Paul Rand (1914–96) was, and still is, a pioneering figure in American and global graphic design. He explored, creatively challenged and merged idioms of art movements such as Cubism, Constructivism and De Stijl. Rand’s unique and distinct style paved a new form of graphic language.
There were three key movements which directly influenced Rand’s work; Cubism, Constructivism, De Stijl. But what do they all mean? Here is a micro art history lesson, which will help us understand and identify the quirks to Rand’s unique design style.
The Cubism movement emerged in France in 1906. Of the time, Paris was the epi-centre of art creation and Cubism allowed artists to explore the relationship between illusion and reality.
The artistic style typically depicts objects which are analysed, broken up and reassembled into flat 2 dimensional abstract forms.
Key figures of this movement include; Pablo Picasso, George Braque and the later work of Paul Cezanne.
Constructivism was a radical art movement which emerged in Russia in 1913. Unlike Cubism, Constructivism artists rejected the ‘art for art’s sake’ concept and focused on social, political and industrial influences. These strong topical themes were translated into informative street art and educational posters which connected the audience with issues of the industrial revolution.
Characteristics of Constructivism art contain bold lettering, photography and powerful use of flat colour.
Key figures of this movement include; Vladmir Tatlin, Alexander Rodchenko and El Lissitzky.
Originating in Amsterdam 1917, De Stijl was a Dutch art movement. It’s artists were driven to find an ideal balance and harmony in art and life through the use of geometric shapes and primary colours.
The iconic magazine De Stijl was launched by one of the movement’s leaders; Theo Van Doesburg. The publication adopted a very distinctive design aesthetic with strict use of sans serif* typefaces, straight lines, tight rectangular blocks and asymmetrical layouts.
Key figures of this movement include; Piet Mondrian and Theo Van Doesburg.
*Sans Serif is a typeface which does not have extended features to it’s letterforms and has main strokes of consistent thickness; like Helvetica, Gill Sans and Arial
Rand’s work is characterised by wit, threaded by Swiss design and executed the Bauhaus-way (with emphasis on typography as its most intense form). Formally educated in New York in both art and graphic design, Rand’s distinct creative methods positioned him as a major player amongst the editorial design, advertising and corporate branding arena.
In 1955 Rand became the ultimate design consultant to major companies like IBM, Cummins Engine Company, Westinghouse Electric and NeXT. His mastery logo-type for IBM was created in 1956 and still holds true-to-form today.
He influenced successive generations of designers through his writings and his involvement in design education (AIGA – American Institute of Graphic Arts). His many awards included gold medals from AIGA and the Art Directors Club of New York, joining their Hall of Fame in 1972.
Renowned for big corporation branding and visual identity, here is a snippet collection of Rand’s most successful commissions:
Paul Rand in his home studio
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