Best known for his corporate logo designs, Paul Rand was one of the originators of the Swiss Style of graphic design. He designed many posters and corporate identities, including the logos for IBM, UPS and ABC.

“The reason I always insisted on signing my work was not to be subordinate to anyone.”

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. 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.

“Design is everything. Everything!”
“Most corporations think the logo is a kind of rabbit’s foot or talisman—although sometimes it can be an albatross—and believe that if it is altered, something terrible will happen.”

Indisputably, Rand’s most widely known contribution to graphic design are his corporate identities, many of which are still in use. 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 solution.

 “I haven’t changed my mind about modernism from the first day I ever did it….
It means integrity...
it means honesty...
it means the absence of sentimentality and the absence of nostalgia...
it means simplicity...
it means clarity...
That’s what modernism means to me.”

Undoubtedly, 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 Cezanne to Jan Tschichold, and constantly attempted to draw the connections between their creative output and significant applications in graphic design. This idea of “defamiliarizing the ordinary” played an important part in Rand’s design choices. Working with manufacturers provided him the challenge of utilizing his corporate identities to create “lively and original” packaging for mundane items, such as light bulbs for Westinghouse.

 “The qualities that evoke this bevy of
 depressing images are a collage of chaos and confusion,  swaying between high tech and low art, and wrapped
 in a cloak of arrogance:
squiggles, pixels, doodles, dingbats, ziggurats…

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.”

These inspired decorations, apparently, are convenient stand-ins for real ideas and genuine skills.”
“The question is really less a matter of experiencing than of listening to one’s intuitions, following rather than dismissing them. It is also the quality of one’s intuitions that matters.”

Rand found that the ability to intuit was a critical trait for a designer. Without following some kind of impulse, the designer could never make meaningful decisions without imitating what others have done before. Through these creative decisions, spectators can derive their own meaning using intuition themselves. The human connection he brought to his work still inspires designers and spectators of today.

Back to Top