Stepping into Michael Braley‘s world is like flipping through pages of design inspiration. Known for his clear, simple, and impactful creations, his work speaks volumes. This year, his deep-rooted dedication to typography, form, and color has once again caught the spotlight, winning him an esteemed Graphis Poster 2024 Gold Award. Through collaborations with Utah State University and Pratt Institute, Michael shows us that passion and experience make for timeless artistry.
By: Michael Braley
In 2004, I was teaching a typographic poster workshop at Wichita State University, and a student asked, “What makes a good poster?” Intuitively, I said, “Clarity, simplicity, and impact.” My own CSI. Or clarity through simplicity delivering impact.
The foundation of CSI is:
It’s the same foundation I learned during my design education at Iowa State University. This mantra might not be popular, trendy, or inviting for everyone, but I believe that a poster should communicate immediately. I think about letters as pure form and not necessarily how they sound or what word they make. Rather, I think about how they fit together and their relationships between forms. It’s a visual and formal puzzle for me to solve.
Basically, I aim for seamless integration between form and content—with maximum visual impact in my poster design and in all of my work.
Brian Collins, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, COLLINS
Everything that Michael Braley does has a quality of inevitability about it. It’s as if his projects fall out of some time warp or bubble universe far away from this one, ruled by a distant constellation, a place where mediocrity is banished, and everything is smart, elegant, and beautiful.
Michael, like every great designer, seeks simplicity. But he finds him on the far, far, far side of complexity. A place where almost all designers once would voyage, but too many gave up for the messy, cheap, easy thrill of social media fame. He, unlike so many of his peers, has never confused fame with mastery. Which is why these posters for Pratt and Utah State University are so strong. They are masterpieces of coiled energy locked within epic simplicity.
I have asked him to send them to me so I can place them at our company’s retreat in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. His work will hang beside work by Corita Kent, Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Jacqueline Casey, and A.M. Cassandre. And he will give them all a good run for their money.
Mike Daines, Associate Professor of Graphic Design, Utah State University, & Partner and Creative Director, Afton Klein Group
Based on the prolific body of his award-winning poster work, in 2022, we invited Michael Braley to Utah State University to lecture and conduct a poster workshop with our students. Michael is a master of modern simplicity. His work is typographically focused, often discovering the most economical way to create dynamic visual engagement. It is no surprise that the poster Michael created for his visit to USU perfectly embodied this ideal. In an eclectic world of clashing visual voices, Michael’s work is a fresh reminder of why the international approach remains a powerful toolkit for contemporary visual communication.
Scott W. Santoro, Adjunct Professor, Pratt Institute, & Principal, Worksight
Ssshhh. Don’t let anyone know what a valuable source Michael Braley is for design teachers. Michael has visited my class many times before, with beautiful lectures about design history, process, and the profession. But this poster was a surprise—I love it. The piece announced his visit to Typography and Information Design. The brilliance of it is how Michael managed to bring playful inventiveness using the least of means. Here’s a case where the letters create dominance and color but can also convey ideas. For me, each letter is a classroom desk stacked onto another to create a whole. And the sweet moment is when the information at the bottom left aligns with one of the letter’s legs to create contrast against the larger shape and create compositional order. Yep, a designer figured all this out and made it work. It’s what we do. Well done, Michael.
Michael Braley, creative director of Braley Design, has 30+ years of experience in brand, print, poster, book, and package design. His work has been recognized internationally and is in the permanent collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, The Denver Art Museum, the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe (Art and Design) Hamburg, Germany, Lahti Poster Museum, Finland and The Museum of the Marie Curie-Skłodowska University, Lublin, Poland.
His work has also been awarded in numerous national and international publications and exhibitions, including international poster biennials in Bolivia, Colombia, China, Ecuador, Finland, Hungary, Peru, Poland, Slovakia, Russia, and the United States.