Paul Rand was an American graphic designer and art director known for his corporate logos, most notably for IBM, ABC, UPS, Westinghouse and Enron. Steve Jobs, for whom he designed the NeXT Computer logo, dubbed Rand as “the greatest living graphic designer.” With his artistic knowledge and modernist philosophy, Rand, created some of the most recognizable images and pioneered contemporary graphic design. Behind his outstanding body of work, here are the following facts:
1. He was a Jew born in Brooklyn, New York.
- His birth name was Peretz Rosenbaum. His forename was modernized while his surname was borrowed from an uncle.
- Rand spent his career elevating an art that promoted global capitalism. This is contrary to Orthodox Jewish law where one is forbidden from creating images that may be worshipped as false gods.
2. He has a rich academic background in the arts.
- Rand began designing by painting signs for school events and his father’s grocery. While in high school, he also attended college night classes at the Pratt Institute.
- He went on to study at the Parsons School of Design and the Art Students League, but developed most of his talent through self-education.
3. He began his career in layouts and prints.
- His first job was as a part-time stock image creator for magazines and newspapers.
- He was in charge of layout for many respected magazines such as Apparel Arts (now GQ). He became the art director for Coronet and Esquire at 23 years-old.
4. He was mostly inspired by European art and design.
- He drew ideas from European magazines and incorporated many of their art philosophies such as Cubism, Futurism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, and Constructivism. Most of his works were in the German poster style Sachplakat.
- He was recognized as one of the first American designers to use Swiss Style graphic design. He considered his works as a means of visual communication, prioritizing need and function.
5. His core principles are minimalism and modernism.
- His designs are known for being simple yet dynamic. He believed simplicity is not the objective, but merely “the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.”
- He also believed that good design “cannot survive unless it is designed with the utmost simplicity and restraint.” He tested the integrity and recognizability of his works by disfiguring them.
6. He made corporate identity and branding indispensable for companies.
- His creations helped businesses realize design is an effective tool that can tap into public awareness and corporate consciousness. Aside from logos, he also worked on product packaging, marketing materials, and showrooms for various clients.
- His emphasis on memorability, universality, timelessness, distinctiveness, visibility, adaptability, and simplicity became the standard for many logo designers. This is known as the 7-Step Paul Rand Logo Test.
By combining the traditional and “higher” arts with commercial design, Paul Rand has opened the doors to the ubiquitous and essential practice of graphic design. His principles for design are undoubtedly one of the greatest contributions to both the art and the business worlds.