Jim Donoahue is a designer who is genetically incapable of doing anything that looks bad. I’ve known him since our Ontario College of Art days in the late ’50’s and his work, even then, demonstrated a degree of elegance and simplicity that has made him one of the country’s most respected practitioners in the field of graphic design. His stylish and graceful typography, which is always readable, and his witty, original logos both delight the eye and serve the client. (I think he’s the best logo creator in the country).
Born in Walkerton Ontario and raised in Hamilton, Jim’s early life was not exactly surrounded by rich and exciting cultural stimuli nor was he the beneficiary of strong financial support.
So how did he get to the consummate designer?… A lot of innate talent and a commitment to design excellence on every single job regardless of the size of the budget and the constraints of time.
After a short stint at the National Film Board in Montreal, Jim was invited to come back to Toronto and work with Allan Fleming at Cooper & Beatty. I was already ensconced there and was delighted to have Jim join us. Al, Jim and I had a wonderful time and a lot of laughs together and we played off each other creatively like an improv comic group or a jazz trio. It was obvious right from the start that Jim was in his element.
His inventiveness and affinity for type carried him from strength to strength and he soon won enough awards to paper a condo. After C&B he went on to design, and write, stylish advertising and he single-handedly raised the graphics standard of many of the city’s finest restaurants to a level that often outclassed the food. But it’s his marks that really made their mark on our consciousness; TSN (which he did over a weekend) is seen by millions and is one of the most memorable and effective symbols on TV.
When my peers honoured me with this award a few years ago, my first thoughts, once I got over the shock, were of those who deserved it more than I did and the first name that came to mind was Jim Donoahue.
So now, at long last, it gives me a special kind of pleasure to see Jim Donoahue receive the treasured Les Usherwood award for lifetime achievement.
No one deserves it more. Nobody does it better.
– Ken Rodmell