Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Designer Clarence P. Hornung

Cabarga  |  Logo, Font & Lettering Bible

Clarence P. Hornung (1899-1998) was a most prolific designer. He began his career in the 1920s, working for the American Type Founders Company and designing decorative typefaces like the Tory initial below.

An early Hornung illustration of the great American type designer Frederic W. Goudy is in the same meticulous, masterful style.

Cabarga  |  Logo, Font & Lettering Bible

A nice touch in this 1926 illustration is the lettering of the inscription, which incorporates one of Goudy's own typefaces. Hornung and Goudy were friends, and this illustration is a beautiful tribute from one type designer to another.

Hornung also designed over 400 logos, many for major U.S. companies. The logos above are for the Encyclopedia Britannica, the American Type Founders Company, and Farrar & Rinehart Publishing. Hornung even designed a very early logo for General Motors.

from gaspumpheaven.com

Perhaps Hornung's most recognizable logo is the one he designed for Richfield Motor Oil, circa 1940.

During World War II, Clarence P. Hornung contributed to the war effort by creating many designs with patriotic themes, like this 1942 calendar. In fact, he would later edit The American Eagle in Art and Design.

from oldprintshop.com
In 1965 Hornung released a boxed set of dozens of lithographs of historic American automobiles. He began his auto illustrations in 1949, after he learned that there was no pictorial history of American cars. Hornung was nicknamed "The Audubon of the Automobile," and his lithographs are still very collectible.

Clarence P. Hornung wrote and edited dozens of books on design, and many of those books are still in print from Dover Books. Aficionados of American antiques and folk art will recognize Hornung's definitive 2-volume Treasury of American Design.

If that weren't enough, Hornung created industrial designs and packaging, and even patented a camera.

Leslie Cabarga, a good friend of Hornung and author of the excellent book, Logo, Font & Lettering Bible, writes some personal stories about Hornung, and relates how he died at a very late age with many design projects still in the works.

On April 28, 2012, Hornung's great-granddaughter left a comment (see below)
to let me know that Clarence P. Hornung died at the age of 99, in 1998.


  1. Hello Mark:
    One of the many things which we so enjoy about your blog is the way in which each post presents an insight into some person, as here, or some aspect of the arts which is certainly unusual, always informative, and never without interest. We continue to learn and delight in so much which you are generous enough to share.

  2. Hello Jane and Lance - I don't think a blogger could ask for a nicer compliment — thanks! I was the kid who enjoyed show-and-tell day in school.

  3. Hornung had an amazing and prolific career. I love the strapwork influence in the Goudy illustration. Oh yeah, I lived for show and tell day in school as well!

  4. the Hattatt are very right and I think few graphic designers are blogging and being spotlighted as you have with Horung. What a great photographic portrait of him too. pgt

  5. Wow - what a prolific designer!! And I of course agree with Jane and Lance - I just love learning something new here about many of these talented but perhaps more obscure celebrities of design.

  6. A great tribute to Clarence Hornung, whom I have always admired. You remind me of Hornung in that you produce art and design, as well as collect and study it. I thought that he died in 1997, and kept working into his nineties.

    His archives are now at Yale University, where his work is featured on occasion.

  7. Mark I love being introduced to talented, creative, and significant illustrators and designers on your blog that I would likely not otherwise know of. Thanks so much!


  8. Again I have learnt something from you dear Mark, within the wonderful world of illustration! The typefaces he created are beautiful!

  9. Hi, Theresa - Like you, I enjoy artists and designers whose work reflects a grasp of history.

  10. Hi, Gaye - The portrait you like of Hornung was actually taken as he was designing the Richfield Motor Oil logo. (I cropped the photo because I wanted to show more of his serious, determined face.)

  11. Hi, Stacey and Scott - Thanks, and I promise that there are more graphic biographies coming your way!

  12. Dear Parnassus,

    Thank you for comparing me to the wonderful Clarence Hornung. I think that many people assume that the artist inherits an eye-to-hand type of gene, but I have come to believe that what makes the artist is observation and the ability to perceive relationships. Surely that was true of Clarence Hornung.

    I do not know what year Clarence Hornung died, or how old he lived to be. For that very reason, I said "According to Leslie Cabarga, a good friend ..." I assume, since Mr. Cabarga visited with Hornung and retained some of his effects, that he would be correct. I looked up Clarence Hornung on Wikipedia and was rather surprised to discover that no biography of him exists there. Then again, the Wikipedia biography of my friend Howard Miller (of Rosie the Riveter fame) was off by about ten years.

    It's good to know that Clarence Hornung's papers are at Yale and that they occasionally go on display.

  13. Hi, David - Thanks, and welcome back. I'm looking forward to a vicarious vacation through your upcoming postings.

  14. What a brilliant designer. I really like the earlier work that has an historic, very detailed look. Those early logos are so beautiful, and I think it would be terrific to have a personal cypher or insignia, for use on stationary, china, linens, silverware, designed by Hornung. Do you think he did such work for private individuals? The Farrar logo reminds me of the earliest labels of designer Schiaparelli, and shows how he could work in very different styles.

  15. Hi, Terry - Clarence Hornung was so prolific, I have a sense he took on assignments of every sort, including cyphers for private individuals. I read Parnassus' remarks, above, with great interest, and would love to delve into Hornungs papers at Yale.

  16. Hi,

    I am Clarence Hornung's great granddaughter. Thank you for taking the time to celebrate his amazing career. Just a bit of a correction - he passed away at the ripe old age of 99! In 1998 I believe. He was an amazingly talented individual and glad he was such an inspiration!

    1. Dear Jenicka - Thank you so much for being in touch, and for setting the record straight. I will ammend the posting to include your information. Your great-grandfather was indeed an inspiration, and still is!