RGD members pay tribute to founding contributor Shelley Warsh

Students and peers in the design community remember Shelley Warsh RGD, Professor of Graphic Art at George Brown College and founding contributor of the Association of Registered Graphic Designers, who passed away last month.

Image: Board of Directors at RGD Annual Meeting in Ottawa, 1997 (Shelley Warsh, third from right) 



WARSH, Shelley (Elaine Rochelle). Surrounded by her family, on Thursday, December 25th, 2014 at the age of 60 after a long and hard fought battle with cancer.  Beloved daughter of Marcia Warsh and the late Irving Warsh, sister of Elliott Warsh and aunt of Lani and Evan Warsh.  She will be missed dearly as well by her students and the faculty of George Brown where she was a professor of graphic art for many years.


The School of Design at George Brown College will be holding a special commemorative evening for Shelley and her family in the spring and details will be sent out closer to the date. In addition, George Brown will be setting up a scholarship in her honour to be awarded annually. To receive information regarding the commemorative evening or the scholarship, contact Lori Endes at 


RGD invited members of the Association who knew Shelley to share their thoughts: 


"Shelley Warsh was a bright light. She was one of the first graphic designers to contribute her own effort toward getting graphic designers to do what the other design professions here had done: get an Act through the Ontario Legislature recognizing graphic design. Shelley designed key original materials explaining what this could mean for graphic designers, the process to do it and how it could be done. Shelley was one of the designers who encouraged and convinced me of the value of getting involved. She spent a lot of her own time taking part in the activities leading up to the Act. And once we had it she gave a lot more of her time working on the original Board. Shelley helped make sure the newly formed RGD was able to develop in a way that many had not dreamed possible. Shelley will be missed but remembered." - Rod Nash, RGD Founder 


"Shelley was an outstanding teacher of graphic design at the School of Design at George Brown College where, for the last 13 years, she served as Full-Time faculty, leading our typography courses and supervising the graphic design thesis students. She was respected as a tough yet tender and committed teacher who generously shared her immense skills while developing insight and professionalism in her students. Her teaching style was a textbook of best practices for student engagement in learning and her drive for design perfection and excellence inspired her students’ academic and professional success while shaping their development as a person. Shelley's service at RGD reflected her commitment as a professor to see Design’s role in the larger societal context and her belief that it can transform the world for the better. Her legacy is an entire generation of students inspired by her to bring that same energy, commitment and civic-mindedness into their own work which will continue to enrich this province for many years to come." - Luigi Ferrara, Dean of Arts & Design, George Brown College 


"She set the bar high and asked us to reach. She listened and always asked the perfect questions to get us thinking. She encouraged us to discover the answers. She was professional and took teaching very seriously, which made the moments when her excellent sense of humour emerged all the more enjoyable. Shelley was an incredible teacher. She believed in everyone and, in turn, we believed more in ourselves. When I look back at my years in school and the people who helped shape my career and, ultimately, my life, I will always think fondly of Shelley." - Hannah Carriere Prov RGD


"My heart is very heavy with the loss of such a wonderful woman, teacher and great human being. I know that she touched the lives of many of her students. Her kindness and humour in helping me become a better teacher will always be with me. I started teaching Typography with Shelley Warsh about 15 years ago. From day one I knew that she was a straight shooter and that she would expect nothing but the best from her students. This intimidated the students, they knew that this wasn't going to be an easy course, that they would have to give it their all to meet her strict requirements to pass the course. But very quickly they learned that along with the strictness came empathy, understanding and a helping hand at every turn, instilling the joy and wonder of typography as well as all the important rules to set a great type. Students would later seek out courses Shelley taught—whether Experimental Type or Thesis—knowing that they would come away with a wealth of knowledge with concrete deadlines that would keep them in line. - Nicole Dimson RGD 


"My words are few, but inspired by an extraordinary woman — Shelley. Shelley Warsh was known to all her students for making us fall in love with typography. But I also knew her as person who believed in her students, even when we didn't believe in ourselves. She was always there to push you to your limits, and then to push even further. Her dedication was endless. Her infectious smile inspired hope during challenges. Her commitment and passion gave life to our efforts. She wanted nothing less than our very best. Her influence fuelled my fascination with typography. She taught me to produce not good design, but great design. I will always remember her as one of the best teachers I have ever had. She will be greatly missed, immensely loved, and always remembered." - Nida Khan Prov RGD


"I am so very saddened by the news of Shelley's passing. Though she was a tiny in stature, she was a force to be reckoned with! She had an innate ability to motivate and inspire with her passion for quality work and good ideas, and always made time for her students. I owe much to this woman and will never forget her." - Brenda Little Prov RGD


"I had a few favourite instructors at George Brown, but Shelley Warsh held a special place as she was my thesis mentor. She changed the way I looked at things. She changed the way I set my professional standards. She challenged me to be not the best, but the best that I can be. I initially was a student in Shelley's typography class. Her teaching style was to push her students to look beyond the obvious and find shapes and patterns and themes that previously escaped our vision. In turn, this taught us all that good typesetting comes hand in hand with being a quality designer. Shelley frequently walked the extra Samaritan mile for her students. In pushing my personal envelope, she made me a better graphic designer. Like others, I am deeply saddened by her premature death. I offer my condolences to her family, her friends and her colleagues at George Brown. I will I will remember her as a fantastic mentor, and an inspiration, and I will try to emulate the high standards and expectations she set for her students throughout my career." - Lydia MacIntosh Prov RGD


"I remember Shelley as being a very strong woman, designer and instructor. We were all kind of in awe of her and worked hard to live up to her high typographic standards." - Jennifer Shadbolt RGD

If you would like to contribute a message to this tribute, please email