The Design Professionals of Canada has been an advocacy-based organization for over 65 years. Since its inception in 1956 it has continued to advance professional design and has cemented itself as a leader and supporter of the Canadian design profession.

It’s through the voluntary efforts and contributions of individuals that such progress is made. The organization also has a rich history of change and discovery. Just as the design industry has evolved and expanded over the decades, so too has the organization.

History, leadership, vision

The mid-twentieth century growth of print production placed increasing demands on typesetting companies. This resulted in the development of creative departments specializing in typographic design. Designers Leslie (Sam) Smart and John Gibson trained as typesetters in Britain. After their arrival in Toronto in the early 1950s, their type skills raised design standards and increased clients’ awareness of typography as a distinct expressive element on the printed page.

TDC logo by Jack Birdsall, 1956

 In 1956 Gibson, Smart, Frank Davies, and Frank Newfeld formed the Society of Typographic Designers of Canada. Members of the ‘TDC’ referred to themselves as type “designers” over type “directors” to distinguish themselves from the advertising art directors in major North American cities as the time.

TDC logo by Carl Dair (for Typography/ie Awards), 1958

It was in these early years that the requirement of submitting a portfolio of work for review to be considered for TDC membership was introduced. This requirement eventually evolved into the formal CDP™ Certified submission process the organization uses today. The TDC’s focus was to increase awareness of Canadian design. It did this largely through its annual Typography/Typographie award exhibitions and catalogues.

Above, Carl Dair, Fellow, and one of the first Fellows of the TDC/GDC (1960), reviews drawings of his typeface Cartier which was released in 1967. It is reputed to be the first serif typeface designed in Canada.

TDC logo by Jack Birdsall, 1959

The philosophy of the organization broadened and in 1968 its name was changed to the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada. This acknowledged the growing interest of members and reflected the expanding industry of visual communication. 1968 was also the year the first university-level design program was introduced at the University of Alberta.

The need for a national organization of graphic designers was felt by practitioners in major centres across the country. In 1974 the Communication Society of Alberta transformed into GDC Alberta, and along with other regional design organizations, a national executive board was created to reform the Society. This national entity became the first non-European member of Icograda (now ico-D) in 1974, and in 1976 a Federal Charter was granted to the Society.

By 1996, GDC consisted of chapters in every region with the exception of Quebec and the Canadian Arctic. That year, through an act of provincial legislation, the five chapters in Ontario were amalgamated into the Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario (RGD).  The GDC Arctic Chapter was introduced in 2004 giving  members and representation in all regions of the country.

In 1998 a comprehensive Code of Ethics was written and adopted by the GDC and RGD. The code was rewritten in 2019 and re-adopted by GDC, RGD and SDGQ (the representative body for designers in the province of Quebec since 1974).

GDC celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006. This milestone was marked by special events across the country, two national touring exhibits and a commemorative stamp issued by Canada Post to celebrate this exciting achievement. With the vision of creating a resource to support designers in need through scholarships and funding, 2006 also marked the year the GDC Foundation was created.

GDC logo by Jacques Charette, 1968

Responding to the growing awareness of climate change and the impact of designers’ work on the physical and cultural environments, the Sustainable Design Principles were adopted in 2009.

With close to 50 years using the GDC mark, the Society put out a nationwide RFP to rebrand the organization. The new mark suggested coast-to-coast-to-coast community and the bold geometric shapes of the Canadian flag inspired its typographic treatment. The reverse triangle in the ‘C’ suggested movement, process, and how design is responsible for delivering solution and resolve.

GDC logo by Dennis Boyle and John Ngan, 2014

In 2020 the organization surveyed almost 600 members and industry practitioners. A new strategic path emerged that responded to the evolving landscape of design communications. 

The widening of the audience and ensuring membership was easily accessible for other disciplines in design communications was a shift in the organization’s positioning and reflects the current era of the industry.

Situating itself to serve the industry from a more multidisciplinary lens, the organization evolved its name to the Design Professionals of Canada. ‘Design’ and ‘Canada’ reveal the organization’s shorthand name: DesCan. In step with the name change, the Society evolved its visual identity. The evolved mark also points to the future with one clear signal: ‘C’ is for Community, for Certification, for Canada.

DesCan logo by John Ngan and Dennis Boyle, 2021


Current     Marga Lopez CDP

2018-2022    Mark Rutledge CDP

2016-2018    Johnathon Strebly CDP

2012-2016    Adrian Jean CDP

2010-2012    Jim Hudson CDP

2008-2010    Rod Roodenburg, CDP

2006-2008    Dean McNeill CDP

2004-2006    Peggy Cady CDP, Fellow

2002-2004    Matthew Warburton CDP, Fellow

2000-2002    Cynthia Hoffos CDP, Fellow

1998-2000    David Coates CDP, Fellow

1996-1998    Steven Rosenberg CDP, Fellow

1994-1996    Mary Ann Maruska CDP, Fellow

1992-1994    Paul-Michael Brunelle CDP, Fellow

1990-1992    Michael Maynard CDP, Fellow

1987-1990    Don Dickson CDP, Fellow

1985-1987    Judith Gregory CDP, Fellow

1983-1985    Gregory Silver CDP, Fellow

1981-1983    Jan van Kampen CDP, Fellow

1978-1981    Walter Jungkind Fellow

1978    Peter Dorn Fellow

1976-1978  John Gibson Fellow, President

1975    Peter Dorn Fellow

1974    Carl Brett

1972-1974    Burton Kramer Fellow

1970-1971    George Rolfe

1969-1970    William Newton

1968-1969    Carl Brett Fellow

1967-1968    John Gibson Fellow

1966-1967    Hugh Michaelson

1965-1966    Harold Kurschenska

1963-1965    Gerry Moses

1960-1962    William Toye

1959-1960    Frank Newfeld Fellow

1958-1959    Frank Davies Fellow

1957-1958    Leslie (Sam) Smart Fellow


To be Canada’s number one organization for design communications. A design industry that values CDP™ Certification.


Through advocacy, knowledge, and community — lead, support, and advance professional design communications in Canada.


Meet the evolving needs of DesCan members and the design communications industry

Creativity and innovation

Commitment to building a strong and inclusive national design community

Respect and open-mindedness

Practice ethical standards and integrity