Rare & Beautiful: The Man Who Designed 500 Logos
Rediscovering the work of American graphic design pioneer Clarence HornungBy Anne Quito, Superscript November 5, 2013
During his long and remarkable career, Clarence Pearson Hornung (1899-1998) designed typefaces, automobile ads, sales catalogues, packaging, products, and interiors. An accomplished illustrator with a keen sense for typography, Hornung found his niche in developing logos. Since his first commission at age 16, Hornung would go on to design more than 500 marks—commercial logos, signets, emblems, monograms, and colophons. He designed for book publishers like Encyclopedia Britannica, Vanguard Press, and the Book League of America. Hornung created the iconic eagle symbol for the Victory Book Campaign and designed logos for federal agencies during the war.
Hornung was also a prolific author with several of his books still in circulation, but a compendium of his logo work is a rare find. In this installment of Rare & Beautiful, Randall Ross of Modernism 101 corresponds with Anne Quito about this special volume on the seminal work of an American graphic design master.
Anne Quito: Why do you think this book is overlooked?
Randall Ross: Trademark collections occupy the shadow areas between Technical, Vocational, and Artisan publishing. As such, many of these volumes are perceived as little more than textbooks. But a closer look often reveals a hidden gem.
The cover of the 1930 book, Trade-Marks Designed by Clarence P. Hornung (left). A selection of logos designed by Hornung including Vanguard Press at the upper left (right). © Modernism 101; Letterology
AQ: What makes this copy particularly special to you?
RR: Trade-Marks Designed By Clarence P. Hornung was published by the Caxton Press in 1930. If the elaborate gilt-stamping on the spine gets your interest long enough to pull this title off the shelf you will be immensely rewarded, starting with the revelation of a tipped-in decorative medallion on the line-ruled and embossed cloth front panel.
The colophon stated that 750 copies were printed in December 1930, with 650 copies for sale; each volume was hand-signed and numbered by Hornung. The American Institute of Graphic Arts selected this title as one of their 50 Books of the Year in 1932.
AQ: For such a prolific logo designer we seem to have forgotten about Clarence Hornung. Why do you think that is?
RR: Hornung studied at City College and Columbia University and proved himself a prolific designer and author, but little else is known about his background. If he had studied at the Bauhaus, worked in the Behrens atelier or embraced the European modernism that came into vogue in the early 1930s, I believe the case would be different.
Randall Ross is the owner of Modernism 101, a Louisiana-based bookseller specializing in rare and out-of-print design books and periodicals. Their inventory spotlights famous and forgotten architects, photographers, typographers, and industrial designers.