The Canadian design community remembers industry icon Hans Kleefeld
Logos by Hans Kleefeld

Members of RGD and the Canadian design community were saddened to hear of the passing of celebrated designer Hans Kleefeld.



Hans created some of Canada's most iconic identities (Air Canada, TD Bank, Bank of Montreal, Inco). He was also a well-known packaging designer and an educator of a generation of Toronto-area designers. Here several of his students and colleagues offer their thoughts.


"My first conversation with Hans was in the Grange food court across from the then Ontario College of Art in the late 80’s. Present at that coffee meeting was an anxious high school teen struggling to make sense of a career in design and an established Canadian graphic design legend who generously offered his time. I’ll let you guess which one didn’t let on to their position. His critique of my portfolio was more of a peer to peer conversation; he referenced new work he had just seen and shared his latest creation from a daily collage self-challenge exercise. His nature that day, as it would always be, was genuine and approachable and his advice was no nonsense and practical. For the next 4 years, I witnessed him openly share his deep design knowledge with the students of OCA, not just during the allotted class time, but before and after, and during the breaks. He was an example of a consummate design professional, dedicated to an ongoing curiosity to learn, share and educate. Thank you Hans, you were a good one." Gerard Dolan RGD


"Hans Kleefeld was one of the great Canadian graphic designers whose impressive body of work is still relevant and fresh today. We were privileged to have him work with us in the York/Sheridan Program in Design. He loved working with our students and as a colleague I will continue to be inspired by his dedication and passion for teaching." Angela Iarocci, Professor and Coordinator, York University/Sheridan College Program in Design 


"I feel privileged to have had Hans as one of my instructors way back in the day at OCA (pre-OCADU and pre-OCAD incarnations). Like most students, I had no idea at first who he was or how lucky I was to be able to tap into his knowledge, insights and experience. As I came to know him and then stayed (not nearly well enough) in touch with him over the years, I always thought of Hans as one of the most – no, the most – under-appreciated, unsung figures in the history of Canadian design. Lots of designers (and I've known lots of designers in my time) seem to make their reputations on far more modest accomplishments than his. I guess it's because he was a company man and not a "name" designer, and it seems he just carried on in his quiet, clever, classy way. More's the pity, I think. He deserved a brighter spotlight, more fitting recognition. I know I still think back, even now, to things he said in class that stuck with me. I liked him a lot." Gary Ludwig RGD 


"I came to know Hans later in his life. Errol Saldanha introduced us. We both lived in Oakville so we'd hook up at the Kings Arms for beers and comestibles (Hans was a veggie) and shoot the shit about design, type, history and life. Really enjoyed his company. A fine designer and great man. I will miss him." James Wilson RGD 


"Great, long-lasting and inspiring work by an esteemed visionary designer. A great loss." Nicholas Di Cuia RGD


"We were so privileged to have had instructors like Hans in the late eighties at OCA. I always looked forward to his class, his stories (he had a great sense of humour) and the endless supply of packages that he collected for show-and-tell at the beginning of each class. He rarely discussed his own career, choosing to focus more on his students' work. No matter how crazy our concepts were, Hans always found something of value. In my case, it would often be a half-erased sketch at the corner of the page. I learned so much from him. Hans made a huge mark in Canadian design and on me. I will miss him." Joseph Comazzolo RGD


"Hans was my teacher at OCA in the late eighties. He was a kind and humble man who was part of a group of great teachers who shaped me into the designer I am today. I remember coming across his name and iconic symbols back then in a reference book about design. I had no idea my teacher was that famous because he never boasted about his accomplishments, he was more interested in just doing good work and teaching young design students." David Thorne


"I was a student of Hans at OCA. What struck me most about Hans was his gentle yet constructive criticism. He always started out his feedback with something good and helped you make that thing better. I loved that he was a humble and gracious man, yet so incredibly talented, and he spoke to us as if we were his colleagues. What a great man." Doreen Colonello, Affiliate Member of RGD


"Hans Kleefeld was my teacher. I remember him as an elegant man with clarity of thought. It makes sense when you look at his work. It was precise, and smart, and beautiful; always underpinned by geometry. It is a true testament to him that his work stands today, just like him, so understated and timeless." Barbara Woolley RGD


"I was very lucky to interview with Hans Kleefeld, one of the design industry's greats, at the outset of my career. It was my first interview for an internship at Watt that turned into a wonderful job that started my whole career! I remember being very nervous coming into the interview. Then as we chatted Hans made me feel quite comfortable during the talk about my work and especially about my time studying at the Bauhaus. Thanks to him and his kind and humble approach I remember feeling quite proud and happy going out." Nicole Duncan RGD 


"I was there in the OCA days as well. Best 4 years of my life in part because I had Hans as a teacher for those years. He had a way of connecting to students in a genuine, caring way. He was a great man because he always taught and interacted with humility, kindness and integrity. I am honoured to have known him." Grace Visconti RGD


"Hans was my teacher for Packaging Design at York University. As old as he was, his mind was still sharp for design, always giving great advice and suggestions to improve student work. I never minded waiting for a one-on-one discussion with him during our 4 hour lab class. I knew his knowledge of design was extensive, and always enjoyed asking him questions about design principles and learning about past work he did. Thank you Hans." Kevin Williams




For more on Hans Kleefeld's contributions to Canadian design:

Toronto StarHans Kleefeld’s corporate logos became part of Canadian landscape

Designedge Canada: Remembering Hans Kleefeld: ‘He would tell us to look’

Toronto Star: Hans Otto Max Kleefeld Obituary



If you would like to add any memories or comments to this tribute, please email .