Creative Titans: Bradbury Thompson, the Master of Typography

678 (1)

Born in 1911, J. Bradbury Thompson was a renowned American graphic designer and art director. His impressive background in printing and design began at a young age, when he designed the yearbooks for his high school and college.

Thompson attended Washburn College, where he later designed the college’s mascot and the Washburn College Bible, which was the most significant development in Bible typography since it was first published by Gutenberg in 1455. During his notable career, he received the American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal in 1975 and the Type Director’s Club Medal in 1986. He was also a member of the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame.

Popular Work

creative-titan-thompson-5

creative-titan-thompson-6

As Thompson put it: “type can be a tool, a toy, and a teacher”. He perfectly illustrated this with his design of the monoalphabet, Alphabet 26, in 1958. The simplified alphabet system contains only 26 unique characters, with the case established by letter size only. Alphabet 26 consists of a transitional serif that mixes lowercase with uppercase in order to make the letters more logical and intuitive.

As the designer of more than 60 issues of Westvaco Inspirations, he was credited with combining photography, typography, and color to create one cohesive design. He also designed or redesigned more than 35 respected magazines, including Business Week, Harvard Business Review, and the Smithsonian magazine.

During his 15 years as art director of Mademoiselle Magazine, he hired many up-and-coming artists to illustrate the magazine’s strong fiction section, including Andy Warhol, Joan Miro, Willem de Kooning, and Jasper Johns. He also served on Yale University’s faculty to further inspire emerging designers.

creative-titan-thompson

Some of Thompson’s most popular work consists of his extensive contemporary postage stamp designs. Serving on the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee from 1969 to 1978, he created more than 90 stamps of his own and consulted with the U.S. Postal Service in guiding the design of future stamps.

Design Strategy

Thompson believed in simplifying things. He didn’t believe that a letter (or any graphic symbol) should have two different designs. This led to the creation of his 26-letter font system, which is easier to read, write, and memorize than the existing alphabet of over 40 different characters.

Commonly referred to as the “Master of Typography”, he was best known for his bold use of type. He paid homage to traditional design and modernism in his work by blending modernist typography with classic typefaces and historic illustrations.

The New York Times Book Review said that his artistic autobiography, “The Art of Graphic Design,” was a book in which “art and design are gloriously and daringly mixed”, which is a good representation of his design strategy in general. While Thompson passed away in 1995, his legacy remains strong in the design community through his teachings and iconic book, magazine, and postage stamp designs.

Creative Titans: John Maeda and the Art of Simplicity

JohnMaeda

 

Born in 1966, John Maeda is a world-renowned graphic designer, visual artist, and computer scientist. Throughout his successful career as a programmer and as an artist, he has found a way to seamlessly interconnect the two.

During his time studying at MIT, famed designer Muriel Cooper persuaded Maeda to pursue his passions for fine art and design. He did so by teaching typographers and page designers to explore the freedom of the web through computer-aided design. Many designers credit him with laying the groundwork for interactive motion graphics.

Popular Worklawsofsimp

Maeda wrote the book on simplicity – literally – in 2006. His book, titled “The Laws of Simplicity”, covers the 10 laws and three key principles of simplicity, which range from thoughtful reduction to organization and time-saving.

In his early work, he redefined the use of electronic media by combining artistic techniques with advanced computer programs to create truly unique pieces. He is also a proponent of the “STEAM” movement: He strives to have an “A” for Art added to the STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Maeda focuses on creating simplicity in the digital age by intersecting complicated technology with art and design. As a member of the Technical Advisory Board for Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group, he is constantly faced with the challenge of creating something that is simple, yet still meets our complex needs.

Design Strategy

Maeda aims to balance simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design. To achieve this, he said: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” He believes that we can learn to simplify without sacrificing quality, both in our professional and personal lives.

He has taken influence from Paul Rand and his love of creating pieces that are less structured. He also frequently praises Apple’s designs and how they simplify our complicated needs. Maeda found that “while great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear.”

His work has been exhibited in Tokyo, New York, London, and Paris. It is also a part of the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the NYC Museum of Modern Art. Along with his museum contributions, he has also worked with companies like Absolute Vodka, Reebok, and Shiseido to create limited edition designs that showcase his appreciation for art and technology. He is also the founder of the SIMPLICITY Consortium at the MIT Media Lab.

He is the recipient of many awards, including the Smithsonian Institution National Design Award, the Raymond Loewy Foundation Prize in Germany, and the Mainichi Design Prize in Japan. He was also named one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire and deemed the “Steve Jobs of academia” by Forbes.