Art continues with the “dirty wrapping paper” and adult humor graphics…..
Art Chantry: Yesterday, I wrote about the ‘dirty wrapping paper”, “adult humor” graphics and that really wonderful late 50′s early 60′s illustration style that is now so completely gone from our pop culture. In the comments thread, a name kept popping up in comments by both myself and Jesse Reyes – “Don Branham”. Today I just want to show you a …little of his work to familiarize you with him.
Don Branham seems to have been part of the in-house bullpen at Hallmark cards company. Since Hallmark traditionally has never used freelance help, this is fairly safe assumption. Don Branham did little work outside of Hallmark for the bulk of his career. Toward the end, I believe he left the safety net of Hallmark and began freelancing. But, I actually know so little about his career or his life, that this is an assumption based on seeing late-career cartooning in strange little marginal magazines.
Branham was sort of the ‘bull goose looney’ of this goofy period style I love so much. Outside of the MAD magazine crew, this guy was the man who taught everybody else how to do this. His work was everywhere. Hallmark used his style as a virtual ‘house’ style/brand during the 1960′s and managed to build an even larger empire with him, even though most card companies were suffering and sliding away. He was a secret weapon.
Don Branham was good. He was funny, He was witty. He was clever. He was smart. He knew how to stab into the uncomfortable heart and soul of America with silly little goofball images – and get away with it. So much of his work (viewed from the perspective of time) seems to be so edgy and even a little nasty that it’s hard to imagine Hallmark – that bastion of namby-pamby – ever letting Don Branham and his crazed mind loose today. It just wouldn’t happen. but, back in the 60′s, times were VERY different and Branham had the sneakiness, the subtlety and the “‘tude” hallmark desperately needed to stay viable and profitable during a cultural revolution.
The other skill he brought to the fold was his own little ‘secret weapon’. He was a brilliant lettering artist. His actual typography and design treatments set the trends for a generation of cheezeball work. I’ve seen a bazillion ‘artists’ try to imitate this typography (I’ve even tried it myself). but, I’ve NEVER seen anybody duplicate it’s wit, it’s humor, it’s sophisticated coarseness or it’s absolutely perfect execution. he was maybe the greatest ‘screwball typographer’ of all time.
Don Branham was one of the top five greatest most influential designer/illustrators of the 60′s. but, nobody knew his name.
….here’s a great example of Don Branham’s amazing lettering work. This is actually a binder cover with interior pocket/pages to store greeting cards for all occasions. Each page had a panel cartoon on it dealing with the event (happy birthday, happy a
ersary, merry christmas”, etc.) The coolest part is that if you read the entire series of panels, it’s actually a cartoon strip by Don Branham chock-full of his brand of twisted wit and humor. It’s a pretty amazing and cool piece of work.