Book Cover designed by Gerhard Doerrié communicates the Canada-US relationship in the 1960s
From the Canada Modern archive, we explore the history behind the cover designed by Gerhard Doerrié for the book Canada: The Uneasy Neighbor published in 1965.
From the events of the recent past, Canada appears to have emerged as a socio-politically stronger country than our neighbours, the US. However, this was not the case in the early 1960s when Canada was charting its path and establishing its identity in the Americas.
Written by Gerald Clark after he travelled across the country to study the national mood, Canada: The Uneasy Neighbor explores the relationship between Canada and the US and its future in light of the Révolution tranquille (The Quiet Revolution).
In a New York Times article about the book titled "What's wrong up North?", the then publisher of the Vancouver Sun, Stuart Keate, wrote, "Among the nations of the world, Canada remains something of a paradox. It presents a face of glacial calm, dependability (i.e. it doesn't borrow money) and material success. Yet it is tortured with self-doubts and insecurities."
Designed at this time by the German-Canadian Gerhard Doerrié, the book cover takes the two dominant icons from each countries’ respective flags and overlaps (overprints) them, representing the complexity of the border in terms of trade, migration and the perception of the US as the dominant partner. The book also explores the fact that Canada has two relationships with America through its distinct cultures, one speaking English and the other speaking French, although this dynamic is not reflected in the design.
Keate further states "Clark's examination of Canada, neither chauvinistic nor sentimental, should contribute greatly to an understanding of the United States' best friend and best customer."
Gerhard Doerrie was born in Celle, Germany in 1934 and trained as a typesetter. He arrived in Montreal in 1960, on the recommendation of Ernst Roch, to aid in the massive redesign of Canadian National then underway at James Valkus' design office. In Toronto, he taught at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University) as one of many German and European-trained designers who were transforming design education in Canada in those years. He left Canada in 1966 to join Massimo Vignelli in New York. He returned to teach at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design from 1970 to 1974 and worked freelance. One of the most rigorous designers working in Canada, he was intense, dedicated and never satisfied. He returned to Germany shortly before his death in 1984.
About Canada Modern
Canada Modern is a physical archive of modernist Canadian graphic design focused on the period 1960-1985. It exists to preserve, document, educate, inspire and build a richer understanding of a seminal point in Canada’s development as a nation. The collection is primarily interested in identity design, typography and graphic communication and is shared online via its own website. We cannot find the way forward without clear knowledge of where we began — perhaps through fostering a greater understanding of Canada’s first golden era of design we can begin the process of heralding a new one.
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