WESTVACO INSPIRATION FOR PRINTERS
Bradbury Thompson [Designer]: WESTVACO INSPIRATION FOR PRINTERS. West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, 1939 - 1961. Westvaco Inspirations was a graphic arts publication issued by the Westvaco Corporation, formerly named the West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, with the objective of showing typography, photography, art work and other graphic inventiveness on papers manufactured at its mills. Because Westvaco Inspirations was intended to demonstrate printing processes and papers, its primary audience consisted of 35,000 designers, printers, teachers and students.
We have an extensive and ever-changing selection of individual issues from 1939 to 1961. We welcome your inquiries for availability of specific editions.
Westvaco Inspirations utilized a variety of printing methods, including letterpress and offset lithography. Thompson and the corporation's leaders all believed that such a publication should be a living example of good graphics. From its founding in 1925 to its discontinuation in 1962, Westvaco Inspirations was a leading corporate contributor to graphic design. It remains unsurpassed as an example of promotional graphics, as an a unique living record and anthology of advertising and commercial art.
The Westvaco advertising director reserved the right, in the early years of Thompson's work, to decide upon a painting for the cover of each issue. This divergence explainsthe frequent disconnect between the traditional covers and the modernist designs found inside. Aside from that, Thompson had no constraints except financial ones. The budget limited him mainly to borrowed plates and separations of graphic work from publications, and the elements of the typecase and print shop. Like Alvin Lustig after him, he found plenty of scope here. "The printing press and the print shop were my canvas, easel, and second studio, " he would later declare. Early issues manifested Thompson's interest in publication and advertising art, whereas the later ones tended to emphasis the fine arts.
From THE ART OF GRAPHIC DESIGN by Bradbury Thompson: "The art director of Mademoiselle and design director of Art News and Art News Annual in the decades after World War II, [Thompson] also designed the formats for some three dozen other magazines, including Smithsonian. Thompson is in addition a distinguished designer of limited edition books, postage stamps, rationalized alphabets, corporate identification programs, trademarks, and sacred works (most notable, the Washburn College Bible, in which the words are set in the cadence of speech)."
"His hallmark has ever been the adaptation of classic typography to the modern world. Thompson is perhaps most well known as the designer of more than sixty issues of Westvaco Inspirations, a magazine published by the Westvaco Corporation.... Bradbury Thompson has served on the faculty of the Yale School of Art for over thirty years.... His profession has honored him with all of its highest awards, including those of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the National Society of Art Directors, the Art Directors Club, the Type Directors Club, [the American Center for Design], and the Society of Publication Designers."
Bradbury Thompson (1911-1995) was born in Topeka, Kansas and graduated from Washburn College in 1934. When it came to the blending of photography, typography and color, nobody did it better than Thompson. In his own quiet way, he expanded the boundaries of the printed page and influenced the design of a generation of art directors.
By simply looking at one year of his career, the scope of his involvement in the field of graphic design can be understood. In 1945, Thompson designed the final issues of three wartime magazines including Victory and USA. Back in New York, before the year was out, he had become art director of Mademoiselle, where he worked for nearly fifteen years. He also accepted the role of design director for Art News and Art News Annual, a position he held for 27 years.
As if that were not enough, he designed a brochure for the Ford Motor Company and began his experiments in typographic reform by creating his "monoalphabet,” which broke with the tradition of separate letterforms for capital and lower-case letters. He first introduced this typographic innovation in an issue of Westvaco Inspirations for Printers, one of four issues that he produced that year. And 1945 was not unusual.
Thompson's first commission to design a stamp for the U.S. Postal Service in 1958 led to over 90 other designs. He often used portions of paintings in his designs, such as a 1980 stamp featuring Glow by Josef Albers. As a member of the Citizens' Advisory Committee, he suggested a U.S. logo for each stamp to show national unity.
Books and their design were also critical in Thompson's career right from the start, as art editor of his high school yearbook to the publishing of The Washburn College Bible -- a King James translation with revolutionary type and design.
Thompson is one of the few art directors who have received all three major design awards: National Society of Art Directors Art Director of the Year in 1950; AIGA Gold Medal in 1975; and the Art Directors Hall of Fame award in 1977.
Any analysis of Thompson's style and any attempt to assess the value and extent of his influence leads irrevocably to one word: form. Whether by examining his precise cropping and careful placing of images on the printed page or studying his attention to typographic detail, his sense of order and stucture cannot be missed. Recalling his early draftsman experience Thompson said, "It was a critical part of my training as a designer. It taught me discipline and, working with huge sheets of tracing cloth, I learned to cope with space in an orderly way."