Biography of Graphic Designer Paul Rand

An inspiring figure in modern graphic design

Graphic designer Paul Rand

catherinecronin / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Paul Rand is one of the most famous and influential graphic designers in history. He is best known for his logo design and corporate branding, having created timeless icons such as the IBM and ABC television logos.

IBM Logo Courtesy of Paul Rand via Wikimedia Commons
IBM Logo. Paul Rand / Public Domain

Born Peretz Rosenbaum on August 15, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York, he stuck close to his birthplace and attended several of the most respected design schools in New York. Between 1929 and 1933, he studied at Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design, and the Art Students League.

Paul Rand's Career

Rand first made a name for himself as an editorial designer for magazines such as Esquire and Direction. He occasionally worked for free in turn for creative freedom, which added to his fame within the design community.

Rand's reputation took root in his position as art director for the William H. Weintraub agency in New York, where he worked from 1941 through 1954. His collaboration with copywriter Bill Bernbach helped shape the model for the writer-designer relationship common in agencies today.

Over the course of his career, Rand designed elements for some of the most memorable brands in history, including logos for IBM, Westinghouse, ABC, NeXT, UPS, and Enron. Steve Jobs was Rand's client for the NeXT logo; Jobs later called him a "gem," a "deep thinker," and a man with a "slightly rough exterior with a teddy bear inside."

Later in life, Rand drew on his impressive education and experience to teach at Pratt, Yale University, and Cooper Union.

Rand's Signature Style

Rand was part of an American graphic design movement in the 1940s and 50s known for originality and a focus on freeform layouts. These were typically much less structured than those prominent in European design at the time. Rand is acknowledged as a founder of the Swiss style of graphic design.

ee cummings book cover designed by Paul Rand
 Paul Rand

Rand used collage, photography, artwork, and type to engage his audience, combining shapes, space, and contrast in clever, fun, unconventional, and risky ways. His pieces challenged viewers to think about, interact with, and interpret them.

Death

Rand spent his later years living and working in Norwalk, Connecticut. He died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 82.

Recognition and Legacy

Apple honored Rand's design approach by featuring him in one of their iconic "Think Different" ads. Universities and schools such as Yale and Parsons conferred many honorary degrees upon Rand in recognition of his creativity and innovation. Even today, Rand's works, memoirs and his 1947 book Thoughts on Design continue to educate students and professionals in the graphic design field.