Bradbury Thompson

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Bradbury Thompson
Thompson circa 1983
Born(1911-03-25)March 25, 1911
Topeka, Kansas, U.S.
DiedNovember 1, 1995(1995-11-01) (aged 84)
OccupationGraphic designer

J. Bradbury Thompson (March 25, 1911 – November 1, 1995) was an American graphic designer and art director known for his work designing magazines and postage stamps.

Early life and education[edit]

J. Bradbury Thompson was born on March 25, 1911, in Topeka, Kansas, and attended Topeka High School. He attended Washburn College, where he was a member of Alpha Delta Fraternity, the yearbook editor and designer. He graduated in 1934 with a degree in economics and a minor in art.[1][2][3] A facility called the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center now stands at Washburn. In 1938, Thompson designed the college's mascot, The Ichabod.[4]


In 1938, he moved to New York City and designed the catalog for the 1939 World's Fair. During World War II, he worked in the publication's division of the Office of War Information (OWI) designing magazines including U.S.A., a magazine aimed at Americans and allies.[2][5]

Later in 1938, Thompson began working with the arts journal of West Virginia Pulp and Paper Company, Westvaco Inspirations for Printers. The booklet was meant to showcase the company's papers and Thompson began experimenting with typography, photographic reproduction and color, drawing inspiration from printing elements and borrowing plates and separations from museums, magazines, and advertising agencies. These borrowed elements blended modern and traditional elements to become a leading avant-garde publication with a distribution of 35,000. By 1962, he had designed 61 issues.[2][3] Thompson was art director of Mademoiselle magazine for fifteen years beginning in 1945. In c. 1948, Thompson designed the book Painting toward architecture for the Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art, which accompanied their multi-year art and architecture exhibition, also by this name, in over 25 venues across the United States.[6] In total, Thompson designed 35 magazines, including Business Week, the Harvard Business Review, and Smithsonian magazine.[2]

In 1969, he worked for the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee as the design coordinator and designed more than 120 United States postage stamps in a wide range of subjects himself. He worked in this role until 1978, influencing the design of stamps.[2]

A signature design from Thompson was his redesign of the King James Bible into the Washburn College Bible in 1979. The 1800-page three-volume Bible was a limited-edition with only 398 copies, taking 10 years to make. Thompson wanted the text to be more accessible and used the typeface Sabon set at 14-point in flush-left, ragged-right columns which allowed Thompson to break the text like a spoken cadence. This book was one of the first to use the typeface, designed by Jan Tschichold and released in 1967. His typographic alignment of the text broke the standard of flushed columns that the Gutenberg Bible set.[3][7]

Thompson served on the faculty of Yale University from 1956 to 1995.[2] He received the AIGA Gold Medal in 1975. He was inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1977 and received the Type Director's Club Medal in 1986.[3][8][9]

In 1988, his autobiography, "The Art of Graphic Design," was published by Yale University Press. It won the North America's George Wittenborn Memorial Award as best art book of the year from the Art Libraries Society.[2]

Alphabet 26[edit]

Thompson developed in 1950 a font called Alphabet 26 or a "monoalphabet," an alphabet whose uppercase and lowercase forms of each letter were identical, and case was expressed through letter size only. (In the conventional Latin alphabet, it is already so for letters like "o" and "O" or "s" and "S" but not for a/A, r/R, etc. His monoalphabet was a transitional serif (modelled after Baskerville) with lowercase a, e, m, and n mixed with uppercase B, D, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, P, Q, R, T, U, and Y. (The forms of C/c, O/o, S/s, V/v, W/w, X/x and Z/z are essentially the same in uppercase and lowercase letters to begin with.) The simplification was intended to make the letters of the alphabet more logical and intuitive, making the alphabet easier to learn and use.[10] Thompson first published the alphabet in a Westvaco Inspirations for Printers.[11]

The set of letters for Alphabet 26 is:

a B c D e F G H I J K L m n o P Q R s T U v w x Y z

The above example uses the CSS rule font-variant-caps: unicase, which is not supported by many browsers as of July 2017. A closer approximation that works in most current browsers (but suffers from slight variations in weight & height) is the following:

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Example: BRaDBURY THomPson DesIGneD aLPHaBeT 26. (Alternate approximation: Bradbury Thompson designed alphabet 26.)

Harold Lohner's Mean 26 font uses Alphabet 26.[12]

Death and legacy[edit]

Thompson died on November 1, 1995, in Greenwich, Connecticut.[2] His papers are housed at the University of Illinois at Chicago.[13]


  • The Art of Graphic Design, Yale University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978-0300043013)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center - About the center Archived June 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Gelder, Lawrence Van (1995-11-04). "J. Bradbury Thompson Dies; Designer and Art Director, 84". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  3. ^ a b c d "AIGA Medalists". AIGA | the professional association for design. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  4. ^ "Bradbury Thompson - Kansapedia - Kansas Historical Society". Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  5. ^ Heller, Steven (2010-01-25). "Bradbury Thompson's USA". Print Magazine. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  6. ^ Housley, Kathleen L. (2001). Emily Hall Tremaine: Collector on the Cusp, (p. 98). Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation: Meriden, CT.
  7. ^ Thompson, Bradbury (1980). Holy Bible. Oxford Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-502786-8.
  8. ^ "Bradbury Thompson". The Type Directors Club. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  9. ^ "Bradbury Thompson". ADC • Global Awards & Club. Retrieved 2019-06-24.
  10. ^ Website dedicated to Alphabet 26 Archived September 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine, giving a brief overview
  11. ^ "Bradbury Thompson". Archived from the original on 2007-07-12. Retrieved 2011-09-06. at Communication Arts, originally published March/April 1999
  12. ^ Mean 26
  13. ^ Weiss, Karen (2015-06-30). "Bradbury Thompson papers". Retrieved 2019-06-24.