Quick Design History: Paul Rand #ThrowbackThursday

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Introducing … Throwback Thursday! In a new Shillington Design Blog series, each week we will feature a design legend that we love. Think of it as Design History 101 meets the hashtag era. You can expect a wide variety of creatives and a quick snapshot of their work, influence and legacy. 

Paul Rand (1914-1996)

I’m excited to launch #tbt with American design legend Paul Rand. Rand helped define American visual culture after World War II, transforming advertising to be more than just billboards, pioneering “branding” and developing a new approach to selling products.

Rand helped convince the corporate world that graphic design was good for business.

Born in Brooklyn in 1914, Rand went on to study art at Pratt Institute in Manhattan. He began creating magazine covers at a men’s fashion magazine owned by Esquire and was quickly recognised as an important commercial artist. His work in advertising incorporated Modernist Swiss and German thinking—paring back copy, introducing negative space and simplicity, combined with humour and colour.

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In 1947, Rand published his first book, Thoughts on Design, selling the essential relationship between how something looked and what it delivered. A good piece of design had to be both beautiful and persuasive.

Rand continued to do work for the corporate world, crafting simple recognisable logos for the likes of IBM, UPS, and ABC, many of which are still in use today.

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I love that Rand helped business see the value of identity systems and consistent branding in such a clear, simple swiss style. There’s a reason we’re still referencing and aspiring to his style today.

If you happen to be in NYC—the history lesson doesn’t stop here—check out Everything Design, an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York.

Keep your eyes peeled for next week’s Throwback Thursday. Here’s a hint about the next #tbt design legend: the average lifespan of his logo designs is an unbelievable 33 years.

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