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Snack Podcast – Paul Rand (Episode 5)

Snack Podcast – Paul Rand
3 minutes read

Here we are again with a new awesome episode.

This week’s snack comes with some cool stories. The ABC logo, NeXT’s visual identy and the hustle of creating it and how designers beg for micromanagement are 3 topics that we’ll cover.

So here we go, the story of the man who started as a stock images creator and his path to becoming the most famous graphic designer.



Some say that Paul Rand is the most famous graphic designer in the history. Others say he is the best. I will definitely agree that he is the most famous one and i will let you decide if he is the best one or not. But before you do that, let me tell you a little about who he was and made him famous. 

I won’t bore you with a lot of history, I will briefly tell you about his career evolution. Afterwards, we’ll focus on the cool things like his awesome style, his work and his most iconic designs.

Born on August 15, 1914 in Brooklyn, New York,  Paul Rand started school at the Pratt Institute in 1929. Then he followed his love for art and applied for the Art Students League where he got accepted. He began his career humbly, creating stock images for a syndicate that supplied graphics to various newspapers and magazines.

After years of practice and study, he mastered the art of graphic design which he taught at Yale University in Connecticut. In 1972, he was included in the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame. Needless to say; he was the real deal.

But here’s something not a lot of people know about Paul Rand. While he worked as a stock images creator, he decided to shorten his name and went from “Peretz Rosenbaum” to the famous and memorable Paul Rand. Although he didn’t know it at the time, this was the first brand he created. (You can say that he put the “rand” in brand)

As far as his work is concerned, he became famous by designing some of the most iconic logos. Companies like ABC, NeXT Computers, UPS, Yale University Press and many others chose Rand to design their visual identities. Each and every project has a great story behind it.

Let’s take for example the “American Broadcasting Company” aka “ABC”. The iconic logo consisted of a simple black circle and the lowercase letters “ABC”. The logo stands out due to its simplicity and the extremely meticulous use of negative space.
This simple yet complicated design represented “abc” for a long time until they decided to make it three dimensional. Simplicity is one of the hallmarks of Paul Rand’s work. Of it, he said, I quote:

“Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.”

Besides “abc” there is another iconic logo that Paul Rand created and endured despite technological and cultural changes. And that is the IBM logo, which helped build one of the world’s greatest and most popular brands. The logo is a genuine portrayal of the confidence and the superiority IBM has in the Information Technology market.

One of the things that made Paul Rand stand out was his approach to design work. There is a certain problem he noticed in the behavior of the designers, something they struggle with even today. According to him, designers beg for micromanagement, showing many design options and requesting multiple rounds of revisions and approvals

They don’t have enough confidence in themselves or in their work for that matter. This is how Rand viewed this problem and I quote: “The designer who voluntarily presents his client with a batch of layouts does so not out prolificacy, but out of uncertainty or fear. He thus encourages the client to assume the role of referee.”

Rand approached his customers differently and that is one of reasons why Steve Jobs chose him to design the visual identity for “NeXT”.  The company needed a jewel that resembled their name and that won’t take millions of dollars to market. They needed what Apple has.When Jobs asked him if he could give some logo design alternatives, Rand answered firmly: “No, I will solve your problem for you. And you will pay me”. And he did it. He created a logo that made a instant mental connection with the NeXT’s identity.

His achievement made Steve Jobs admit right before Rand’s death in 1996, that Paul is “the greatest living graphic designer”.

Through his work and his unique style centered around problem solving, Paul Rand made a lasting impact on graphic design. He was a visionary, an early adopter and a bold artist. He might not be the best designer in the everyone’s eyes, but he definitely is the one that revolutionised the way we approach design and corporate identities.

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