skip to main content

Faculty Profiles

Brian Donnelly

Brian  Donnelly

Faculty, York University/Sheridan College Joint Program in Design

Program Area: Design Illustration and Photography


Contact Info: Ext. 8735

Education, credentials

BFA Studio Art (Queen’s, 1978); MA Canadian Art History (Carleton, 1997); PhD Art History (Queen’s, 2005)


Research interests

Canadian graphic design history, economic and semiotic theory, philosophy and politics of visual culture


Teaching interests (courses taught)

He teaches in many areas of visual culture, history theory and practice, with a focus on design history and the philosophy, sociology and theory of visual culture. Courses taught include: Critical issues; Design and Image; History of Western Art; History of Design; History of Design in Canada; History of Media in Design; Evolution of Information Design; Design Thinking; Image and Influence; Self, Society and Design; Contemporary Problems in Design; Design Management; Professional Aspects of Design.



Born and raised in Ottawa, reading American magazines, fascinated by advertising, and hooked on comic books. One year special diploma in fine art from Commerce High School in Ottawa (1974) and Honours Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from Queen’s University (1978) in Kingston; self-taught designer and art director of Interface magazine in Edmonton; fifteen years as production artist, illustrator, designer and art director in Ottawa, for my own company and in design studios and advertising agencies large and small; art director on two national magazines, Canadian Consumer and Nature Canada; communication consultant for Public Works Canada; has taught at Queen’s University, OCADU, University of Toronto, York University, and full time at Sheridan College since 2005. Published in Design Issues; DA A Journal of the printing Arts; Journal of Design History; Communication Arts.


Key memberships

Universities Art Association of Canada

College Art Association

Research Associate, Royal Ontario Museum

Contributing Editor, DA A Journal of the Printing Arts

Contributing Editor, Design and Culture.


Selected publications

•  “Locating Graphic Design History in Canada.” Chapter in Graphic Design: History In The Writing (1983 – 2011). Ed. Sara De Bondt and Catherine de Smet. London: Occasional Papers, 2012.

•  [in progress] “Graphic Design in Canada since1945.” Draft manuscript currently 80,000 words.

•  Graphic Design in Canada since 1945. Ottawa: Carleton University Art Gallery, 1996. 60-page catalogue to accompany exhibition curated while Research Assistant at the Gallery.

•  “Unimark International: The Design of Business and the Business of Design” (Book review), Design Issues 27, no. 4 (Autumn 2011): 104 – 106.

•  “The One that Got Away: Allan Fleming and The Bay.” DA, A Journal of the Printing Arts 63 (Fall/Winter 2008): 79 – 95.

•  “Locating Graphic Design History in Canada.” Journal of Design History 19, no. 4 (Winter 2006): 283 – 294. Special Issue on “Oral Histories and Design”; Linda Sandino, editor.

•  “Fifty Years of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada.” Communication Arts 48, no. 1 (March/April 2006): 78 – 83.


Selected conference presentations

• “Marks of the Colonial in Canadian Visual Culture.”  Universities Art Association of Canada annual conference, Banff. October, 2013.

• “Modes of Production and the Capitalist Totality,” Ideas Left Outside, Kingston. August 2013.

• Chaired session, “Research Informing Design,” College Art Association conference, New York. February, 2013.

• “Designs, Things, and Use Values.”  Universities Art Association of Canada annual conference, Montreal. November, 2012.

• “Identities, Mimesis and Ownership: How Does Design Create Price and Value?” Universities Art Association of Canada annual conference, Ottawa. November 2011.

•  Co-organizer of the double session, “Engaging with Design as a Wicked Problem,” Universities Art Association of Canada annual conference, Ottawa. November 2011.

• “Interiority, Identity, Authenticity (and Althusser).”  North Carolina State University Graduate Design Symposium. January 2010.

• “Reading Identity in Canadian Graphic Design History.” Invited speaker in Design and Architecture Now lecture series, University of Lethbridge, AB. February, 2008. 

• “Nothing Outside Design.” Juried paper submission, delivered to international founding conference of Visual Studies Association, Madrid, Spain. March 2004.

•  “The Space of History.” Juried paper submission, Communicational Spaces conference, Department of Design, University of Alberta, Edmonton. May 2003.