Peretz Rosenbaum (born August 15, 1914, in Brooklyn, NY) would later change his name to Paul Rand and become one of the most famous and influential graphic designers in history. He is best known for his logo design and corporate branding, creating timeless icons such as the IBM and ABC television logos. He was one of the first American commercial artists to embrace and practice the Swiss Style of graphic design.
On August 15, 1914, in Brooklyn, New York, Rand was born as Peretz Rosenbaum and was raised in a strict Orthodox Jewish home. Orthodox Jewish law forbids the creation of images that can be worshiped as idols, but already at a young age, Rand copied pictures of the models shown on advertising displays in his father’s grocery store, and violated the rules. His father frequently warned him that art was no way to make a living, so he decided to enroll him at Manhattan’s Harren High School. While Paul was studying there, his father agreed to let his son attend night classes at the Pratt Institute. Paul attended several art schools, such as The New School for Design, the Art Students League, and Yale University in Connecticut. Even with his rich academic career in arts, Rand developed his graphic sense through self-education.
Rand began his career as a part-time stock image creator for a syndicate. Soon his class assignments and part-time job rendered him to assemble a distinguished portfolio. His work was highly influenced by Sachplakat, the German advertising style and Gustav Jensen’s works. During this time he also decided to camouflage his Jewish origin by shortening and modernizing his name Peretz Rosenbaum as Paul Rand.
Rand went and made a name for himself as an editorial designer, doing work for magazines such as Esquire and Direction. He even worked for free in some cases in turn for creative freedom, and as a result, his style became known in the design community.
Rand’s popularity really grew as an art director for the William H. Weintraub agency in New York, where he worked from 1941 through 1954. There, he partnered with copywriter Bill Bernbach and together they created a model for the writer- designer relationship.
During the 1950s and ’60s, as American corporations were turning to graphic designers to create contemporary trademarks and consistent graphic standards, Rand became a prominent advocate of such visual-identity systems.
Rand’s career spanned seven decades, and in that time his graphic designs, teaching, and ideas broadly influenced several generations of American designers.
Rand’s Signature Style
Rand was part of a movement in the 1940’s and 50’s, in which American designers were coming up with original styles. He was a major figure in this change that had a focus on freeform layouts that were much less structured than prominent European design.
Rand used collage, photography, artwork and unique use of type to engage his audience. When viewing a Rand ad, a viewer is challenged to think, interact, and interpret it. Using clever, fun, unconventional, and risky approaches to the use of shapes, space, and contrast, Rand created a unique user experience.
It was perhaps put most simply and accurately when Rand was featured in one of Apple’s classic ads that stated, “Think Different,” and that’s exactly what he did. Today, he is known as one of the founding members of the ‘Swiss Style’ of graphic design.
Though best known for the corporate logos he designed in the ’50s and ’60s, it was his earlier work in magazine design and layout that first earned him international acclaim. The reputation Rand so quickly established for himself continued to grow over the years. He produced many extraordinary designs in the ’80s and ’90s. Here are a few of the most well known designs:
In the late 1930s he created covers for a series of design magazines, including Apparel Arts, Direction and AD.
In the mid-1950s, Rand revolutionized book-cover design using abstraction, dramatic color combinations and his own distinct, thread-thin script.
He designed many logos, among them the ones for Westinghouse, ABC and United Parcel Services in the 1960s, IMB in 1972, Cummins Engine in 1979 and for Steve Jobs’ Next in 1986.
Paul Rand died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 82. At this time, he was living and working in Norwalk, Connecticut. Much of his later years were spent writing his memoirs. Paul Rand will remain one of the most famous graphic designers in the world and his work and advice for approaching graphic design will live on to inspire designers.