Bradbury Thompson Influence

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I was first drawn to Bradbury Thompson’s most recognized work with the CMYK color scheme that he used, I really liked the simplicity of sticking to the basics. (I realize that his work extended beyond the CMYK color scheme but I am drawn to this so I decided to make it the centerpiece of my poster.) But his designs offer more than just simplicity. They combine historical illustrations/photography with this CMYK color scheme and his love for typography. Thompson even created his own typeface that again focused on simplifying the alphabet. Honestly, I looked at a lot of the graphic designers and design styles and a lot of them seemed to just have too much going on for my taste. I was really drawn to Thompson’s work because of his simplicity in color scheme, in images (lots of his work contained one image, repeated), and his typographic choices.

Thompson was successful in various areas of graphic design. He worked in printing production, as an art director for printing firms and magazines, designed for a corporation, designing contemporary postage stamps (who knew that was something people got in to) and in his teaching career at Yale. A very accomplished man in the world of graphic design.

For my Little 500 themed poster, I obviously wanted to use the CMYK color scheme that is so iconic to Thompson’s work. I chose to integrate the four colors in the racing bicycles, the image that I felt represented the race the best. The bikes are also where I chose to integrate the photography elements of Thompson’s work by using photos of bikes rather than drawing them myself. Most, if not all, of the work I’ve viewed from Thompson has some sort of photography or illustrative element to it, sometimes the photography is black/white and sometimes it is in the cyan/magenta/yellow colors, but it is there more often than not, at least in his most recognized work. In my poster, the photography element of the bike is where the colors come in, instead of being black/white. I chose to follow Thompson’s work where the photography elements repeat multiple times on the page as I repeated the bikes vertically down the page.

Looking at the typography, I noticed that a lot of Thompson’s typography was a serif so I also chose to use a serif. I could not find the name of the specific typeface he used but I used what I could to emulate his style. I kept the typography simple with big, black type as some of his work features very large type. As for the angles of the type, I really just used that to add some dimension to the piece. As far as angles vs. straight across type, Thompson used a variety in his work so I felt comfortable with my choice to angle both “little” and “500” in my poster. The smaller, vertical type is also something that I saw in some of Thompson’s work. Some of his work incorporated the long, vertical lines of type like my poster does, while other have small blocks of type or even small, spaced out lines of horizontal type. So he had a variety of styles when it came to the secondary type and I chose to incorporate the one that gave my poster the most dimension, in my opinion.

One thing that I was not able to incorporate as well as I would like is his use of opacity and overlapping in the CMYK elements. It is featured in a lot, but not all, of his work and I really like the look of it. The bike image that I created in photoshop ended up not transferring in the best quality so in order to really bolden the colors, I have a few of the bikes layered on top of themselves. I felt that I would rather play up the vibrancy of the colors than the overlapping/opacity quality because the colors are the most iconic part of Thompson’s work. Overall I am surprisingly pleased with how this poster came out and I had a lot of fun doing it – Thompson has definitely moved his way up to my favorite graphic designer at this point.

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