Paul Rand: Picasso of graphic design

August 5, 2010

The Guardian published a list of top 10 graphic design books, and one is Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art. I don’t know much about graphic design or books on the subject, but the Paul Rand book has a special place in my heart. It was given to me as a good-bye gift when I left Chicago in 1987. I remember the moment clearly when I stopped by the lobby of the corporate workplace – I believe it was on Michigan Avenue – to say farewell to a friend, who was in his beginning years as a graphic designer. He surprised me with the book, wrapped as a gift.  Now, these many years later, he owns a design company based in Chicago with worldwide clients.

For my untrained eye, the Paul Rand book is something beautiful and inviting to page through,  with its design examples of book covers, corporate advertisements and magazine ads. But it is so much more than that, recognized in 1997 by Critique Magazine as “a sermon from the mount, with every essay a commandment—not about what to design, but about how to think about design.” (via the Paul Rand website)

And then this, from the graphic designer who created the list for the Guardian: “Paul Rand is one of only a handful of names that is guaranteed to appear on any list of the greatest graphic designers. The almost magical invention in his work, and the prominence he maintained over five decades, mark him out as the Picasso of graphic design. In this collection of his writing he shows as much clarity and verve in articulating his approach to design as in the wealth of examples that illustrate the text. Both make the book enormously compelling.”

Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art was published in 1985 by Yale University Press. It’s no longer in print but can be purchased from used booksellers. Looking through it again this evening, I found an advertisement created for a place where I once worked. The book still delights me with new things to see.

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