Thursday, January 27, 2011

From the archives: Paul Rand

Some individuals loom so large over their profession its difficult to get their full measure. Paul Rand (1914-1996) defined the field of graphic design in the 20th century and while he didn't do it single-handedly, its difficult to name others who could come close to touching him. Over summer I've been re-reading Steven Heller's excellent book on Paul Rand published in 1999, three years after his death. It's an inviting book, full of examples of his prodigious output – from early advertisements to his publication work, children's books, critical writing and corporate identity design. There's nothing the man didn't do or excel at (except marriage I take it). Heller's book was released when design discourse was in a war zone, postmodernism vs old school modernism. Some of that casts a shadow over the last years of Rand's life and this project. He clearly felt disrespected by the pot shots and narky criticism levelled at his work. Now, a decade on with the dust well and truly settled I think history favours Rand. His fine sensibility, joyous feeling for colour, conceptual but intuitive approach speaks for itself. Is there a lesson there? Be cool.

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