Famous Graphic Designers
Paul Rand - The Father of Graphic Design
Who is the most famous Graphic Designer?
Well, that is a tough question to answer, regardless, let us introduce you to Paul Rand since he is surely in our top 5 most influential graphic designers.
So, why Paul Rand?
Besides being well-known as a prolific graphic designer, he also once published a book called ‘Thoughts on Design’, it later went on to become one of the most influential graphic design pieces ever written, where much of his ideas, theories, and principles continue to shape how contemporary design artists conduct their creative and strategic efforts within the graphic design industry today… 73 years later.
He was an American art director from Brooklyn, with an education from the Pratt Institute, the Parsons School of Design, and the Art Students League. As a renowned graphic designer, he later became best known for his corporate logo designs, such as those designed for IBM, UPS, Enron, Morningstar, Inc., Westinghouse, ABC, and NeXT to name a few.
More importantly, he was a pioneer, the first American to adopt and practice what is known as the ‘Swiss Style’ of graphic design, or otherwise known as the ‘International Typographic Style’, which was largely influenced by the works of Josef Müller-Brockmann back in the mid-30s.
To briefly describe ‘The Swiss style’, its ideals focus much of its efforts towards producing clarity, accuracy, and elegant simplicity, and as such was strongly reflected in much of Rands future brand creations, especially depicted by his IBM, the 3rd UPS Logo Version, and the ABC brand visual identity.
As for his academic background, Rand was educated at the Pratt Institute, the Parsons School of Design, and the Art Students League. He was also invited to teach design at Yale University and was later inaugurated into the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame 48 years ago.
As previously mentioned, he was vastly influenced by the ever famous Josef Müller-Brockmann, the grandfather of Graphic Design, where his primary ideals dictated that graphic design should provide a sound balance between aesthetics and functionality – as he referred it to as producing “functional-aesthetic perfection”, a balance between crafting something that appeals both visually, and in a practical sense follows a visual hierarchy to convey a clear and legible message, along with promoting some form of a positive solution that can employ measurable results. Differing from that of art, where art is more concerned with expressing or conveying one or more ideas, both clearly and or conceptually abstract.
As for what Rand brought in terms of how he continues to influence graphic designers be it knowingly or unbeknownst to this day… first things first, he solidified the idea that great design requires Elegance, to produce great design, it must be clean and legible, on all levels of perception, literally, and conceptually. “The principal role of the logo is to identify… and simplicity is its means…. Its effectiveness depends on distinctiveness, visibility, adaptability, memorability, universality, and timelessness.”
He also proposes that design needs a sense of personality, specifically Humor, “…People who don’t have a sense of humor have serious problems.” As with your brand identity, while it needs to project a level of expertise and professionalism, it also needs to be approachable.
Hierarchy and Structure. Rand was generally was known to prioritize his creative output and not something that followed an unyielding, grid-like process. Rand had a multifaceted, almost contradictory view of what structure meant, viewing it as essential, specifically in terms of producing legibility, emphasis on context, and producing work with an objective, but also something to be disrupted, or at the very least derived from joy and play. His creative concepts were notably directed and influenced by Suprematism and Constructivism, De Stijl, and the Constructivism-inspired work of the Bauhaus, all building blocks of what later developed into what is now known as the Swiss style.
Exploration. Rand was the kind of creative designer that was unafraid to explore new ideas, visual and icons into his work. “Innovation is the enemy of trendiness, pretense, and timidity… It tantalizes the viewer, stimulates the mind, intensifies meaning, generates interest, and is at the heart of both better design and better business.” And so, it goes without saying, maintaining a sense of enthusiasm, adventure, excitement and a genuinely creative approach in your work process is very much paramount for any designer interested in sustaining their business or employment.
In terms of his business ethic and willingness to hold to his industry, skill, and business acumen, he was unyielding, a visionary, and a hero of sorts for those tinkering in the design industry. To illustrate who he was personally, apparently, he was the only designer Steve Jobs approached during the early phase of developing the brand called ‘NEXT’ when asked if he would deliver design alternatives for the eventual conceptual design work, Rand outright said “No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution, and if you want options go to other people. But I will solve your problem for you the best way that I know how.” Somewhat shocked by this attitude, Steve soon came to respect the designer, and later regarded him as probably “the greatest living graphic designer” before his death in 1996. Some say this helped shift Steve’s future business perspective, in terms of never giving into mediocracy and always striving towards what they strongly believe in.
Paul Rand was a man to encourage people in the design industry to defend their role as experts and support the ‘solutions’ they derive as the best option. After all, are they not experts in their respective fields?
“The designer who voluntarily presents his client with a batch of layouts does so not out prolificacy, but out of uncertainty or fear.”
A designer will always reflect the amount of impact with the confidence they are given.
He was also known to strongly criticize other design agencies for refusing to protect their interests – that being their industry. The types of agencies that plead for constant direction, host the expectation that their design process must include multiple options, multiple revisions, and approvals.
What are your thoughts on this? Is this ego or taking pride and expressing a professional capacity towards projecting yourself as an expert, along with protecting one’s business, ‘brand’, products, and or service? As a client, do you not host the same ideals about your deliverables?
For more information on Paul Rand, you can visit his official site: paulrand.design
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Written by Michael Jordon
14 Oct 2021