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History of Advertising

Why Paul Rand Transcended Design

Paul Rand is known as one of the most iconic graphic designers in American history, but his contributions are even greater than that. He elevated commercial artistry into graphic design. Previously, art directors were often known (behind their backs) as page decorators. Make it pretty, make it blue, send it through. Rand was one of the best, most articulate, most persuasive practioners to show companies the power of a corporate vocabulary — how their imagery (logo, colors, type, visuals, etc.) established how they were perceived in the marketplace. Other famous Rand logos were for UPS, Westinghouse and NeXT computers (for Steve Jobs).

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For NeXT, the story is that Rand told Jobs he would only give him one solution to “solve his problem”, not several to choose from. Rand presented a 100-page binder full of his thinking, which had the logo at the end. Supposedly, Jobs jumped up and hugged Rand, loving it.

For those who wonder how could Rand do work for both IBM and NeXT, as they were competitors, remember that we in the business are mercenaries. Our allegiance is to the checkbook. Bill Bernbach told us as much when he took on the German car firm Volkswagen as a client at his small Jewish ad agency, DDB.

Rand’s first logo for IBM, in 1956, was black, without the horizontal lines we all know today.He didn’t make that version until 1972. In 1981, to support IBM’s motto “THINK”, Rand made the popular rebus. I never liked it, thinking that it didn’t reflect the personality of a corporate technology company, but given that it was designed to be internal, not customer-facing, and in the context that it was a playful picture puzzle in line with IBM’s credo, it makes sense.

Rand is the personification of the belief that the brand does not make the advertising; advertising makes the brand. Cite him the next time a company wants to pay $25 for a new logo or the boss wants her nephew to whip something up.

History of Advertising