Rolf Harder was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1929. He studied at the Hamburg Academy of Fine Arts and spent most of the 1950s working as a designer and art director in both German and Canadian ad agencies and design firms. He moved to Montreal in 1959 and opened his own firm, Rolf Harder Design. Six years later he founded Design Collaborative—a graphic and industrial design company with offices in Toronto and Montreal—with three other partners: Ernst Roch, Anthony Mann and Al Faux. In 1972, he was a founding member of Editions Signum and Signum Press, publishers of limited editions of original graphics and books. In 1978, he formed Rolf Harder & Assoc. Inc. in Montreal, and spent the next 20 years working in virtually all facets of graphic design, most notably corporate identities, posters, books and annual reports.
Harder has had long-term relationships with clients in government (including Design Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service, Health and Welfare Canada, and Canada Post—he has designed more than 60 postage stamps); with cultural institutions including The National Arts Centre, The National Gallery of Canada, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and The Montreal Symphony Orchestra; and with a slew of corporations, from The Royal Bank and Consolidated-Bathurst to Northern Telecom and Hoffmann-La Roche.
He has won more than 100 national and international design awards and prizes. He was one of two Canadian designers represented at the 36th Venice Biennale; one of two Canadian winners of the World Logo Design Award (International Trade Mark Centre, Belgium, 1998). His work has been published in magazines and presented in exhibitions throughout Canada and the U.S., Australia, South America, Europe, Russia, Japan and Korea.
Rolf’s work is included in the following permanent exhibitions in Canada: National Archives of Canada; Musée du Québec; Université du Québec à Montréal. In the US: The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; The Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; University of New York College at Fredonia, N.Y. In Germany: AGI Archives, Poster Museum, Essen; German Design Council, Frankfurt/M; Die Neue Sammlung, Staatliches Museum fuer Angewandte Kunst, Munich; Museum for Arts and Crafts, Hamburg. In Austria: Design Austria, Vienna. In France: Musée de la publicité, Palais du louvre, Paris. And in Great Britain at The University of Reading, Reading.
“The aim has always been to convey a message clearly, concisely and with originality,” Harder says. “Beyond serving his client's needs, if a designer is to play his part in society, his work should be esthetically satisfying, intellectually stimulating and imaginative—in short, in harmony with human needs. This may be considered his modest contribution toward a more livable and less visually polluted and confusing environment.” He is now semi-retired, and spends much of his time pursuing his second love—painting—in his home in Beaconsfield, Quebec.