Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Paul Rand - Jason Calixto

Paul Rand changed the world. I sincerely believe that. Without Paul Rand, many art forms of the later 20th century would have died out with hardly any recognition. Paul Rand's art helped push modernist thought to the foreground (and consequently, postmodern thought). I was first exposed to Paul Rand as a young child, on a family trip to New York. And I immediately became obsessed with him, although unknowingly. I didn't have to go to a museum to see his art. I saw it for free in the maps of the NYC metro system. That's what makes me believe that Paul Rand is singlehandedly the most important figure of the modern/(although he would argue) postmodern art world. He formed the modern world with his ability to 'identify'. He saw art and design in terms of need and function. He would analyze problems with a boundless fantasy. He didn't just steer the design world in a new direction of presentation, he changed the rules by which design functioned. He rewrote what design in the modern age meant. In my opinion, his most enduring work would have to be his name, or as he saw it, his 'brand'. Born Peretz Rosenbaum, he decided to change his name to Paul Rand to hide his Jewish identity around the time of World War II. He figured that a more Madison-Avenue friendly name wouldn't hurt his chances of getting a job. Although he was intrigued by design at a very early age, Rand's father believed that art would not be able to sufficiently provide for his needs so he forced Rand to attend a school particularly known for engine study while taking night classes at Pratt Institute. Rand's reputation soared in his 20's after doing work for several magazine publications, the most notable being Apparel Arts (now GQ). He was described by ad men at GQ as having "a remarkable talent for transforming mundane photographs into dynamic compositions" which in Rand's eyes 'simply added weight' to the composition.
Other than the NYC metro map design, Paul Rand's most notable work is his logo art. His work in the field of company logos has yet to be discontinued with, and many present-day companies owe everything to Rand's work. He had an eye for simplifying and at the same time magnifying. Many of the logos we see today still have elements of Rand's influence (honestly, some of his work is still used as company logos i.e. UPS, abc, IBM). What makes Rand's work vastly different from any other designer was his approach to constructing identity. He didn't just see it as artistic presentation, he saw the logo as the personality of the company. He believed that a logo could not survive unless it was designed with the utmost simplicity and restraint. This modernist approach to artistic representation influenced many other fields of art, specifically architecture. 

What really draws me to Paul Rand is how efficient his design is. The simplicity relieves the pressure of interpretation. The meaning of his work presents itself immediately. It becomes almost tangible. Aside from the efficiency of his design, he wasn't afraid to make mistakes. That's my favorite quality of his. But because he's such an artistic genius, most of his 'mistakes' are purposeful and almost always never come across as mistakes: it is simply his art as it was meant. His art is playful and inviting, simple and efficient. He knew the power of good design. And the whole world is indebted to him.  
Rand, Paul, and Yūsaku Kamekura. Paul Rand, His Work from 1946 to 1958. Tokyo, Zokeisha: Knopf, 1959. Print.
Roberts, Caroline. Graphic Design Visionaries. London: Laurence King, 2015. Print.
Rand, Paul. From Lascaux to Brooklyn. New Haven: Yale UP, 1996. Print.


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