Burton Kramer

Burton is not only one of the most influential designers of the modernist era in Canadian design, he was involved in the change of direction, name and goals of the Society from TDC to GDC. The change from an Ontario to a National Society was initiated during his term as GDC President.

Born June 25, 1932 in New York, NY, Kramer began working in the late 1950s for Will Burtin, then as Assistant Art Director of The Architectural Record magazine, for Geigy Chemicals in Ardsley, New York, and as Art Director at the Erwin Halpern advertising agency in Zurich, Switzerland 1962-65. His poster designs were included in The Best Posters of The Year, published in Publicite, the major Swiss Biannual.

He moved to Toronto in late 1965 and his work was prominent at Expo 67, where he designed the map-directory system, among others. In 1974 he became a Canadian citizen. He has work in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S.Library of Congress. He is well known for designing the distinctive 1974 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation logo, consisting of a stylized letter “C” (for Canada) radiating in all directions, representing broadcasting. In 1966-67, he was Director of Corporate Design for Clairtone Sound Corp., redesigning their logo and many other aspects of their graphic identity. In 1967, he founded the design firm, Burton Kramer Associates Ltd, later renamed Kramer Design Associates Ltd, specializing in corporate identity, signing, packaging and publication design. In 1971, he designed the logo and corporate identity for the new Ontario Educational Communications Authority. The work of the Kramer office has been published, awarded and exhibited worldwide.

Burton Kramer was a member of the GDC Board for 9 years and served as President and Vice-President. He was involved in the change of direction, name and goals of the Society from TDC to GDC. The change from an Ontario to a National Society was initiated during his term as GDC President.

Burton made possible the publication of Graphic Design Canada for GDC, covering work of the period 1966–68. In 1973 he wrote the introduction to the Canadian section of Top Symbols and Trademarks of the World for Deco Press, Milan, Italy. In 1975 he organized a special issue of IDEA Magazine, Tokyo, Japan (with an exhibit in Tokyo) on ‘Graphic Design in Canada’; in addition, he wrote an introductory editorial on Canadian Design for the IDEA special issue.

In 1975, Kramer researched and co-authored, with Laurie Lewis, a comprehensive brief to the Canadian Government on the subject of Graphic Design and Sales Taxation.

He served as juror for a number of GDC sponsored exhibitions, and worked for the organization on a variety of committees. In 1974 he became one of the first Canadian members of AGI, Alliance Graphique Internationale. He was first listed in Canadian Who’s who in 1974, and is listed in Who’s Who in Graphic Art, Who’s Who in American Art, Contemporary Designers and Who’s Who in The World. He has served as a member of the Canadian Postage Stamp Design Advisory Committee. His logo designs were featured in Modernist Logos, a major survey published by Taschen Books in summer 1974.

Kramer taught advanced Corporate and Graphic Design at OCAD for 21 years, was a board member of Arts Toronto and the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario. In 1999, Kramer was awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ by Arts Toronto. He has been a visiting lecturer at the Universidad Autonoma in Mexico City, the Universidad in San Luis Potosi, and at Rochester Institute of Technology.

He holds an MFA (Yale) in Graphic Design and a BSc in Visual Communication from the Institiute of Design, Chicago. Kramer was a Fulbright Scholar at the Royal College of Art, London. In 2003 he was one of the first 3 recipients of an Honorary Doctorate, D.Des., from OCAD. In 2003 Kramer received The Order of Ontario for his contributions to the cultural life of the Province. In 2012 he received the Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal.

An archive of his work is in the collection of The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto and The Vignelli Centre at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Kramer is currently active as an artist, showing his geometric abstractions at galleries in Canada and abroad.

Burton Kramer was awarded the Order of Canada in 2018.

Awarded Fellowship 1975