Bradbury Thompson’s Civil War

The deadline for PRINT’s RDA competition has been extended to May 1. Enter today!


Let’s take a trip back to the era of the thriving company magazine—which PRINT devoted an entire issue to in January/February 1962. Since their debut around the 1940s, by the early ‘60s company magazines had evolved into a $5 million a year business, with 160 million circulation and some 9,000 magazines throughout the U.S. At the time, 65% of the publications were internal, 18% were external for customers and dealers, and 16% were combination and association magazines.

Design-wise, some were (vastly) better than others. And then there are those that reached heights of brilliance, such as the legendary Bradbury Thompson’s Inspirations, which he created for the Westvaco paper mill.

Not entirely unlike the content marketing of today, the goal of many of these publications was to showcase their parent company’s capabilities by presenting fantastic editorial, design and, in this case, the marriage of the two on excellent paper. This issue, which PRINT reprinted, featured a history of the Civil War, and design and printing’s role in it.

When it comes to Thompson and his approach to the magazine, a profile of him in the issue notes, “As a typographer, he is often dissatisfied with things the way they are. Letters in his hands sometimes become graphic sounds on the printed page (he calls it ‘getting noise out of type’), or they are used in abstract to create new designs, or for humor.”

Regarding Inspirations, he “was one of a few small voices in the dark who pleaded the case for a company magazine that would be a living example of good graphics. He felt that a company publication’s function as a useful tool to further the company’s goals should not preclude its being an artistically satisfying medium of creative expression; in fact, the two elements must go hand-in-hand.”

Here, they indeed do.

Steven Heller has featured this artifact before, but here are some new high-res scans of the issue as it ran in PRINT so you can read the story alongside the visuals (just click to zoom).

 

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The 2017 PRINT RDA: Extended Deadline. Enter Now!

Enter the most respected competition in graphic design—now open to both pros and students—for a chance to have your work published, win a pass to HOW Design Live, and more. 2017 Judges: Aaron Draplin / Jessica Hische / Pum Lefebure / Ellen LuptonEddie OparaPaula Scher. Student work judges: PRINT editorial & creative director Debbie Millman and PRINT editor-in-chief Zachary Petit.

Draplin image: Leah Nash. Hische: Helena Price. Lupton: Michelle Qureshi. Scher: Ian Roberts.

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