Paul Rand, Icon of Icons

As a consummate designer, one of Paul Rand’s initial projects consisted of re-designing himself into a marketable commodity. He was initially born to the name Peretz Rosenbaum in Brooklyn, New York, and went on to study at the Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design, and the Art Students League during his mid teens to early twenties. It was during this time that he decided to identify himself as a brand, rather than by his overtly Jewish heritage. At the same time, Rand’s design work was beginning to grow in popularity and in demand. By the time he was in his twenties, he had already established himself as a graphic artist capable of condensing an immense amount of meaning into perfectly balanced and powerful designs.

Although his extensive career included teaching at Yale University and forwarding the Mid-Century Modernist movement in the United States, some of Rand’s most defining work is still seen in major corporate logos. His commercial designs include Westinghouse, UPS, Colorforms, ABC networks, Ford, NEXT computers, and IBM. The IBM logo is just one of the demonstrations of Rand’s conceptual understanding of form and space, as two designs of the stripes were presented for the corporate identity. A bold version was intended for public identification, while the more delicate version received greater utilization within the company, where finesse would be seen as an aspect of personality.

Current Impacts

Even after his passing in 1996, Rand has continued to remain influential and inspirational to the world of visual media. As a designer, he took the structural solidity of the Bauhaus movement and recomposed these forms into graphics, which greatly became the basis for Mid-Century Modernism. The style has continued to impact the melding of function and aesthetics for branding and marketing, and is still a strong basis for present day print campaigns.

Visions Forward

It’s interesting to ponder what Paul Rand would be doing now, had he been born into the millennial generation. Design seems to have taken new meaning these days, or has it? The Visual Media Alliance will be hosting a design conference during SF Design Week on June 9 at the Midway in San Francisco. We will be hearing from some of the Paul Rand of today and have a conversation about the evolution of design. Join us.

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