THREE – Paul Rand: the Brander

Who designed design?

One of many inspirational artists of the 20th century, graphic designer Paul Rand was a modernist; a design radical who shifted traditional views on design and drew us closer to the field we know and love today.

Paul Rand
Rand, late in his illustrious career (Alcheruk).

Formerly Peretz Rosenbaum, Paul Rand simply wished to excel in his craft. Yet, through his work, Rand revolutionised the world of graphic design. Most famous for the corporate logos he created in the 1950’s and 1960’s including ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), UPS (United Parcel Service) and IBM (International Business Machines), Rand’s ability to identify the need for exalted the regard in which businesses held design:

“He almost singlehandedly convinced business that design was an effective tool. [. . .] Anyone designing in the 1950s and 1960s owed much to Rand, who largely made it possible for us to work. He more than anyone else made the profession reputable. We went from being commercial artists to being graphic designers largely on his merits.”

– Louis Danziger (Heller, 1997)

Rand’s recipe was rooted in the modernist philosophy he so valued, built on theories proposed by leading philosophers of art, including Roger Fry, Alfred North Whitehead, and John Dewey. Early in Rand’s ‘Thoughts on Design’ (referred to as the bible of modern practice), he begins drawing lines between Dewey’s philosophy and the need for “functional-aesthetic perfection” in modern art (Rand, 1947). His thesis was founded upon the principles of memorability, meaning and modesty. The simplicity which his work engendered was a byproduct of these values, assuming figure as the embodiment of form and function: the integration of the beautiful and the useful (Rand, 1947).

Good design adds value of some kind, gives meaning, and, not incidentally, can be sheer pleasure to behold; it respects the viewer’s sensibilities and rewards the entrepreneur.

— Rand, Design Form and Chaos, 1993

Based on these sentiments, I was charged with the task of constructing a sandwich to represent our graphic design patriarch, Paul Rand.

A portion of the process.

The process, although seemingly simple, involved much deep reflection: how does one sufficiently represent such a prevalent figure in history in a single sandwich? In order to answer this question I undertook a process of trying to understand Rand’s rationale. Reading short biographies, observing his known and less-known works and referring to words Rand had uttered himself allowed me to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how he approached design problems.

“Don’ try to be original. Just try to be good.”

– Rand

Using the above quote from Rand as inspiration, I set out to create a good sandwich that expressed meaning, memorability and modesty. These three attributes are seen in subtle forms.

The complete sandwich (see below) is, in fact, somewhat plain, comprised of two thick slices of white-loaf bread, a thin layer of tzatziki spread, sliced cheese and ham, topped with tomato. Each retains its original form, circular or rectangular – modesty in its essence. This simplicity conveys meaning. It provokes particular thoughts for each individual dependent on their experience with it: some may relate it to their lunch break at the office, others may reminisce about childhood or their first time parenting, whilst some may see it as a downgrade from lavish living. In any case, it delivers enticing emotions. A distinct feature of this sandwich is its form. The three-way split inspired by Rand’s iterations of the IBM logo creates the illusion that the sandwich is something more unique; more memorable.

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This composition empitomises Rand’s view on design and is characteristic of his works. Its memorable form and strong colour represents the idealogies which influenced his vision for “functional-aesthetic perfection”.

In brief, Rand – ‘the Brander’ revolutionised how artists in our time view and develop design. His contribution to the field is invaluable in the eyes of any designer, and his influence will continue to exert itself upon society through visual communication. I hope to take Rand’s values, motives and practices and attempt to adapt them to my own method in order to create more value for viewers.


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