Legendary graphic designer Paul Rand is revered as the creator of logos for corporations like IBM, ABC, UPS, and NeXT, and author of many books including the seminal, recently reissued Thoughts on Design. He passed away in 1996, but would have been 100 today, and his legacy is still as strong as ever.
By his early twenties, Rand was already receiving international acclaim for his designs, in part for his covers for Direction magazine, which he produced for no fee in exchange for full artistic freedom. Painter and photographer Laszlo Moholy-Nagy was among the many who took notice of him, saying:
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.
Rand evolved into one of the fathers of modernist design, influencing contemporary industry greats from Pentagram’s Michael Bierut to Apple’s Jonathan Ive. His work proved, as he put it in his 1993 book Design, Form, and Chaos, that “Good design adds value of some kind, gives meaning, and, not incidentally, can be sheer pleasure to behold.”
In honor of the centenary of his birth, here are some of our favorite Rand tributes and bits of wisdom from the man himself:
• This goldmine of quotes from the designer, culled from Steven Heller’s Paul Rand: A Designer’s Words, remind us that he was as astute a writer and philosopher as he was a designer.
• There’s also a short film by design firm Imaginary Forces that combines an interview with Rand with footage and animations of his best designs.
• In her excellent 1997 essay Logocentrism, designer Jessica Helfand gives an overview of Rand’s life, work, and impact on graphic design today. “To look at Rand’s work today–work that dates from half a century ago–is to see how an idea can be distilled to its most concentrated and salient form. The style is playful, the message immediate, the communication undeniably direct,” she writes.
• This interview with the designer from 1991–in which he admits to thinking early in his career that graphic designers were just “not that important” in the grand scheme of things. Years later, he revised that belief to “we’re not as unimportant as we think we are,” which he explains beautifully here. All three parts are available here.
• Art book powerhouse Phaidon has an excellent monograph on Paul Rand, by Steven Heller with texts by Jessica Helfand, available here.
• And finally, a roundup of Rand’s best logos, from Yale University Press to IBM.
But maybe Rand is best summed up by Rand. His published contributions to design writing are unparalleled: his four important books include Thoughts on Design (1946); Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art (1985); Design, Form and Chaos (1994); and, most recently, From Lascaux to Brooklyn (1996). He also illustrated the children’s classic Sparkle and Spin (A Book About Words), which was written by his wife, Ann.