Born in Hannover, Germany in 1929, Horst arrived in Canada in 1955 at the age of 26. The years of his youth and studies in Germany, as well as travels in Scandinavia, were of significant influence to his work. He credits as his mentor Walter Kubbernuss, an artist and designer in the nearby town of Bodenwerder, who tutored him as a young adult and sparked his interest in the visual and in nature which resulted in hour after hour of sketching. It was not until his college years, attending the Werkkunstschule in Hannover, that he was exposed to graphic design and developed his interest in typography. After graduating from college he worked first as a graphic designer and freelance illustrator (1953–55). On arriving in Canada, his first job was with Royal Print & Litho Ltd. At the time Halifax lacked much in the way of facilities and work for a designer. Horst recalled with great amusement: “The typeface Cable was the only sans-serif available... in two sizes! My major achievement during my first year was the introduction of Futura to the Maritime region.”
In 1962, after several years of jobbing and drumming up freelance projects, he was appointed as an instructor at the former Nova Scotia College of Art. There, he remained the only faculty member to teach design courses until the addition of a design division in 1968, when he was joined by Tony Mann, Frank Fox, and Gerhard Doerrié.
Over the course of his long career, Horst Deppe worked for clients such as the Atlantic Symphony, Saint Mary’s University, Dalhousie Law School, and Atlantic Canada Institute, and he continued to pursue his artistic endeavors. “My painting is for personal expression,” he said, “while design is my way to be productive in society... one balances out the other.” However, despite highly recognized successes in both areas, he chose teaching as his first priority.
An ecologically and socially aware individual, and an active community volunteer, Horst believes designers have responsibilities to their environment, community, society at large, and to their profession. The key to successful design, he insists, is to stay interested in literally everything that surrounds us. He describes his love for nature as a seed of romanticism planted in him as a child, a romanticism which he expresses in his watercolour poems, influenced by the work of Emil Nolde as well as Chinese landscape painting of the 12th and 13th century.
Following his retirement he lived and worked from his secluded Nova Scotia home, surrounded by trees and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at the end of a dead-end dirt track. “If I hadn’t been a designer, I probably would have been a forester,” he says.
— Interview by Hanno H.J. Ehses appeared in GDC Journal No.3, 1995
Horst passed away on October 28, 2011.
You can view some of his work at www.ccca.ca/designers