Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"I got an offer which I could not refuse"

The September 1953 issue of Art Director & Studio News - the special Detroit issue - features Harry Borgman as its "Upcoming Artist". "Although he has only recently turned twenty-five," proclaims the acompanying write up, "Harry Borgman has behind him nine years of experience in advertising art."

About that exciting time in his career, Harry writes, "In 1953 I got an offer which I could not refuse. It was from McNamara Brothers studio."

"I was hired to be their head graphic designer and would also be doing some illustration..."

"... and cartoon work as well."

"Dave Lindsay, their top automotive illustrator, and I worked as a team producing many brochure and ad illustrations for various automotive clients."

"The studio competition in Detroit was very fierce. McNamara Brothers was an outstanding studio, possibly the top art studio in the mid '50's. Other artists, of course, would probably disagree with me. The studios were all pretty good, I would say the best were Art Group, Art Staff, Graphic House, MDM Studios and New Center Studios."

"Most of the staff worked day and night during the busy season. Sometimes 15 or 18 hours at a stretch. I can remember one weekend when I designed five automotive brochures."

"In 1955 Dave and I were offered a partnership in MDM Studios..."

"... but after a year of working day and night I decided to quit the studio business and applied for a job at Campbell Ewald advertising agency."

"In 1957 I did quite well at the annual Art Director's Club Awards Dinner, picking up three silver medals and two gold ones. None of my automotive work appeared in national magazines as far as I know, but I did quite a few ad illustrations for other clients that appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, Fortune and other magazines. It was nice to see my work in national magazines... but I don't think it matterd that much to me. It meant more to me if I won awards at the Art Director's annual awards dinner."

"I enjoyed working at Campbell Ewald, especially my relationship with Jim Hastings, the creative director."

"One of the highlights of my career was when I was sent to Argentina and Chile on a photo shoot. Because of a dock workers strike there, we ended up staying for six weeks!"

"I also worked with writer Fenton Ludke as a creative team known as PLUS ONE. We actually were in direct competition with the regular Chevrolet creative team and were even located in a different building."

"Early in 1960 Jim Hastings was moving up and offered me his position. As my job would be more of an administrative one, I decided to leave Campbell Ewald and freelance."

*Harry Borgman is still very active in the arts at age 79. He has a website where you can see many examples of his recent work.

*Today's images can be found in my Harry Borgman Flickr set.


  1. Wow , such diversity. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Interesting history, just noticed he was in my country (Chile) some years ago...
    It’s a pleasure read your blog and its amazing histories every week :)

  3. Thank you for this excellent post! Detroit was once a great city for illustration. I worked as an illustrator in Detroit from 1980 to 2001, and was on staff at McNamara Associates (formerly McNamara Brothers) for the first eight years of my career. Although the heyday of commercial art in Detroit was past, at least I got in on the tail end of it.

  4. thanks, all, for your comments.

    Rick, its very cool to hear that you had the chance to experience at least the tail end of that great Detroit commercial art legacy.

    I enjoyed checking out your blogs and have bookmarked them both. :-)

  5. Hey....I worked at Mac's from 74 to 78....I went freelance after what I learned from Mac's in Atlanta and after 35+plus years I oen my oen Ad Agency/illustration studio. work can be seen Gregory N.King in the search bar.....Mac's was fantastic....Gregory

  6. Thank you for sharing these! I'm wondering if you might have December 1949, March 1950, December 1951, October 1952, December 1952, or March 1954? Thanks!