Paul Rand Graphic Designer – (Peretz Rosenbaum)

Paul Rand

was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1914. His love of graphic design showed at a very early age when he would paint signs for his father’s grocery store and also for school events. His father was against Rand going into an Art career partly because of their Jewish background which forbade the worshiping of graven images and also because he felt that the boy could not earn a good wage from it. Paul Rand was sent to Manhattan’s Harren High School at the same time as attending night classes at the Pratt Institute where he could follow his interest. He did not feel that the Pratt Institute assisted him and tried other schools of design in the New York Area and in the end became a self-taught designer.

Paul Rand Graphic DesignerWhen he started work he had a part time job creating standard images for newspapers and magazines and managed to amass a large portfolio. It was around now that he changed his original Jewish name to Paul Rand and his first corporate image was born.

By the time he was in his twenties he was beginning to be recognized as a brilliant designer after offering ‘no fee’ deals in return for being allowed to explore his abilities. It was as a result of these exploits that he eventually obtained a full time job and an offer to take over as an art director for Esquire – Coronet magazines.

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Rand’s greatest work is without doubt the contribution to graphic design in his corporate identities such as IBM, ABC, Westinghouse and UPS.

He almost singlehandedly convinced business that design was an effective tool. Anyone designing in the 1950s and 1960s owed much to Rand, who largely made it possible for us to work. He, more than anyone else, made the profession reputable. We went from being commercial artists to being graphic designers largely on his merits.

(Louis Danziger)

The IBM corporate identity in 1956 was so distinctive it awoke corporate consciousness and public awareness of what branding could do.

Rand was quite reclusive about his creativity and his meeting with Moholy-Nagy helped him to realize that he needed to understand the theory behind design to improve. He devoured all the well known theorists, particularly Dewey, and as a result his work improved further.

Besides being the ‘giant’ of graphic design he did have his critics. He was accused of being ‘reactionary and hostile to new ideas about design… an enemy of mediocrity, a radical modernist’ (Heller).

Peretz RosenbaumIt certainly was true that the main ideology behind his career was his modernist philosophy. He loved Paul Cezanne among others in the movement and would always try to build connections between their applications and graphic design.

From Impressionism to Pop Art, the commonplace and even the comic strip have become ingredients for the artist’s caldron. What Cezanne did with apples, Picasso with guitars, Leger with machines, Schwitters with rubbish, and Duchamp with urinals makes it clear that revelation does not depend upon grandiose concepts. The problem of the artist is to defamiliarize the ordinary’ (A Designer’s Art – Paul Rand)

Rand died of cancer on November 26 1996.

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