Elegance with a Touch of Kitsch

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Thomas Maitland (T.M.) Cleland (1880-1964) had harsh words to say about the state of American graphic design. He was a craftsman with a passion for the rococo ornament. So modern austerity was not his cup o’ tea. What he loved was the intricacy of detailed ornamental design. His work was often cut with a touch of kitsch too. He designed the first Fortune magazine cover and its architectural logo-frame. He produced dozens of advertisements for companies that sought to drape themselves in the Empire look, including one for Rolls Royce (below). He was a master of the tromp l’oeil book title page too. And he designed some of the classical typefaces of the 1920s, including Della Robbia and Garamond 3 (with Morris F. Benton).

Born and raised in New York City, he went, at age 15, to New York’s Artist Artisan Institute, where he learned graphic design and typesetting. At 16, Cleland began teaching himself the art of typesetting and printing by working on pamphlets, handbills, and booklets. In 1907, he became the art editor of McClure’s Magazine and created advertising designs for Pierce Arrow and Marmon automobiles. In addition to his work for Fortune, he designed the initial Newsweek format. In 1921, Cleland wrote A Grammar of Color. By the late 1940s he had become a painter of American scenes.

(See Weekend Daily Heller for a Postcard from Paul Rand)