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Paul Rand…just be good
Influences and Philosophy:
In his Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, Bruce Mau states “23. Stand on someone’s shoulders. You
can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is
so much better.” Paul Rand certainly lived by those words as is clear in his designs as influenced
by the Swiss Style and Bauhaus designers Adolphe Mouron Cassandre and László Moholy-Nagy,
Below: Examples of Cassandre, Swiss Style (a.k.a. International Typographic Style) of design described as “emphasizing
cleanliness, readability and objectivity” and Moholy-Nagy and Bauhaus design described as having “a profound influence
upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design and typography” (2):
Rand studied at the Pratt Institute, the Parsons School of Design and the Art Students League and is
considered one of the foremost American graphic designers. Despite his education in design, it has
been said that Rand was largely self-taught as a designer (1).
Moholy-Nagy said of Rand, “Among these young Americans it seems to be that Paul Rand is one
of the best and most capable [. . .] He is a painter, lecturer, industrial designer, [and] advertising
artist who draws his knowledge and creativeness from the resources of this country. He is an
idealist and a realist, using the language of the poet and business man. He thinks in terms of need
and function. He is able to analyze his problems but his fantasy is boundless” (1b).
Rand's design philosophy is largely based on that of the pragmatic aesthetic philosopher John
Dewey, whose book Art as Experience examines the physical ‘work of art’ as a means of
communing with the observer and ultimately society. Dewey stated, “[The aesthetic experience is
the] ultimate judgment upon the quality of a civilization” (3).
Raid said of Art as Experience, “. . . deals with everything—there is no subject he does not deal
with. That is why it will take you one hundred years to read this book. Even today’s philosophers
talk about it[.] [E]very time you open this book you find good things. I mean the philosophers say
this, not just me. You read this, then when you open this up next year, that you read something
new.” We can see this philosophy at work in Rand’s own art (1c):
Top left to right: Direction Magazine cover 1940, UCLA poster 1990, Direction Magazine cover 1939, Modern Art
USA Book cover art, Minute Man poster for National Park Service
Bottom left to right: Yale Graduate School student guide, Listen! Listen! book cover art, Quality, Apple poster Think
Rand got his start in the design industry as a page designer for magazines. Rand’s innovative style
utilized several techniques including typography, painting, collage, photography, and montage. His
typography style is said to be a combination of modern typography with nineteenth-century
engravings (4). At the age of 23, he took over as art director for the Esquire-Coronet magazines.
His cover art for Direction magazine specifically is considered to be where he honed his signature
look. The 1940 cover is cited as evidence of Rand’s artistic freedom while at Direction as his
blending of high arts and graphic design to further his goal of combining his admiration of
European modernist design and his professional work (1).
Rand is most often cited for his corporate logo designs that are indicative of his style on a more
commercial level. Designer Louis Danziger said of Rand, “He almost singlehandedly convinced
business that design was an effective tool. [. . .] Anyone designing in the 1950s and 1960s owed
much to Rand, who largely made it possible for us to work. He more than anyone else made the
profession reputable. We went from being commercial artists to being graphic designers largely on
his merits” (1b). Rand’s corporate logo designs are considered the standard that all corporate logos
are held to.
It’s noted that Rand’s 1956 IBM logo is considered his defining corporate identity explains Mark
Favermann, “was not just an identity but a basic design philosophy that permeated corporate
consciousness and public awareness” (1d). Rand’s design philosophy with logos was simplicity as
stated, “[a logo]cannot survive unless it is designed with the utmost simplicity and restraint.” On
his collaboration with Steve Jobs for the for the NeXT Computer, Jobs stated that Rand was “the
greatest living graphic designer” (1a). The fact that many of his logos that were designed decades
ago are still in use, speaks volumes of his logo designs. Rand’s skill in blending simple imagery
and typography served him well in his logo designs.
Rand describes what a logo is and does with the following (5):
• A logo is a flag, a signature, an escutcheon.
• A logo doesn't sell (directly), it identifies.
• A logo is rarely a description of a business.
• A logo derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way
• A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important that
what it looks like.
Rand describes an effective logo as:
Rand summed up his design philosophy stating, “Design is the method of putting form and content
together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions, there is no single definition. Design can be
art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated" (6).
For more information on Paul Rand:
Paul-Rand.com: Extensive historical timeline from paul-rand.com.
Paul Rand – Corporate Identity Designs, Innovation and Excellence
Tribute to a Legend - Paul Rand – The Graphic Designer of All Time
1972 HALL OF FAME: Paul Rand
The Organization > Creative Hall of Fame > Paul Rand
American Icon: Paul Rand
(1) Wikipedia.org. “Paul Rand”, accessed January 2008, available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_rand
(1a) Bierut, Michael. “Tribute: Paul Rand 1914–1996.” ID, Jan–Feb. 1997: 34
(1b) Heller, Steven. “Thoughts on Rand.” Print, May–June 1997: 106–109+
(1c) Kroeger, Michael. Interview with Paul Rand. MK Graphic Design. 8 Feb. 1995. 15 Feb. 2006 http://www.mkgraphic.com/paulrand.html
(1d) Favermann, Mark. “Two Twentieth-Century Icons.” Art New England Apr–May 1997: 15.
(2) Wikipedia.org. “Swiss Style” and “Bauhaus”, accessed January 2008, available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Style and
(3) Wikipedia.org. Art as Experience, accessed January 2008, available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Art_as_Experience, ibid. p. 326
(4) logoblog.org. “Paul Rand – Corporate Identity Designs, Innovation and Excellence”, accessed January 2008, available from
(5) Paul Rand. “Logos, Flags, and Escutcheons”, accessed January 2008, available from http://www.hqlogos.com/logo-design-infobase-item.asp?id=102
(6) John Maeda. “Thoughts on Paul Rand”, accessed January 2008, available from http://acg.media.mit.edu/events/rand/ideamag.html
This wiki compiled by: Jennifer Graham and Monique C. Marcil for JOMC712
Why do you think the style of Paul Rand was/is so widely accepted?
What differences are there with Paul Rand's style compared to other designers of his time?
What differences are there compared to modern day design?