was born 1932 in Berlin, Germany, where he attended public and high schools, served his apprenticeship as a compositor and studied graphic design in night classes.
Coming to Canada in 1953, Dorn remarked “I experienced the typical newcomer cycle of working at odd jobs until my English improved and I was able to work as a journeyman compositor at several typehouses in Toronto as well as for printers in Port Arthur, Calgary and Vancouver.”
While in Toronto, he attended night classes where he studied typography and design under Frank Newfeld and Carl Dair at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto.
Influenced by Carl Dair, Dorn established a Private Press in 1963, The Heinrich Heine Press. Many of the works of the Press received national and international awards over the years. From 1963-1970 Dorn served as the director of the Guild of Hand Printers.
In 1964 he was invited to join U of T Press, where he worked as a compositor. Under the guidance of Harold Kurschenka, Dorn started to design for the art department of their printing plant. After Harold left the Press, Dorn was appointed to the position of typographer for the plant.
The Akademie für grafik un Buchkunst awarded Dorn a scholarship in 1968 to study for one semester in Leipzig, Germany.
In 1971 he was awarded a Canada Council Grant to further his studies and later that year he was invited by Queen's University at Kingston to establish the Graphic Design Unit as its director, a position from which he retired in 1995. While he held this position at Queen's Dorn also lectured part time (1979-86) as Teaching Master at St. Lawrence College, Kingston.
In 1974 Dorn was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. The Society of Graphic Designers of Canada made him a Fellow in 1975. He served as National President of the GDC in 1978/79, and also as president of the now defunct Kingston Chapter in 1977/79.