During the early thirties, at a time when many American artists were turning away from the wave of modernism that had swept the country since the early teens, Crawford appropriated the precisionist style to create smoothly painted, planar paintings of subjects specifically associated with America, such as skyscrapers, industrial structures, and machinery. Like other American artists, Crawford was searching for an art that was in tune with an environment that was increasingly impersonal, mechanized, and industrial. As Crawford was developing his artistic mode, he adopted a geometric style that was influenced by both Cubism and the purist compositions he had seen during his time in Paris. The Cubist vocabulary and the life of the modern American city were central elements in Precisionism, and given his exposure to both, Crawford's style became fully precisionist when he returned to the United States in the early 1930s. Crawford's architectural and industrial subjects were the preferred precisionist subjects. By 1934, in paintings such as Factory Roofs, Crawford's works show the simplification and distillation of form and color that exemplify the modern style.
From 1934 to the early 1940s, Crawford's compositions rely on massed geometric forms representing architectural subjects; the structures have been reduced to flat planes and cylinders and are devoid of human presence. Crawford used a relatively subdued palette, with distinct color areas and adjoining planes distinguished by closely valued hues. His paintings focus on subjects—silos, barns, bridges and industrial buildings—that he had seen, and American towns he had visited, primarily in rural Pennsylvania. Factory Roofs, 1934, was painted during a time in which the artist was working in Chadds Ford and Exton, Pennsylvania. In this picture, Crawford used a restricted color scheme of rust red, pale blue, and various shades of gray. This simplified palette corresponds to the distillation of form into flat angular planes that come together to describe the top section of an industrial factory: the central image in the composition. Though highly abstracted, the subject remains intelligible, testifying to Crawford's great skill in merging abstraction with recognizable imagery.