The Museum of the City of New York has announced a new exhibit opening in February, Everything is Design: The Work of Paul Rand, showcasing the nearly six-decade career of visionary American graphic design master Paul Rand (1914-1996).
Born in Brooklyn with a father who owned a small grocery store, Rand rose to the heights of 20th century design, seen as one of the most influential designers in the history of print and often called the ‘Picasso of graphic design.’
After launching his career with magazine cover designs introducing Europe’s modernist graphic ideas to America, Rand worked as an art director on Madison Avenue and revolutionized the advertising profession. Illustrated through 150 pieces of Rand’s work, the exhibition also includes his pioneering corporate communications and rebranding campaigns for IBM, and ground-breaking logos for ABC, UPS, Westinghouse, Morningstar, and Steve Job’s NeXT project. Everything is Design: The Work of Paul Rand will open on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 and remain on view until Sunday, July 19, 2015.
“Paul Rand refashioned the advertising industry in New York City and introduced the concept of branding and logo recognition,” said Susan Henshaw Jones, the Ronay Menschel Director at the City Museum. “People all over the world are familiar with the work he created, which lives on today, and we are thrilled that visitors will now get more acquainted with the mastermind behind it.”
Born Peretz Rosenbaum in Brooklyn, NY, Paul Rand launched his career in the 1930s with magazine cover design. It was through his Apparel Arts (a sister publication of Esquire) and Direction magazine covers that he introduced European modernism into American graphic design. By the 1940s Rand was chief art director at William H. Weintraub Advertising Agency on Madison Avenue, where he revolutionized the ad world by cleverly marrying text and image into dynamic layouts – allowing designers to take the lead on composition instead of copywriters. He was named one of the ten best art directors in history by the Museum of Modern Art. It was during the 1950s and beyond that garnered Rand some of his most recognizable design work, developing logos for leading American corporations such as IBM, ABC, UPS, and later Jobs’ short-lived but visually acclaimed NeXT project. Rand received many design honors during his career and was posthumously inducted into the advertising world’s prestigious One Club Creative Hall of Fame in 2007.
“Paul Rand once said ‘the problem of the artist is to defamiliarize the ordinary’ and it’s a motto he took risks with throughout his career. For example, he would pair images of radically different scale or media, unusual color combinations, and bold typefaces with delicate hand lettering,” said Donald Albrecht, the Museum of the City of New York’s Curator of Architecture and Design. “The result would be a visually stimulating, memorable, problem-solving approach to a design.”
The exhibition was made possible through the leadership of co-chairs Dana Arnett, Michael Bierut, Steven Heller, Curt Schreiber, Willy Wong, and Keith Yamashita.
Everything is Design is organized into the following sections:
Early Life and Career illustrates Paul Rand’s work as art director with samples of Apparel Arts magazine covers from 1936 through 1941 and Direction magazine covers, between 1938 and 1945. This section shows how Rand’s modernist approach, especially for Direction, sought to compete with The Bauhaus – the famous German design school whose less-is-more aesthetic was spreading throughout the United States.
Transforming Madison Avenue explores Rand’s designs at the William H. Weintraub Advertising Agency during a moment of transformation in the industry in the 1940s and early 50s. Examples of Rand’s work from this period include campaigns that combined his characteristic fusion of photographs, type, and elegant line drawings including Ohrbach’s department store in New York City and Kaufmann’s department store in Pittsburgh. Also included are serial ads for El Producto cigars – starring a cartoon cigar. These ads appeared frequently, grabbing the attention of smokers and non-smokers alike who wanted to follow the antics of the company’s trademark cigar figure.
Books and Publications displays Rand’s extensive work with the publishing industry. His ability to merge text and image was an ideal skill for book jacket design, and the section will present samples of his work from the Museum of Modern Art’s publications, Wittenborn & Company, and Alfred A. Knopf – for which Rand even designed a highly stylized version of its borzoi dog logo. His first cover for The Cubist Painters by Guillaume Apollinaire was completely abstract, a radical gesture that set the tone for his future experimental work in book design. In subsequent decades, Rand went on to interpret, in striking visualizations, art movements such as Dada, as well as the writings of Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Alfred Camus.
Creating Corporate America depicts Rand’s extensive work for American business, which began with a massive rebranding campaign around IBM’s entry into electronic computing in 1956. Rand developed a comprehensive visual communications strategy – highly unusual at the time – that used the same IBM logo across various platforms, from advertising to packaging, stationary, and even architectural signage. The section will display before and after images of IBM’s logo and its use, as well as examples of corporate work that followed, including: UPS, ABC, Westinghouse, and Morningstar. According to his colleague Lou Danziger, “[Rand] almost single-handedly convinced business that design was an effective tool.” Also, incorporated in this section is Rand’s collaboration with Steve Jobs – a long-time admirer of Rand’s work – in the 1980s on the launch of Jobs’ educational computer company, NeXT. Since the design of NeXT’s new product was shrouded in secrecy, Rand created a logo based entirely on the company’s name, without any pictorial reference.
Writing and Teaching demonstrates how Rand not only expressed himself through visual media, but also as an author, starting with Thoughts on Design in 1947 and continuing to his final book From Lescaux to Brooklyn in 1996. In addition, Rand and his wife Ann co-authored three illustrated children’s books, all of which will be on view. This section also provides insight into Rand’s many years as an educator from his first position at Pratt Institute to his most prolonged stint as professor at Yale University—where he taught from the 1950s through the 90s.
Everything is Design is curated by Donald Albrecht, who is the City Museum’s Curator of Architecture and Design and designed by Perrin Studio.
The exhibition at the City Museum is made possible by IBM. Additional support is provided by AIGA NY, VSA Partners, New York State Council on the Arts, Philip Burton, Todd Degarmo/STUDIOS Architecture, Steven Heller, Kyu, Will Miller and Lynne Maguire, David Rhodes, Willy Wong, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, Chronicle Books, Lee P. Gelber, Pentagram, and Keith Yamashita and Todd Holcomb.
About the Museum of the City of New York
Founded in 1923 as a private, nonprofit corporation, the Museum of the City of New York celebrates and interprets the city, educating the public about its distinctive character, especially its heritage of diversity, opportunity, and perpetual transformation. The Museum connects the past, present, and future of New York City, and serves the people of the city as well as visitors from around the world through exhibitions, school and public programs, publications, and collections. Visit www.mcny.org to learn more.