Paul Rand on design

Want more design? Stay tuned for QUIRKY, premiering in August on Sundance Channel

If you don’t know the eminent graphic designer Paul Rand by name you definitely know his work. He created the logos for IBM, UPS, ABC and Enron, to name just a few. He’s also one of the originators of the International Typographic Style, also known as the Swiss Style (though he’s a Brooklyn native), which was created in the 1950s to emphasize minimalism, sans-serif typefaces and gridded, asymmetrical layouts.

But even non-designers can learn something from Rand. He was, after all, well known for being an inspirational teacher at Yale. In 1998, two years after his death, SVA held a symposium in his honor. Attendees received an extremely limited edition book of his thoughts and quotes about design, which has remained extremely limited until now, thanks to Steven Heller, who’s made it available in PDF via his blog The Daily Heller.

What’s instructive about this thin volume is the critical mass of inspiring ideas and off-hand comments forging a designer’s philosophy. In fact, in the section on ‘Philosophy’ he said:

“Design is a way of life, a point of view. It involves the whole complex of visual communications: talent, creative ability, manual skill, and technical knowledge. Aesthetics and economics, technology and psychology are intrinsically related to the process.”

Other highlights include:

-Good design adds value of some kind, gives meaning, and, not incidentally, can be sheer pleasure to behold; it respects the viewer’s sensibilities and rewards the entrepreneur.

-To design is to transform prose into poetry.

-What the designer and his client have in common is a license to practice without a license.

-There are designers with a sense of humor and there are those without. Given the same content, the success is in the delivery. Groucho Marx can make anything funny, while others with similar material might just be tiresome.