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."