How Paul Rand Changed American Design

how paul rand changed design

For a long time, and still now in certain circles, Graphic Design wasn’t considered ‘art.’ Corporate ID, logos, book covers, brochures, branding and the like were looked upon as a trade rather than an aesthetic talent. Rarely did one admire, let alone frame a brochure cover, an advertisement or other form of Corporate Identity. Designer Paul Rand changed all that. And now there’s an exhibit to prove it.

How Paul Rand Changed American Design

Everything is Design: The Work of Paul Rand features more than 150 advertisements, posters, corporate brochures, and books by this master of American design. It was Rand who most creatively brought European avant-garde art movements such as Cubism and Constructivism to graphic design in the United States.

His philosophy, as expressed in his work and writings, including the recently republished 1947 Thoughts on Design, argued that visual language should integrate form and function.

Paul Rand exhibit photo by @LangeAlexandra

Born in Brooklyn in humble circumstances, Rand (1914-1996) launched his career in the 1930s with magazine cover design and, starting in the early 1940s, he worked as an art director on Madison Avenue, where he helped revolutionize the advertising profession. He later served as design consultant to leading corporations like IBM, ABC, UPS, and Steve Jobs’s NeXT, for whom he conceived comprehensive visual communications systems, ranging from packaging to building signage, all grounded in recognizable logos, many of which are still in use today.

Rand’s influence was extended by students he taught at Yale University. His visually stimulating, yet problem-solving, approach to graphic design attracted devoted admirers during his own lifetime and he remains influential today.

Here’s a look at some of the pieces in the exhibit:

AD magazine, Volume 7, 1939, with cover design by Paul Rand ~ Private Collection

Brochure for IBM carbon paper, designed by Paul Rand ~ Courtesy of IBM Corporate Archives

A gift box for El Producto cigars from 1952 by the graphic designer Paul Rand:

Coronet Brandy magazine advertisement, 1948 ~ Private Collection:

I Know A Lot of Things, book designed by Paul Rand and written by Ann Rand, 1956 ~ Private Collection:

Idea- International Advertising Art magazine, Volume 2, 1955, with cover design by Paul Rand ~ Private Collection:

The proof for a book cover for the novella “Traps,” from 1956. Paul Rand, Museum of the City of New York, Steven Heller:

Jazzways magazine, Volume 1, 1946, with cover design by Paul Rand ~ Private Collection:

New York Times review of the exhibit

Purchase books about and by Paul Rand here

“Everything Is Design: The Work of Paul Rand” runs through July 19 at the Museum of the City of New York; The Museum is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm.

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