Graphic design in the 1950’s-1960’s largely focused on uniformity. The emerging concept was to create a universal language of graphic design that could be used and understood unanimously. World War II was over and consumption was on the rise. Global capitalism was growing. Because of this, companies were looking to identify themselves in a way that communicated quickly and efficiently. Thus, the use of logotypes and international style essentially became standard; however, not everyone wanted to conform. I believe Bradbury Thompson played a major role in leading us out of the use of predominantly international style.
So, what did this international style consist of? Simplicity, cleanliness, and readability were principal. Some of the main facets used in achieving this were the use of a grid to assist with page layout, sans-serif typefaces, and geometric graphics. An example of the grid used under designs can be seen in Massimo Vignelli’s National Park System. (Figure 1) An example of serif typefaces and geometric designs can be seen in Chermayoff & Geismar’s Chase Manhattan design. (Figure 2) At this point, decorative illustrations were a thing of the past. This neutral style helped veil political, cultural, economic, and ethnic differences. It caught on quickly and eventually prevailed in the field of graphic design.
Though international style was flourishing, not all designers accepted it. Take Bradbury Thompson, for example. Thompson was an award-winning graphic designer from Kansas. He designed over 60 issues of the magazine Westvaco Inspirations. One of Thompson’s best-known accomplishments was the development of a font called Alphabet 26. This font contained mixed upper- and lower-case letters, which meant only 26 let...
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