A beloved Atlantic Canadian designer, Jim Edwards, recently passed away on June 20th, 2011. Accounting for his more than 45 years in the industry, and the void he leaves behind, would certainly require a book. What follows is just an outline of some of his influences on Atlantic Canada's design community from someone who was both touched and guided by him.
Jim's introduction to, what was then termed, commercial art began at the Central Technical School Art Facility in Toronto. There he studied with both Doris McCarthy, who lived to be 100 and whose paintings are in the National Gallery, and Charles Goldhammer, a Canadian war artist whose work hangs in the Canadian War Museum. In those days commercial art training demanded students be skilled as artists, painters and engravers in a curriculum augmented by study in mixed media, design, calligraphy, typography and art history.
Jims early career was spent at Brigdens, Sounds Interchange Studios, Simpson's and Puma in Toronto before choosing to relocate to Nova Scotia in 1980 with his wife and two young sons. He soon joined Corporate Communications Limited (CCL) in Halifax, as Art Director, where he was instrumental in building CCL's advertising department. It was here he earned his first, of several, Communication Arts awards quickly followed by numerous design awards in Atlantic and North American competitions.
In these early years Mr. Edwards' penchant for teaching and mentoring was born. A great many Atlantic designers crossed his path as employees, freelancers and suppliers. Each can attest to the broad swath of skills he brought to his profession. All have memories of a talented humorous designer and illustrator with a quick wit. Some were fortunate enough to partake his many musical talents as well. Despite his classical training and skills, Jim soon embraced the changes afoot in the early 90's and helped introduce the digital age to the local design community.
Jim gave back as a volunteer. He was a leader in the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) during the 90's, first as a key member of the Atlantic Chapter's Education Committee, then as Education Chair before serving as GDC's Atlantic Chapter President from 1996 until 2000. During his tenure as GDC President he was driven by his desire to see professional certification for Canadian designers. His other volunteer positions included serving as a member of the Marketing Committee for the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce and President of Visual Arts Nova Scotia (VANS).
In 1992 Jim formed Graphicom, his own design studio serving local and national clients. Having his own successful firm afforded him the opportunity to pursue his other developing passion – education – from both sides. Since 2004, Jim taught full and part-time courses in design and marketing at DaVinci Institute, Dalhousie University and Mount Saint Vincent University while also completing an Honours Degree in Communication Design at NSCAD University.
His joy in graduating in 2007 was soon tempered by the news he was suffering from a rare form of cancer, cholangiocarcinoma. Never one to back down from a challenge, he faced the coming years of treatment with the same vigour he threw at everything. In December, 2010, he was given a clean bill of health and threw himself back into both his profession and educating.
Jim was a natural teacher. He truly loved, and excelled at, mentoring up-and-coming talent. He was especially excited and encouraged by an invitation from NSCAD University to develop and teach a non-digital introductory graphic design course. The chance to share his deep knowledge, skills and the ability to roll-up-his-sleeves to help potential designers understand the roots of their profession seemed a perfect match for Jim's talents. The course was slated to commence in the fall of 2011 and would have been a rare and enviable opportunity for students to learn as he had learned.
Cruelly, in April 2011, the cancer Jim had endured for several years returned with a vengeance only a brief time after being told he was cancer-free. Not only was his life cut too short, but it robbed a generation of students from learning from a master educator and a passionate defender of the importance of visual communication in today's world. He had so much he still wanted to give and share.
— Dean McNeill CGD
The photo of Jim was taken while on a photoshoot in Cape Breton. Photo by Pierre St. Jacques.
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