Frank Newfeld, a pioneer of book design in Canada and founding president of what’s now known as the Graphic Designers of Canada, died July 8. He was 93.
Newfeld was well-known to many in the Alcuin Society, being one of the first judges of the Society’s annual book design competition in 1981. In 2009, in recognition of his many accomplishments, the Society named him the second recipient of the Robert R.
Reid Medal for Lifetime Achievement in the Book Arts in Canada. The award was announced at a celebration of his work in Vancouver in April 2009, co-hosted with the BC chapter of the Graphic Designers of Canada, and the medal presented in a ceremony at
the Arts &Letters Club in Toronto in 2011.
Newfeld saw himself as an illustrator more than a designer. During his 13-year career in the McClelland & Stewart art department and subsequent work for Oxford University Press, Macmillan Canada and a host of other clients, he saw illustration and design
as supporting the text rather than replacing it. “If we expect the book’s verbal [aspect] to perform magic, should we not demand the visual to do the same?” he challenged listeners in his presentation on receiving the Robert R. Reid Award. A book
can’t really be claimed by its audience unless it has a visual magic about it that makes people want to own it.
Born in Czechoslovakia in 1928 and educated in England, Newfeld immigrated to Canada in 1954 and founded his own design company in Toronto. He joined the firm of McClelland & Stewart as art director in the early 1960s and was appointed to the company’s
board of directors in 1963. He held the position of vice president, publishing until he resigned in 1970 to resume independent work.
Over his career Newfeld designed, illustrated and/or art directed more than 600 books for publishers and art galleries in Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. He won more than 170 awards, including three medals from the prestigious
Leipzig Book Show, two Hans Christian Andersen awards, and two from Typomundus 20, as well as awards from the AIGA, Art Directors and Type Directors Clubs of Chicago, New York, The Society of Illustrators USA, Montreal and Toronto. Frank represented
Canada at the 1976 Illustration Bienale in the Czech Republic, and his work was included in a show of Canadian illustration in Bologna in 1990.
A recipient of many awards, Newfeld became a member of the Order of Canada in 2015 in recognition of his role as “one of the founding fathers of graphic design in Canada.” The citation noted that “he set the tone and style for the visual branding
of Canadian literature in its early days” and “helped professionalize the field of graphic design.” Ever humble, Newfeld described the award as “a validation of what I had accomplished with the help of others in my profession in my chosen country.
Remembering his discerning eye as a judge and his kindness and generosity to younger designers, Alcuin Society director Sue Colberg said his contributions were great and his presence will be missed.
“We have lost a founding father of Canadian graphic and book design to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude,” she said. Newfeld is survived by his wife Joan.