Paul Rand (born Peretz Rosenbaum; August 15, 1914 – November 26,
1996) was an American art director and graphic designer, best known
for his corporate logo designs, including the logos for IBM, UPS,
Enron, Morningstar, Inc., Westinghouse, ABC, and NeXT. He was one of
the first American commercial artists to embrace and practice the
Swiss Style of graphic design.
Rand was a professor emeritus of graphic design at
Yale University in
New Haven, Connecticut
New Haven, Connecticut where he taught from 1956 to 1969, and from
1974 to 1985. He was inducted into the New York Art Directors
Club Hall of Fame in 1972.
1 Early life and education
2 Early career
3 Corporate identities
4 Later years
5 Influences and other works
5.1 Development of theory
5.2 Modernist influences
8 External links
Early life and education
Paul Rand was born Peretz Rosenbaum on August 15, 1914 in Brooklyn,
New York. He embraced design at a very young age, painting signs
for his father's grocery store as well as for school events at P.S.
109. Rand's father did not believe art could provide his son with a
sufficient livelihood, and so he required Paul to attend Manhattan's
Haaren High School
Haaren High School while taking night classes at the Pratt Institute.
Rand was largely "self-taught" as a designer, learning about the works
Cassandre and Moholy-Nagy from European magazines such as
Gebrauchsgraphik." Rand Also attended Parsons The New School for
Design and the Art Students League of New York.
His career began with humble assignments, starting with a part-time
position creating stock images for a syndicate that supplied graphics
to various newspapers and magazines. Between his class assignments
and his work, Rand was able to amass a fairly large portfolio, largely
influenced by the German advertising style
Sachplakat (object poster)
as well as the works of Gustav Jensen. It was around this time that he
decided to camouflage the overtly
Jewish identity conveyed by his
name, Peretz Rosenbaum, shortening his forename to 'Paul' and taking
'Rand' from an uncle to form a Madison Avenue-friendly surname. Morris
Wyszogrod, a friend and associate of Rand, noted that "he figured that
'Paul Rand,' four letters here, four letters there, would create a
nice symbol. So he became Paul Rand." Roy R. Behrens notes the
importance of this new title: "Rand's new persona, which served as the
brand name for his many accomplishments, was the first corporate
identity he created, and it may also eventually prove to be the most
enduring." Indeed, Rand was rapidly moving into the forefront of
his profession. In his early twenties, he was producing work that
began to garner international acclaim, notably his designs on the
covers of Direction magazine, which Rand produced for no fee in
exchange for full artistic freedom. Among the accolades Rand
received were those of László Moholy-Nagy:
An early advertisement design by
Paul Rand (featured in the Museum of
the City of New York's Retrospective on his work in Spring 2015)
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.
The reputation Rand so rapidly amassed in his prodigious twenties
never dissipated; rather, it only managed to increase through the
years as his influential works and writings firmly established him as
the éminence grise of his profession.
Although Rand was most famous for the corporate logos he created in
the 1950s and 1960s, his early work in page design was the initial
source of his reputation. In 1936, Rand was given the job of setting
the page layout for an
Apparel Arts (now GQ) magazine anniversary
issue. "His remarkable talent for transforming mundane photographs
into dynamic compositions, which [. . .] gave editorial weight to the
page" earned Rand a full-time job, as well as an offer to take over as
art director for the Esquire-Coronet magazines. Initially, Rand
refused this offer, claiming that he was not yet at the level the job
required, but a year later he decided to go ahead with it, taking over
responsibility for Esquire's fashion pages at the young age of
The cover art for Direction magazine proved to be an important step in
the development of the "
Paul Rand look" that was not as yet fully
developed. The December 1940 cover, which uses barbed wire to
present the magazine as both a war-torn gift and a crucifix, is
indicative of the artistic freedom Rand enjoyed at Direction; in
Thoughts on Design Rand notes that it "is significant that the
crucifix, aside from its religious implications, is a demonstration of
pure plastic form as well . . . a perfect union of the aggressive
vertical (male) and the passive horizontal (female)."
Eye Bee M poster designed by Rand in 1981 for IBM.
Rand's most widely known contributions to design are his corporate
identities, many of which are still in use. IBM, ABC, Cummins Engine,
UPS, and the now-infamous Enron, among many others, owe Rand their
graphical heritage. One of his strengths, as Moholy-Nagy pointed
out, was his ability as a salesman to explain the needs his
identities would address for the corporation. According to graphic
designer Louis Danziger:
Westinghouse Sign and logo.
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
Rand's defining corporate identity was his
IBM logo in 1956, which as
Mark Favermann notes "was not just an identity but a basic design
philosophy which permeated corporate consciousness and public
awareness." The logo was modified by Rand in 1960. The striped logo
was created in 1972. The stripes were introduced as a half-toning
technique to make the
IBM mark slightly less heavy and more dynamic.
Two variations of the "striped" logo were designed; one with eight
stripes, one with thirteen stripes. The bolder mark with eight stripes
was intended as the company's default logo, while the more delicate
thirteen stripe version was used for situations where a more refined
look was required, such as
IBM executive stationery and business
cards. Rand also designed packaging, marketing materials and assorted
IBM from the late 1950s until the late 1990s,
including the well known Eye-Bee-M poster.
Ford appointed Rand in the
1960s to redesign their corporate logo, but afterwards chose not to
use his modernized design.
Unimplemented logo designed by Rand for
Ford Motor Company.
Although the logos may be interpreted as simplistic, Rand was quick to
point out in A Designer's Art that "ideas do not need to be esoteric
to be original or exciting." His Westinghouse trademark, created in
1960, epitomizes that ideal of minimalism while proving Rand's point
that a logo "cannot survive unless it is designed with the utmost
simplicity and restraint." Rand remained vital as he aged,
continuing to produce important corporate identities into the eighties
and nineties with a rumored $100,000 price per single design. The
most notable of his later works was his collaboration with Steve Jobs
NeXT Computer corporate identity; Rand's simple black box
breaks the company name into two lines, producing a visual harmony
that endeared the logogram to Jobs.
Steve Jobs was pleased: just prior
to Rand's death in 1996, his former client labeled him "the greatest
living graphic designer."
Rand devoted his final years to design work and the writing of his
memoirs. In 1996, he died of cancer at age 82 in Norwalk,
Connecticut. He is buried in Beth El Cemetery.
Influences and other works
Development of theory
Though Rand was a recluse in his creative process, doing the vast
majority of the design load despite having a large staff at varying
points in his career, he was very interested in producing books of
theory to illuminate his philosophies.
László Moholy-Nagy may have
incited Rand's zeal for knowledge when he asked his colleague, at
their first meeting, if he read art criticism. Rand said no, prompting
Moholy-Nagy to reply "Pity." Heller elaborates on this meeting's
impact, noting; "from that moment on, Rand devoured books by the
leading philosophers on art, including Roger Fry, Alfred North
Whitehead, and John Dewey." These theoreticians would have a
lasting impression on Rand's work; in a 1995 interview with Michael
Kroeger discussing, among other topics, the importance of Dewey's Art
as Experience, Rand elaborates on Dewey's appeal:
[. . . 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.
Dewey is an important source for Rand's underlying sentiment in
graphic design; on page one of Rand's groundbreaking Thoughts on
Design, the author begins drawing lines from Dewey's philosophy to the
need for "functional-aesthetic perfection" in modern art. Among the
ideas Rand pushed in Thoughts on Design was the practice of creating
graphic works capable of retaining recognizable quality even after
being blurred or mutilated, a test Rand routinely performed on his
Yale University Press logo that was used from 1985 to 2009.
During Rand's later career, he became increasingly agitated about the
rise of postmodernist theory and aesthetic in design. In 1992, Rand
resigned his position at Yale in protest of the appointment of
postmodern and feminist designer Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, and
convinced his colleague
Armin Hofmann to do the same. In
justification of his resignation, Rand penned the article "Confusion
and Chaos: The Seduction of Contemporary Graphic Design," in which he
denounced the postmodern movement as "faddish and frivolous" and
"harbor[ing] its own built-in boredom".
Despite the importance graphic designers place on his book Thoughts on
Design, subsequent works such as From Lascaux to
compounded accusations of Rand being "reactionary and hostile to new
ideas about design." Steven Heller defends Rand's later ideas,
calling the designer "an enemy of mediocrity, a radical modernist"
while Favermann considers the period one of "a reactionary, angry old
man." Regardless of this dispute, Rand's contribution to modern
graphic design theory in total is widely considered intrinsic to the
The core ideology that drove Rand's career, and hence his lasting
influence, was the modernist philosophy he so revered. He celebrated
the works of artists from
Paul Cézanne to Jan Tschichold, and
constantly attempted to draw the connections between their creative
output and significant applications in graphic design. In A Designer's
Art Rand clearly demonstrates his appreciation for the underlying
From Impressionism to Pop Art, the commonplace and even the comic
strip have become ingredients for the artist's cauldron. What Cézanne
did with apples, Picasso with guitars, Léger with machines,
Schwitters with rubbish, and Duchamp with urinals makes it clear that
revelation does not depend upon grandiose concepts. The problem of the
artist is to defamiliarize the ordinary.
Rand, Paul (1985). Paul Rand: A Designer's Art. New Haven: Yale
University Press. ISBN 978-0300082821.
Rand, Paul (1994). Design, Form, and Chaos. New Haven: Yale University
Press. ISBN 978-0300055535.
Rand, Paul (1996). From Lascaux to Brooklyn. New Haven: Yale
University Press. ISBN 978-0300066760.
Rand, Paul (2016). Paul Rand: A Designer's Art. New York: Princeton
Architectural Press. ISBN 978-1616894863.
^ a b "Paul Rand: A Brief Biography". paul-rand.com. Retrieved 22
^ "Obituary: Paul Rand". Yale Bulletin. Retrieved 22 October
^ a b c d Behrens, Roy R. "Paul Rand." Print, Sept–Oct. 1999: 68+
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Heller, Steven. "Thoughts on Rand." Print,
May–June 1997: 106–109+
^ a b c d Bierut, Michael. "Tribute:
Paul Rand 1914–1996." ID,
Jan–Feb. 1997: 34
^ a b c Meggs, Philip; Purvis, Alston (1983). Meggs' History of
Graphic Design. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons Inc.
pp. 374–375, 376, 377, 379, 382, 390, 404–405, 406, 407, 435,
477. ISBN 0-471-69902-0.
^ a b c d Rand, Paul. Thoughts on Design. New York: Wittenborn: 1947.
^ "Energy Trading, Post-Enron".
^ a b Favermann, Mark. "Two Twentieth-Century Icons." Art New England
Apr–May 1997: 15.
^ Heller, Steven (28 November 1996). "Paul Rand, 82, Creator of Sleek
Graphic Designs, Dies". The New York Times.
Paul Rand (1914 - 1996) -
Find A Grave
Find A Grave Memorial
^ Rand, Paul (8 February 1995). "Paul Rand: Conversations with
Students". MK Graphic Design (Interview). Interview with Michael
Kroeger. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
^ Lupton, Ellen (1992). "Sheila Levrant de Bretteville: Dirty Design
and Fuzzy Theory". Eye Magazine. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
^ "Confusion and Chaos: The Seduction of Contemporary Graphic Design".
Paul Rand. Retrieved 11 January 2013.
^ Rand, Paul (1985). Paul Rand: A Designer's Art. New Haven: Yale
University Press. ISBN 978-0300082821.
Misawa Lecture by
Paul Rand from MIT Media Laboratory
Guide to the
Paul Rand Papers at
Yale University Library
Rand collection at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
ISNI: 0000 0001 1762 3261
BNF: cb13175602r (data)