Paul Rand

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Paul Rand (1914 — 1996) was an American graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs, including the logos for IBM, UPS, Enron, Westinghouse, and ABC. He was one of the originators of the Swiss Style of graphic design, which emphasizes cleanliness, readability and objectivity.

Though Rand was a recluse in his creative process, doing the vast majority of the design load despite having a large staff at varying points in his career, he was very interested in producing books of theory to illuminate his philosophies. Among the ideas Rand pushed was the practice of creating graphic works capable of retaining but face recognizable quality even after being blurred or mutilated, a test Rand routinely performed on his corporate identities.

The core ideology that drove Rand’s career, and hence his lasting influence, was the modernist philosophy he so revered. He celebrated the works of artists from Paul Cézanne to Jan Tschichold, and constantly attempted to draw the connections between their creative output and significant applications in graphic design: ‘From Impressionism to Pop Art, the commonplace and even the comic strip have become ingredients for the artist’s cauldron. What Cézanne did with apples, Picasso with guitars, Léger 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.’

This idea of ‘defamiliarizing the ordinary’ (or ‘making the familiar strange,’ a strategy commonly credited to Russian Formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky) played an important part in Rand’s design choices. Working with manufacturers provided him the challenge of utilizing his corporate identities to create ‘lively and original’ packaging for mundane items, such as light bulbs for Westinghouse.

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