creative juice

Design pioneers: Paul Rand.

Every line of work started with a group of pioneers who paved the way in their field. Design is no different. Good design is based on a foundational approach to aesthetics and usability. Yesterday’s designers didn’t have the technology we have today, but they did have the fundamental knowledge that great design is about communicating.

We’re excited to present a series of posts that explores the pioneering legends of graphic design. Some have long passed on and some are still alive and working.

The first graphic design pioneer we’d like to highlight is Paul Rand.

According to Paul Rand’s website,, he was born “Peretz Rosenbaum (August 15, 1914 – November 26, 1996) and was a well-known American graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs.”

We’ve summarized much of the information found on his website and created a sort of cheat-sheet on this graphic design pioneer. However, we encourage you to find out as much as you can about this design legend, as the principals he talked about then are as relevant today as they were when he was a young designer.

Education: Pratt Institute (1929-1932), Parsons School of Design (1932-1933), Art Students League (1933-1934)

Early career: He began his career with a part-time position creating stock images for a syndicate that supplied graphics for various newspapers and magazines. It was around this time that he changed his name from Peretz Rosenbaum to Paul Rand, which he liked better because it was shorter–and he liked the symmetry of the 4 letters in each name. In his early twenties he began designing covers for Direction magazine and soon gained international acclaim.

Notable work: Designed corporate identities for IBM, ABC, Cummins Engine, Westinghouse, and UPS.

“Ideas do not need to be esoteric to be original or exciting.” –Paul Rand

Modernist influences: Rand celebrated the modernist philosophy and was influenced by artists like Paul Cézanne and Jan Tschichold. 

“From Impressionism to Pop Art, the commonplace and even the comic strip have become ingredients for the artist’s caldron. What Cézanne 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.” –Paul Rand

The idea of “defamiliarizing the ordinary” was the catalyst in Rand’s designs. He sought to create “lively and original” packaging for everyday products, including light bulbs for Westinghouse.

For a complete list of Paul Rand’s clients and experience, check out this Timeline. This long list is a testament to the many projects he worked on throughout his career.

Watch a video about Paul Rand’s corporate logo work plus his work on the NEXT logo for Steve Jobs:

There is so much more information about Paul Rand on this comprehensive website. Go read more about this design pioneer!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.