Paul Rand Research by Rebecca Sarenac

Born in Brooklyn, New York 1914 as Petez Rosenbaum. Rand was raised in the Orthodox Jewish law, forbidding the creation of images that can be worshiped as idols. Still, he started design at a young age, painting signs for his father's grocery store and for school events at P.S. 109.

Rand's interest in art early in life was influenced by comic strips. Specifically "Krazy Kat" by George Herriman and Nell Brinkley's women.

"Krazy Kat on left and Nell Brinkley's women on right.

Rand's father believed art was not a career path, and only agreed to pay for night classes at Pratt Institute if Rand agreed to attend Manhattan's Harren High School. However, neither of these schools gave him any stimulation, and despite taking classes at other New York institutions, Rand was a self-taught-designer.

After spending time in bookshops, he discovered and learned from "Gebrauchsgraphik."

Rand's career began with a part-time job creating stock graphics for a syndicate that supplied maps, advertising cuts, and lettering to magazines and newspapers. Through his job and school assignments, Rand was able to create a substantial portfolio, largely influenced by the style Sachplakat (object poster) and the works of Gustav Jensen. However, Rand believed the quality of his work would not assure a position with future employment and decided to change his name.

Rand was hired by Joe Switzer, an advertising and package designer, at $10 a week doing newspaper adds for a pharmaceutical company named Squibb and packages for Hormel meats. In 1935, he opened his own studio and did freelance layout work from Glass Packer magazine, along with additional ads. Finally, Rand was offered a full time position with the Esquire-Coronet company in 1936, and a year later he was offered the job as art director of the New York office.

Logo Paul Rand created: Esquire magazine on left and Coronet Brandy on right.

In 1938, Rand was asked to design some covers by the publisher of Direction magazine, Marguerite Tjader Harris. He was offered creative freedom instead of money, along with a few Le Corbusier original drawings later on. Rand produced Direction covers from 1938 to 1941, expanding on his method and into new areas of graphic design. The first cover he created symbolized Nazi Germany's dismemberment of Czechoslovakia. This was created by a cutout map of Czechoslovakia photographed on a copy camera against a white background, and lit so that the shadow was three-dimensional. The two intersecting bars split the map and suggests the lines of German annexation.

First cover of Direction designed by Paul Rand. "It pinpoints the distinction between abstract design without content and abstract design with content. You can be a great manipulator of form, but if the solution is not apt, it's for the birds." -Paul Rand

In 1941, Rand left Esquire-Coronet to become art director of Weintraub Agency. Within a year, he hired a large staff, yet rarely delegated and preferred to design everything himself. While there wasn't much advertising designed in the 1940s , most of it was dictated by copies, Rand believed that advertising composition was a design problem that required solutions. This then influenced the development of "creative teams" that paired art directors and copywriters.

Rand's defining corporate identity was his IBM logo in 1956. Louis Danziger, a designer, said "he almost singlehandedly convinced business that design was an effective tool." Although some may interpret his logos as simplistic, Rand pointed out "ideas do not need to be esoteric to be original or exciting."

Interesting Facts

  • Lasting influence was the modernist philosophy.
  • Considered by some as the father of modern graphic design.
  • Was agitated by rise of postmodernist theory and aesthetic in design.
  • Rand loved the practice of creating designs capable of retaining recognizable quality even after being blurred or mutilated.
  • Rand was a graphic design professor at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut from 1956 to 1969 and 1974 to 1984.
  • He was inducted into the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1972.
  • Rand also attended Parsons (The New School for Design) from 1932 to 1933 and the Art Students League from 1933 to 1934.
  • Appointed by Ford Motor Company in 1960s to redesign corporate logo, but they did not use his modernized design.
  • He collaborated with Steve Jobs on the NeXT Computer corporate identity. Jobs labeled him "the greatest living graphic designer."
  • Devoted his final years to design work and writing his memoirs.
  • Died of Cancer at age 82 on November 26, 1996 in Norwalk, Connecticut.


Paul Rand: A Brief Biography. (2007, April 11). Retrieved from

Heller, S. (May/June 1997). Thoughts on Rand. Print,Vol.51, Issue 3. Retrieved from

This logo is thought to be the last design Paul Rand made before he died in 1996. According to Servador's original website: "Servador is an Internet-based, business-to-business print buying and management company that saves corporations time, resources and money off of their current print spend."


Created with images by Mataparda - "krazy kat: yessss it will eh" • Pearlmatic - "1916 Sand Lilies by Nell Brinkley"

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