When someone no less in stature than Steve Jobs requests you by name and refuses to work with anyone else, you know you’ve entered a rare stratosphere. Paul Rand was the name on Jobs' mind when he needed a logo for his new company after being ousted from Apple in 1985. Credited with bringing the Swiss style of graphic design to the United States, Rand is also often attributed with completely changing the visual landscape of America in both the arts and commerce. His designs were simple, meaningful, and memorable. All characteristics that led to him design the logos for behemoths like IBM, ABC, and UPS, and creating magazine covers & spreads for Esquire & GQ’s precursor, Apparel Arts.

Paul Rand Profile
Rand at his studio in Weston, CT

Anyone who says youth is wasted on the young isn't familiar with Rand. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Rand had stared his career by age 15, defying his parents and lying about his age to be able to enroll in night classes at the Pratt Institute while in high school. Just out of school, Rand began producing covers for a politically charged arts magazine Direction and, with complete creative control, had the rare opportunity to publish his work to large audiences fresh out of college.

So what was his work all about?

In his book, Thoughts on Design, Rand quotes philosopher John Dewey when he says “great original artists take a tradition into themselves. They have not shunned but digested it. Then the very conflict set up between it and what is new in themselves and in their environment creates the tension that demands a new mode of expression”. The break from the past that the Bauhaus and the Swiss style ushered in was the tradition that Rand “digested”. If you take a look at his work, you can see the influence that designers like Lazlo Moholy Nagy and artists like Paul Klee had on him. You can also see the play and humor that makes his work different.

Paul Rand Art Directors Club
Art Directors Club Hall of Fame invitation and RSVP card, 1983.

You can also see a playfulness and humor that makes his work different and speaks to us here at Adsum.

Rand’s influence can be seen in our own approach to graphic design. The most direct of his influence is exhibited on our notepads, a design that borrows heavily from a letterhead he had while living and working in Weston, Connecticut.

Adsum Notepad

We could try to sum up the appeal of Rand’s but Steve Jobs really nailed it when he said in an interview “[Paul’s] work for me is very emotional. And yet when you study it, it is very intellectual … so if you scratch the surface on any of his work, you find out the depth of the intellectual problem solving that has taken place, and yet when you see it, it’s wonderfully emotional."

Paul Rand Grave - Adsum
Before Paul Rand died in 1996, he asked the Swiss designer Fred Troller to make a headstone for him that would transcend the usual clichés.

To the end Rand kept to his principles and produced work that is at the same time simple, meaningful and memorable.

His gravestone, two stacked marble cubes inscribed in considered typography standing out amongst a sea of tradition & sameness, says it all.