GDC Fellow

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Susan Colberg, FGDC

Sue was born on World Graphics Day (April 27) in Montréal, Québec in 1961. Her father was a communications design engineer and an inventor/builder of gadgets and her mother an avid reader and enthusiast of all things cultural. This predisposed their daughter to become a visual communcation designer of the sort that she is. Growing up in an English-speaking enclave of Lac de Deux Montagnes, Québec with a Danish mother and a German father made for a multicultural, multilingual childhood for Sue and her brother. There were always lots of books in the house along with sewing patterns, paper, building materials, and diagrams and instructions in publications like Popular Mechanics and Popular Science. There was also a lot of Letraset lying around in very neat piles.

She studied design under GDC Fellows Peter Bartl, Jorge Frascara and Walter Jungkind, and received a BFA (1983) and an MVA (1991) in Visual Communication Design both from the University of Alberta. Seeing her mentors build and strengthen design education, research and practice through national and international activity, and witnessing the impact that their contributions made, motivated her to make a contribution of her own. As a student she was the Icograda Next Generation Representative for Canada. As a professional, she has served on the executive of the GDC since 1983 in various roles dealing with programming, governance and membership, including two years as Chapter President (1995, 1996). She has been an elected member of the National Council since 2002 as well as the liaison and chief delegate representing Canada to Icograda (the International Council of Graphic Design Associations) at Icograda General Assemblies in Nagoya, Japan (2003), Copenhagen, Denmark (2005), Havana, Cuba (2007) and Beijing, China (forthcoming, 2009). In 2004 she enlisted the University of Alberta as a member of the Icograda Education Network.

Establishing colberg visual communication design in 1983, her professional career began as a book designer for several small scholarly publishing houses, but she also worked on visual identity design and on signage, wayfinding and information design for several large institutional clients as well as for many small, cultural and non-profit organizations with projects relating to the arts and culture, health, safety and well-being.

For over twenty years Sue has been teaching the practice of graphic design with a special interest in social, cultural, educational and health-related issues. She became a Professor in the Department of Art & Design at the University of Alberta in 2001, served as the Coordinator of Visual Communication Design from 2005–07 when she became the Associate Chair (Undergraduate Studies). Her research and practice have focused on book and publication design, typography, information design and visual identity design. She has worked with a variety of institutional and scholarly publishing houses in Canada and the United States, including the State University of New York Press, the University of Toronto Press and the University of Alberta Press. With senior undergraduate and graduate students she has carried out community projects dealing with services for people with visual and hearing impairments and physical disabilities, applying psychiatric research in treatment, recognizing cultural excellence, sustainability issues, pharmaceutical labeling and safety, pediatric weight and health issues, medical student health initiatives for the inner city and the well-known Fringe Theatre Festival. She has lectured and participated in roundtable discussions and workshops on topics related to book design, typography, design education and design practice.

Sue has won numerous national and international design awards. Her work has been recognized and published by Crown & Zanders International, Potlatch International, Icograda, Graphis, the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada, Graphex, the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada and the University & College Designers Association. She has served on the juries of the United Nations Development Program, the Association of American University Presses Book, Jacket and Journal Show, the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada, the Book Publishers Association of Alberta and the GDC National Scholarships. Her work has been exhibited across Canada and the US as well as in Cuba, Germany, Japan, Korea, Turkey and the UK. Examples of her work are represented in the permanent collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (England), the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta (Canada) and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC (USA).