• Steven Heller

Highest-Paid, Underappreciated Designer in America

Will H. Bradley (1868–1962) was America’s leading turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau illustrator and designer. Nicknamed at the time the “Dean of American Designers,” he was the highest-paid American commercial artist of the early 20th century and a pioneer of design entrepreneurship. He has certainly enjoyed posthumous recognition, but does not sit on the top tier of 20th century innovators. He should.

He ran the Wayside Press, where he produced, designed and authored Bradley: His Book, a predecessor of such self-promotional publications as The Pushpin Graphic. It included compilations of poetry, stories and sketches. He later worked as a consultant for the American Type Founders and as an editor for Collier’s Weekly. He worked briefly with children’s books, then for William Randolph Hearst’s film division as a supervising art director and assistant director on the Wharton Brothers’ serial films Beatrice Fairfax (1916) and Patria (1917). Later, he founded his own production company, Dramafilms, and went on to write, produce and direct his own films.


His work for ATF included specimen booklets, such as The Green Book of Spring (1905), which showcases ATF’s offerings through Bradley’s signature typographic style and bold and witty illustrations. Below are selected pages that show the range of his approach. It is but a tip of the talent and craft that defined this unique visual polymath and precursor of multitasking.












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