Designer Paul Rand’s Pioneering Corporate Branding Campaigns on View at MCNY Exhibit

Check out his work for IBM, ABC, UPS, and NeXT…

Paul Rand Coronet Brandy FinalPaul Rand intersects with many areas of New York media, including communications, publishing, and advertising. He was the first graphic designer to use modern branding, with logos integrated across platforms, including products, showrooms and architecture,” said famed design and architecture curator Donald Albrecht.

Albrecht spoke during a press preview and tour earlier this week for a new exhibit he curated titled Everything is Design: the Work of Paul Rand, on view now at MCNY/Museum of the City of New York.

It’s MCNY’s first show devoted to a graphic designer, whose career spanned nearly 6 decades starting in the 1930s. 150 of Rand’s works are on display through July 19.

Paul Rand El Producto Cigars Gift Box FinalRand had a bold, though some may say risky, M.O. for pitching clients. “He only presented one idea to each client and said if you want other ideas, ask other designers,” according to Albrecht.
“He was highly quotable, and had a wonderful sense of wit. He used humor in many of his visuals”, such as the El Producto cigar gift box and Coronet brandy ads, the curator added. (the beach references bring Corona beer ads to mind)

“Rand did legendary corporate campaigns for IBM, ABC, and UPS,” said Albrecht. The designer died in 1996, but his legacy includes designs and logos that are still in use today. Perhaps his most notable effort was creating IBM’s corporate design program. “Thomas Watson, Jr. wanted to put his own stamp on his company as it became global” in 1956, Albrecht said. He hired Rand to develop the logo for stationary, packaging and buildings to give them a unified look.

Paul Rand NeXT Logo FinalSteve Jobs, another noted design maestro, asked Rand to do the logo for the launch of NeXT, his educational computer company, in 1986 (poster pictured). As Albrecht noted, the Jobs commission led to a new corporate burst of interest in Rand.

Just as the tech world nowadays believes in iterative changes, Rand incrementally updated his designs on occasion. Below his Westinghouse logo he added three dots. (similar to Nielsen’s current logo.) Then six years after his initial IBM logo, Rand revised the design, “adding stripes to give it a sense of forward movement,” Albrecht said.

Paul Rand IBM Carbon Paper Packaging Courtesy of IBM Corporate Archives“Overall, Paul Rand saw himself solving problems artfully, he elevated design within the business community and brought fine arts to the commercial world. He also followed the European approach that fused design with industry and everyday life”, Albrecht said.

Rand also clearly appreciated the value of PR, as evidenced by this quote: “I signed my work simply as a way of promoting myself.”

(IBM carbon paper packaging image courtesy of IBM corporate archives)
(El Producto gift box image courtesy of Steven Heller)