The Art of Clairtone

The Making of a Design Icon, 1958-1971

For a decade, in the 1960s, Clairtone Sound Corporation captured the spirit of the times: sophisticated, cosmopolitan, liberated. From its modern oiled-walnut and teak stereos to its minimalist logos and promotional materials, Clairtone produced a powerful and enduring body of design work.

Founded in 1958 by Peter Munk and David Gilmour, Clairtone quickly became known for its iconic designs and masterful advertising campaigns. Its acclaimed Project G stereo, with its space-age styling, epitomized the Swinging Sixties. Famously, Hugh Hefner owned a Project G. So did Frank Sinatra. Oscar Peterson affirmed that his music sounded as good on a G as it did live. In 1967, suggesting how deeply Clairtone’s G series had come to be identified with popular culture, the G2 appeared in The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.

With 250 illustrations, including previously unpublished drawings, rare film stills, confidential memorandums, and original photography, The Art of Clairtone is a candid and in-depth look at the company’s skyrocketing success — and sensational collapse. Through the recollections of those who knew Clairtone best, from its founders to its designers, engineers, and salesmen, this elegant book celebrates an iconoclastic company that once seemed to represent the promise of Canada.

The Art of Clairtone is for sale at the Royal Ontario Museum, the Museums of Science and Innovation, AbeBooks, and Amazon. Nina’s introduction for the book is reproduced here in full. An excerpt was published in Canadian Business.

Also: Vintage TV commercials for Clairtone, directed by Fritz Spiess in 1967, are on YouTube, here and here. Burton Kramer’s celebrated Clairtone operating manuals are on Canada Modern and the Canadian Art Database. Clairtone stereos and TVs are in the permanent collections of the Canadian Museum of History, Canada Science and Technology Museum, MZTV Museum, and the ROM. The company’s archives are in the Nova Scotia Archives. Clairtone’s Facebook Group is administered by collectors DC Hillier and Daniel Leblanc.