Paul Rand

Paul Rand Retrospective for the One Club Hall of Fame

One of my favorite graphic designers, Paul Rand, is being posthumously inducted into the One Club Hall of Fame. To honor his induction, one of my favorite motion graphics/titling/animation houses Imaginary Forces, has created a nice little animated short film for the ceremony. It combines original animation with sections of a videotaped interview of Rand, that encapsulated his unique and timeless contribution to the design community. Full of wonderful quotes about graphic design and art, this 4 minute short is worth the watch. I love the fact that they kept a 4 b3 aspect ratio, which is true to the formating of most of the title sequences Rand would have created in his day.

director – Mark Gardener
producer – Cara McKenney
designers/animators – Jeremy Cox, Joey Salim, & Liz Centolella
animators – Andrew Chung, Sean Eno and Chase Massingill
editor – Corey Weisz
sound design – Derek Lee


The IBM Poster Program

In the late 1960s, Paul Rand created a Design Guide for IBM that guided a group of very talented graphic designers on the visual execution of posters and advertising graphics for the company. More often than not Rand is the name that is associated with all of the work, but in reality designers, Ken White, John Anderson, and Tom Bluhm, and photographer Rodger Ewy created a large volume of the visual design work for IBM.

A new book documenting the posters these designers created. “The IBM Poster Program: Visual Memoranda,” showcases some of the most iconic examples of mid-century corporate graphic design with a unique commentary on corporate communications of that period. It also shows how Thomas J. Watson Jr.’s mantra, “Good Design is Good Business” infiltrated every facet of the IBM organization and created a lasting influence on curated corporate design in the United States.

This just went on my reading list.

“In the late 1960s, IBM was one of the world’s pre-eminent corporations, employing over 250,000 people in 100 countries and producing some of the most advanced products on earth. IBM President Thomas J. Watson Jnr. sought to elevate the company’s image by hiring world-renowned design consultants, including Eliot Noyes and Paul Rand. As well as developing the iconic IBM logo and a corporate design guide, Rand also brought together a remarkable team of internal staff designers. 

One of the designers he hand-picked was Ken White, who, along with John Anderson and Tom Bluhm, headed up the design team at the IBM Design Center in Boulder, Colorado. Together, they initiated a poster program as a platform for elevating internal communications and initiatives within the company. These posters were displayed in hallways, conference rooms, and cafeterias throughout IBM campuses, with subject matter including everything from encouraging equal opportunity policies to reminders on best
security practices to promoting a family fun day. Designers often incorporated figurative typography, dry humor, visual puns, and photography to craft memorable and compelling messages. Many of the posters won Type Directors Club awards and a large number were ‘re-appropriated from walls by enthusiastic IBM employees.

While Paul Rand’s creative genius has been well documented, the work of the IBM staff designers who executed his intent outlined in the IBM Design Guide has often gone unnoticed. The poster designs by White, Anderson, and Bluhm included in this book represent some of the most creative examples of mid-century corporate graphic design, while offering a unique commentary into corporate employee communications of the period. They also embody the full extent to which Thomas J. Watson Jr.’s mantra, “Good Design is Good Business” permeated every facet of the IBM organization, and created a lasting influence on curated corporate design in America.

Lund Humphries Books

Simon Page Poster Designs for IYA 2009

Simon Page is a self-taught graphic designer from the UK with an emphasis on typographic art, illustration and geometric design. Earlier this year he produced a series of posters for the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA) campaign.

The posters like most of his work is brilliant in it’s simplicity and use of geometric form. The style reminds me of  that mid 60’s to mid 70’s period where international style had distilled itself down to basic elements and was being widely used in text book cover design. Seriously, these posters remind me so much of science book covers from Jr. Highschool. Page’s color pallet is refined and exquisite. There is an excellent sense of balance, and layout that is carried across every poster.He uses subtle textures in the backgrounds that gives an almost nostalgic sense of age and use. The typography treatments are understated, yet help to pull the entire composition together in each poster. These posters are really, really nice.

According to Page he is influenced by a number of contemporary designers like, Alex Trochut, Joshua Davis, and James White. I would go on to say I think he has been influenced if even unintentionally, by designers like Joseph Müller-Brockmann,  Emil Ruder, Paul Rand, and Armin Hofmann.

The full series of International Year of Astronomy 2009 posters are available for purchase via: Graphic design by Simon Page.

Design Friday. Everyone is Going Retro

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Recently while scanning the pages of  The New Yorker Fast Company or The Economist I’ve noticed a new series of advertisements for IBM’s “Conversations for a Smarter Planet” campaign. It’s a series of ads that tries to position IBM at the forefront of technological thinking, ironically by using some very retro design styling.

With the use of Swiss type styling, extensive white space and Paul Rand or Charlie Harper, inspired flat graphic illustrations, these ads look more like IBM circa 1964. The design thinking behind these is perhaps trying to evoke  a memory of when IBM was thought of as a more progressive company than they are now. The fact is that the target audience they are selling these ideas to was probably born in the 1970’s, and has no relation to the referenced design style here.


The idea of a “Conversations for a smarter planet” green campaign is well intentioned, the execution is clean and the over all design well done. There is a great use of color and the icons themselves look fantastic. From a design perspective I love them. From a brand advertising perspective I’m not so sure they work. Ad images are meant to be relevant and engaging, they need to grab your attention and pull you in. They help set up the editorial, and hopefully cause you to take additional action like visiting a website, buying a product, bonding with a brand. These images, although eye-catching,seem to lack relevance and will probably be lost on the target audience. The question for IBM is will your viewers take the time to figure out the meaning of an abstract icon, and will they relate it to what you are trying to sell? Looking at these images, I wonder if most readers will venture further and read the copy heavy ads. The highly stylized visual IBM is gets in the way of the communication rather than leading to it.


Now lets compare the IBM campaign to Shell’s recent “Energy Future” Print campaign. Shell uses the same flat graphic stylistic look as IBM, but Shell hits the mark. The illustrations are bold and colorful. They offer a touch of humor that helps pull you in and invites you to read rest of the ad copy, and more over they are easy to understand. These ads succeed in communicating the complexity of Shell’s innovations and help build the Shell brand via straightforward communication and an honest feel.


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