Week 8: Chapters 18, 19 and 20

There are no formulas in creative work. I do many variations, which is a question of curiosity. I arrive at many different configurations-some just slight variations, others more radical-of an original idea. It is a game of evolution.

(http://www.paul-rand.com/)

  (image from  http://meansheets.com/2010/04/27/rand-om-thoughts/)

Paul Rand, designer extraordinaire,  was born Peretz Rosenbaum August 15, 1914, in New York. (1)  A Jewish surname in the early decades of 20th Century America made it more difficult to find work in advertising, which could account for the change of his name to Paul Rand, which with “four letters here, four letters there, would create a nice symbol.” (2)  Peter Behrens noted that “Rand’s new persona, which served as the brand name for his many accomplishments, was the first corporate identity he created, and it may also eventually prove to be the most enduring.” (3) Whatever the name, the talent and drive were there, and Rand persevered in his design aspirations, despite the fact that his father was convinced that a man couldn’t make a living in art and tried throughout his childhood to dissuade him. (4)

(a sample of logos by Paul Rand. Image from http://www.iconofgraphics.com/Paul-Rand/ )

Rand’s stubbornness did persuade his father to allow him to take night classes at the Pratt Institute with the provision that he attend public high school at the same time. (5)  Interestingly, professional sources such as the Art Directors Club emphasize that Rand was a “former student at the Pratt Institute” (6), but he is popularly known as a self-educated designer. Rand himself contended that he “had literally learned nothing at Pratt; or whatever little I learned, I learned by doing myself”. (7)  Rand drew inspiration from Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, A.M. Cassandre, and E. McKnight Kauffer, and “a magazine–a single copy of Gebraushgrafik, from a tiny bookstore next door to the Brooklyn Paramount theater” (8). This is not to say that Rand was against formal education. He attended Parsons School of Design and the Art Students League at various times, and taught at Yale from 1956 until his retirement in 1985. (9) Based on his writings in “The Politics of Design,” we could even assume that Rand would approve of our study of graphic history in this course. He wrote:  “… trying to produce good work is very often an exercise in futility. Ignorance of the history and methodology of design — how work is conceived, produced, and reproduced — adds to the difficulties and misunderstandings.” (10)

Paul Rand is probably best remembered for his corporate branding. He designed many ad campaigns, and proved to be a talented typographer and book designer. He also authored many books, including three children’s books co-authored with his wife Anne.  titled Sparkle and Spin Little 1, and Listen! Listen!. (11) He took joy in creating trademarks; as a matter of fact,  he was designing trademarks on November 26, 1996, the day he died at the age of 82. (12)

(image from http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/03/27/little-1-paul-rand/ , where entire book can be viewed)

Imaginary forces created a short entertaining movie with clips from Paul Rand speaking about design and its meaning. http://www.imaginaryforces.com/featured-work/experience-design/paul-rand-film/ for Rand’s posthumous induction into the One Club Hall of Fame.

Even though Paul Rand was seminal in introducing modernism to America, his aversion to most graphics that espoused post-modernism. In “Confusion and Chaos: The Seduction of Contemporary Graphic Design,” Rand wrote “These inspirational decorations are, apparently, convenient stand-ins for real ideas and genuine skills.” and “Today’s Dada, if it can be called that, is a revolt against anything that is deemed old hat. Faddish and frivolous, it harbors its own built-in boredom.” (13)  This in turn led to some criticism of Rand. For instance, someone named Mark  Favermann considered Rand’s attitude one of “a reactionary, angry old man.” (14) Look at Rand’s logos, still famous today. Look at Mark Favermann, hardly known today. I’m voting for “designer of impeccable taste” rather than “angry old man.” Rand evolved in his life and his design, and maintained his standards throughout.

Rand appeared on an Apple “Think Different” poster:

https://i0.wp.com/www.paul-rand.com/assets/bio/bio_pic3.gif (image from http://www.paul-rand.com/assets/bio/bio_pic3.gif )

The full version of the text which accompanied Apples “Think Different” ads rather sums up a perspective on Paul Rand:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. – Apple Inc.” (14)

———————

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Rand
  2. http://www.iconofgraphics.com/Paul-Rand/
  3. http://www.paul-rand.com/foundation/biography/
  4. http://www.paul-rand.com/foundation/biography/
  5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Rand
  6. http://www.adcglobal.org/archive/hof/1972/?id=300
  7. http://www.iconofgraphics.com/Paul-Rand/  (quote from an interview with Paul Rand by Steven Heller in 1988)
  8. http://www.logomojo.com/logo-design/paul-rand
  9. http://www.yale.edu/opa/arc-ybc/ybc/v25.n16.obit.03.html
  10. http://www.paul-rand.com/foundation/thoughts_politics/
  11. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/03/27/little-1-paul-rand/
  12. http://www.iconofgraphics.com/Paul-Rand/
  13. http://www.paul-rand.com/foundation/thoughts_confusionChaos/
  14. http://www.paul-rand.com/foundation/biography/
  15. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Think_Different
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