Paul Rand is the easily the designer I most admire. He was incredibly original, prolific, and modern before his time. He was great at "defamiliarizing the ordinary" – making everyday, mundane things interesting again. A lot of his work remains relevant and timeless. His website houses an amazing collection of his work, even those I'm not familiar with. It also has his writings on design. I am working my way through them now. Inspired would best describe how I feel as I go through his work.
Here's a great excerpt from Integrity and Invention from 1971:ARTISTIC INTEGRITY
There are those who believe that the role the designer must play is fixed and determined by the socio-economic climate; that he must discover his functional niche and fit himself into it. It seems to me that this ready-made image ignores the part the artist can play in creating this climate. Whether as advertising tycoons, missile builders, public or private citizens, we are all human beings, and to endure we must, first of all, be for ourselves. It is only when man is not accepted as the centre of human concern that it becomes feasible to create a system of production which values profit out of proportion to responsible public service, or to design ads in which the only aesthetic criteria are the use of fashionable illustrations and ‘in’ type faces. The commercial artist (designer) who wants to be more than a mere stylist and who wishes to avoid being overwhelmed by the demands of clients, the idiosyncrasies of public taste, and the ambiguities of consumer research surveys must become clear as to what his cultural contribution should be. In all these areas he must try to distinguish the real from the imaginary, the sincere from the pretentious, and the objective from the biased. If the commercial artist has both talent and a commitment to aesthetic values, he will automatically try to make the product of graphic design both pleasing and visually stimulating to the user or the viewer. By stimulating I mean that this work will add something to the spectator’s experience.
The artist must believe his work is an aesthetic statement, but he must also understand his general role in society. It is this role that justifies his spending the client’s money and his risking other people’s jobs. And it entitles him to make mistakes. He adds something to the world. He gives it new ways of feeling and of thinking. He opens doors to new experience. He provides new alternatives as solutions to old problems. There is nothing wrong with selling, even with ‘hard’ selling, but selling which misrepresents, condescends, relies on sheer gullibility or stupidity is wrong. Morally, it is very difficult for an artist to do a direct and creative job if dishonest claims are being made for the product he is asked to advertise, or if, as an industrial designer, he is supposed to exercise mere stylistic ingenuity to give an old product a new appearance. The artist’s sense of worth depends on his feeling of integrity. If this is destroyed, he will no longer be able to function creatively. Below are some of my favourites from his gallery:
A logo for Esquire magazine... just subtly naughty, SO modern for 1938!
I love this one for Yale University Press (1985)
Consolidated Cigar Corporation (1959)
Norwalk Cancer Center (1996)
Ford Motor Company (discarded logo, 1996) love this!
Direction magazine cover (Dec 1940)
Apparel Arts magazine cover (Oct/Nov 1939)
the man himself