Virtuous cycle

Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Paul Rand’s identity works

Paul Rand is perhaps America’s most famous identity designer, who developed logos such as IBM’s or NEXT’s.

Therefore it might be a shame to admit that it was only recently that I became aware of his works, nevertheless, I wanted to share appreciation of his identity document for Steve Jobs’ NEXT:

On the webpage, you need to scroll down to “identity presentations” section. Reading from photos is not comfortable but doable, especially if you are on a mac and can zoom easily.

One might find his approach to design problems rather intellectual if not pedantic, with all the detailed discussion of why this font and not another, why in italics and why in this color, but I find it quite fascinating, personally.

In fact, I found my way to this document passing from Steve Job’s record of his relationship with Rand:

Note the fragment when Jobs describes Rand’s way of working with his clients:

I asked him if he would come up with a few options. And he said, “No, I will solve your problem for you, and you will pay me. And you don’t have to use the solution – if you want options, go talk to other people. But I’ll solve your problem for you the best way I know how, and you use it or not, that’s up to you – you’re the client – but you pay me.”

This reminds me, by the way, of a common dilemma in consulting of whether we solve problems for the client or with the client.

But to finish the episode with Steve Jobs and Rand, here is the account of how the cooperation started:

Jobs had always had an eye for good design. He was especially taken with the logos of ABC, IBM, UPS, and Westinghouse, all of which were created by Yale professor Paul Rand. Rand offered to create NeXT’s logo for $100,000, but only if IBM consented.

This was an outrageous price, many times more than what Rand had charged IBM for its now-iconic logo. Two months later, Rand sent Jobs a copy of the logo and a brochure explaining every detail. For the sake of a more interesting design, Rand even renamed the company NeXT, saying the ‘e’ stood for education. The new logo (and the name behind it) lent prestige and clout to a company without customers or a product.