Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Paul developed his understanding of technology and design while mixing paint and fixing windows in his father's hardware store. It was here that the seeds were sown for his future calling. He graduated from George Brown College in 1974 with a diploma in Graphic Design and upon graduating moved to Ottawa to work in the world's first digital typography company. While settling into his new digs he was frustrated while trying to find a window treatment suited his practical and aesthetic needs. Motivated by this design challenge, Rowan solved the problem by designing his own window treatment, a printed-paper window shade. He presented childhood friend and entrepreneur Les Mandelbaum with the shade idea and Umbra ('shade' in Latin) was born.
For the past 30+ years, Paul, as Vice-President of Inspiration and founding partner at Umbra, has dedicated his career to creating purposeful, intelligently designed products that people want. Umbra has been able to produce a prolific flow of new product due to the visionary leadership of Paul combined with a highly creative design team. Whether they are working on a soap pump or a trash can, Rowan and his team never lose sight of Umbra's mantra: Design products that provide style and function for every room in the home.
In 1998, Paul Rowan took home the Best Design Strategy Award from the Design Effectiveness Awards, which is Canada's only professional, multidisciplinary competition. In addition to sponsoring numerous educational institutions, Paul was awarded the Best Collection award from New York's Accent on Design Show in 1999 and has been the Chairperson of George Brown College's Design School advisory board since 2000. In 2001, he was also granted the Premier's Award for Outstanding Achievement from the colleges of Ontario. In October of 2002, Paul Rowan was honoured for his outstanding contributions in the field of design in the City of Toronto by the TD Centre's Salute to the City Award program.
In the same week, The Fashion Group International presented Paul Rowan with a Tiffany Star for his contribution to Canada's fashion and design worlds at the Night of Stars event. As of 2006, Paul sits on the Board of Directors on the Design Exchange in Toronto, Canada. In 2010, Paul was inducted into the Canadian Marketing Hall of Legends as a Visionary. In 2014, Paul appointed to the Board of the International Housewares Association. In 2015, Paul was appointed to the Board of Governors of the Ontario College of Art and Design.