Born in Brooklyn in 1914, Rand was creative from a
young age. He studied art at Pratt Institute in Manhattan
and practiced drawing constantly. One of his first jobs
was laying out product spreads for Apparel Arts, a popular
men’s fashion magazine owned by Esquire. Soon after
that he started designing magazine covers.
His work was instantly noticed. By his early 20s, Rand
was considered one of the most important designers of
Simplicity is not the goal.
It is the by-product
of a good idea
“Before Paul Rand, the copywriter was the lead,” says Donald Albrecht, curator of a new Rand exhibition. The copywriter would supply the words—often times a great many of them—and the words would dictate the layout of the ad, often drawn from one of several templates or formats. The visuals would be filled in later by commercial artists, who typically just illustrated whatever the copy was describing. Creativity was in short supply. Across the industry, Rand helped initiate a crucial shift in creative power from copywriters to art directors. He laid the groundwork for the so-called Creative Revolution the industry enjoyed in the 1960s. As one of his contemporaries later put it, Rand “brought ideas and intelligence to advertising where before him there was no semblance of thought.”
Rand’s influence at IBM was slow and gradual. He worked on packaging, showrooms, interiors for the company’s offices. “The other thing he does is introduces all of these bright colors,” Albrecht says. “In the exhibition we have carbon paper boxes that are pink and brown. And that gives the company a very colorful, hip appearance…All of this is meant to make the company more personable.”
Rand’s most enduring contribution to IBM when he introduced the slated IBM logo. The horizontal stripes solved two problems. They unified the letters, whose shapes Rand thought made for an awkward visual rhythm. The stripes also had the effect of making the company name feel lighter and less monolithic—something useful to a multinational giant whose products loomed over the business world.
Where can we see Rand’s influence today? “You see it in what Apple does,” Albrecht says. “You see it in the idea that design is an important part of your business plan. That design is not something you add on but is part and parcel of your business. That it’s good for business. And that it’s not just window dressing.” Rand was the beginning of branding every single aspect of a company, not just creating a logo. He was the Beginning of what we know today.
Rand was 72 when he designed the logo for Next.
He billed Jobs $100,000. In return, he produced a single, finished logo, along with an elaborate book explaining the rationale behind it. Jobs was delighted with the work.
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