“He was the only one we approached.”
-Steve Jobs, talking about the creation of the Logo for NeXT Inc.
It was when Steve Jobs was creating his start-up called NeXT, after being ousted from Apple, that he contacted one man alone to get one of the most important tasks done for Next. Creating a Logo.
This man was Paul Rand.
The stint with Steve Jobs or the Next logo was not however Paul Rand’s pinnacle of brilliance, but quite far from being as significant, looking at the plethora of work he has gifted the modern man with. Paul was the man behind some iconic logos like these:
Paul Rand was born as Peretz Rosenbaum in Brooklyn, NY. He started his tryst with design at an early age when he painted signboards for his father. His father was however quite sure that not much could be gained out of Art or Design. Ergo, a lot of Paul’s early knowledge in design was fairly autodidactic.
Paul did however go on to join Parsons The New School for Design and the Art Students League of New York.
Peretz Rosenbaum, the design thinker as he was understood the importance of a shorter, crisper name that looks symmetric on either ends to make a nice logo and chose to give up his real name for the new name, Paul Rand (Paul from Peretz and Rand from an uncle’s name).
Graphic Design and Art
Paul Rand was as much an artist as a design thinker, a problem solver and a business mind. His work espoused the philosophy of retaining both form and function in what he creates. Beauty and utility, according to him was what a good design should communicate.
“Simplicity is not a goal but a by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.” — Paul Rand
Rand helped art directors gain more power within corporations. Till Paul Rand made ripples in the industry of Design, the main player behind an ad campaign used to be the copywriter. The writer would write the copy and the art director/designer would illustrate it. Paul Rand’s signature style of blending copy with illustration convinced Volkswagen for an Ad campaign, in the 60’s, to be spearheaded by the Art Director and not the Copywriter.
In his heart, Paul was quite an artist himself, a prerequisite towards good graphic designing that quite a few of us don’t acknowledge. Rand knew an ad’s point was to sell a product, but believed that in visually conveying that message, a designer should be artistic. Quoting curator Donald Albrecht, “He was one of the first to say, ‘I can take the ideas of Picasso, Jean Arp, Miro, and apply these fine art principles to the design of everyday objects and ads,’”
On having been asked by Steve Jobs if he was going to provide multiple options for the Next logo Paul said,” No. I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. And you don’t have to use the solution; if you want options go talk to other people. I’ll solve the problem the best way I can, and you use it or not, that’s up to you, you are the client, but you pay me!”
Professionalism was the baritone that every person who worked with Paul Rand, saw. His approach at creating design was from the standpoint of solving a problem. One reason for Paul’s success with clients was his down to earth, feet on ground presence. As put by Donald Albrecht, “He wasn’t coming into boardrooms acting like an artiste… “
One signature of Paul’s work was a picture book of his work that he created for his clients while working with them. Paul’s need to make the client understand why he did what he did and his patient and clear communication with his clients made sure that even the non-visual thinking clients were happy and bought in on the concept of associating aesthetics with a product. Here is the logo of Morningstar (a financial analysis company) made by Paul.
While creating a logo Paul Rand vehemently believed that one should not assume the presence of a logo shall give an identity to a company. Instead he stressed on the importance of how much the company’s own well-being feeds into the significance of its logo. A bad company starting off with a seemingly good logo might as well end up associating that logo with mixed feelings of warmth and malice.
One Iconic work of Paul Rand was the IBM logo he made (that also drew Jobs’ attention):
The stripes, unified the letters, aesthetically, whose dissimilar shapes, Rand thought, made for an awkward visual rhythm. They also had the effect of making the company name feel lighter — something that a company like IBM would really need while its products span the global scale.
Paul Rand was a pioneer in design thinking, who married art and commerce via graphic design. A lot of today’s Graphic designers look up to him for inspiration in building thought process, understanding problems and constructing solutions.
As Paul Rand says and as a lot of us believe, “Everything is Design. Everything.”