Without aesthetic, design is either the humdrum repetition of familiar cliches or a wild scramble for novelty. Without the aesthetic, the computer is but a mindless speed machine, producing effects without substance. Form without relevant content, or content without meaningful form.--Paul Rand.

Paul Rand is probably the most influential figure in American graphic design, bar none.

Even if it is true that the average man seems most comfortable with commonplace and familiar, it is equally true that catering to bad taste, which we so readily attribute to the average reader, merely perpetuates that mediocrity and denies the reader one of the most easily accessible means for aesthetic development and eventual enjoyment.--more Rand brilliance.

This is exactly why people are still thinking and talking about Paul Rand today, and his body of work will continue to thrive in the annals of graphic design history. He was as precise and exacting about his words as he was his design. By being well versed in literature as well as design, Paul Rand kept his mind agile, open, and constantly full of good ideas, and more importantly, brilliant design solutions.

Paul Rand lived from 1914 to 1996, and had a career that ran the gamut of design. He was in advertising, book jacket design, magazine layout, art direction, and logo design. In fact, he practically pioneered the idea of branding. The godfather of logotypes, the lord of the brand, grand master of modernism...it's hard to imagine the world would be the same place if Paul Rand had never come along. Paul Rand designed logos for IBM, ABC, UPS, NeXT, Westinghouse, Enron, Yale University Press, and Cummins Engine, among others. IBM and ABC still use the logos he created for them decades ago. UPS only recently re-vamped their Rand-created logo, a move which was bemoaned by many a designer. Originally influenced purely by European modernism, Rand moved on to adjust his style until when looked at something he had designed, you knew exactly who’s work you were looking at. His playful solutions were, as he would always allege, the right ones. Rand was perhaps the premier graphic designer of the modernist movement. By eschewing the trendy, Rand managed to make all of his work virtually timeless.

So was it simply because he was so well versed in the history of design and literature that Rand was able to have the foresight to do this? If this is the case, and a greater vault of knowledge leads to better design, then shouldn’t all designers be reading as much as they possibly can? Not only on the subject of design, but also on many other subjects? And now, the real crux of it…if that is the case, isn’t this actually post-modern thinking? The idea that the more you know about the world, the more you know about design, since design (and art) is merely a response to the world around you? Is post-modernism actually an evolution of Paul Rand’s success, which stems from his knowledge of literature and history? I mean, obviously much of post-modernism is a reaction to modernist minimalism and simplicity, creating elaborate and beautiful designs with complex grid systems and layers of text, but has this proved to be as timeless a style as Rand’s? I suppose time will tell, as they say. But I feel that knowledge is definitely key when it comes to design. The more you know about your client, design, literature and life in general, the more easily solutions will come to you, and the more often they will be original and successful.

Rand taught at Yale from 1956-1969, and at several institutions of learning later in his career, including Cooper Union and Pratt. He also wrote and illustrated several children's books with his wife, Ann Rand.

Paul Rand's books:
A Designer's Art
From Lascaux to Brooklyn
Design, Form, and Chaos
Thoughts on Design
Good Design is Good Will
The Trademarks of Paul Rand, a Selection

Paul & Ann Rand's books:
Little 1
Sparkle and Spin: a Book about Word
I Know a Lot of Things

Books about Paul Rand:
Paul Rand by Steven Heller
Paul Rand: Modernist Designer by Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo
Paul Rand: American Modernist by Jessica Helfand

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