Paul Rand (1914 – 1996)
Although I was introduced to Paul Rand's work in school, it wasn't until working on my first freelance project after graduating that I really took notice. I needed inspiration for an identity I was designing and my professor lent me an original process book made by Rand for the presentation of his NeXT computers identity. His book outlined every reason for every step, every color, every angle, and every shape he used in creating his identity. There was nothing useless or unintentional. His process and his philosophy helped me to work out the identity I was working on, and I often turn to his identities for inspiration whenever I need it.
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy described Paul Rand as “an idealist and a realist using the language of the poet and the businessman. He thinks in terms of need and function. He is able to analyze his problems, but his fantasy is boundless.¹” It is a beautiful quote accurately illustrating Rand's style and approach. It is this philosophy that makes Rand's art successful and endure.
“Paul Rand was a four-career man. At the age of 23, Rand began his career as art director of Esquire and Apparel Arts. His extensive design education inspired his distinct style – a marriage of modern typography with nineteenth-century engravings. The transition to his second career in advertising was marked by a series of cover designs for "Direction," a culture magazine publishing avante-gardists such as Le Corbusier and Jean Cocteau. Rand worked for free, claiming that the removal of financial obligation inspired more honest art. The covers immediately caught New York's attention with their propaganda-free style, identifiable imagery, and often hand-written text. As an ad designer, Rand worked on projects for Orbach's department store and for various brandy and cigar companies.
In 1954, Rand began his third career in corporate identification. He collaborated with giants such as IBM, ABC, and UPS to create their internationally recognized logos.
Towards the end of his life, Rand taught at several colleges and universities. He published children's books with his wife, Ann Rand, which are notable for their clear and youthful style. They lived for many years in Weston, Connecticut, in a home of Paul's own design. Paul Rand died in 1996.”
Samples of Paul Rand’s Identity Work
Books by Rand:
- Thoughts on Design | Writing at the height of his career, Rand articulated in his slender volume the pioneering vision that all design should seamlessly integrate form and function. This facsimile edition preserves Rand's original 1947 essay with the adjustments he made to its text and imagery for a revised printing in 1970. As relevant today as it was when first published, this classic treatise is an indispensable addition to the library of every designer.
- Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words | A children’s book written by Ann Rand and illustrated with graphic designer Paul Rand's colorful, witty artwork, Sparkle and Spin is a children's classic that reveals to young readers the power and music in the words they use every day.
- I Know a Lot of Things | Written from the simplicity of a child's perspective, the plain-but-powerful text voices important childhood knowledge such as "I know when I look in the mirror, what I see is me" and that "dogs go bowwow and that is how they talk."
- Little 1 | This is my favorite of Rand’s children’s books. The text by Ann Rand is filled with clever wordplay and not only tells the engaging story of Little 1 and his quest for a friend, but makes learning numbers and simple addition positively fun.
- Books by Paul Rand on Amazon
Books About Rand:
- Paul Rand | A great biography by Steven Heller chronicling the career of Paul Rand.
- Paul Rand: Conversations with Students | This latest volume of the popular Conversations with Students series presents Rand's last interview, recorded at Arizona State University one year before his death in 1996.
- Paul Rand: Modernist Design (Issues in Cultural Theory) | A compendium of essays, interviews, photographic reproductions, a contextual timeline and an extensive bibliography, Paul Rand: Modernist Design adds to the growing literature on Rand, helping to place him in the proper context within a century of innovative art, design, architecture and technology.
Paul Rand links:
- Paul-Rand.com | A tribute/archive site pulling together references to Paul Rand and his works.
- Paul Rand: Bibliography as Biography | Paul Rand's geometry books | Discovering some of the books originally donated to Yale's library from Paul Rand's personal library at used book stores in Boston. 9/2/03 & 6/16/03
- art and culture network | A nice bio of Paul Rand featuring his four careers. Quoted above.
- DLS Design | A tribute designed by DLS Design in 1997 shortly after Rand’s death. Paul Rand: A Master’s Peaks
- mkgraphic interview | Paul Rand: Graphic Designer by Michael Kroeger. Interview conducted on Wednesday February 8, 1995 – 09:00 am
- Steve Jobs on Paul Rand | A 1993 interview with Steve Jobs on Rand’s NeXT logo.