Case Studies

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This Month's Feature

A Designer's Art by Paul Rand
Yale University Press. 1985. 239 Pages. 188 Illustrations. Prices Vary.

You may think you know, but you have no idea. Whether you are looking to do some light reading or design inspiration - this is definitely a book of choice. Paul Rand knows a great deal about Graphic Design and shares some of his knowledge in this book. You may think you know everything about the world of Graphics but Paul Rand is sure to bring something new your design craft.

Paul Rand - Logo Design

Rand has done work for a lot of well-known companies. He has created identities as well as designs for IBM, UPS, ABC and Westinghouse, just to name a few. The book is packed with some of his captivating work that supports the interesting issues or topics of discussions that Rand reflects upon. This book is recommended for teachers, students and experienced designers. To some the information may seem a bit redundant but there is definitely valuable information within it.

As with most design books, readers start off by being enlightened on the true meaning of graphic design versus the dictionary definition, which can be misleading. Designers are called upon to fix/solve communication problems that companies or clients have. The design process in which designers go through can be challenging but throughout the book Rand does a good job at pointing out some of the issues that may come across and ways to solve them.

Paul Rand - Direction Covers

The next chapter deals with "Symbols in Visual Communication". Symbolscan be something like a lion for courage or the cross to represent Christianity. He discusses the different ways to depict a symbol whether it is an abstract/geometric shape, photograph or a drawing. An example that is given is the human eye. He shows the pictorial image of an eye, a hand drawn rendering then a very simple solid circle with a larger circle with an outline. These three examples represent eyes but all have a different feel to them.

The book continues to explain and give examples of different elements that can help shape a design. Rand brings to light the different design principles that designers should incorporate in their work. Principles that designers should be aware of in their designs include line work, repetition, legibility, chosen imagery, ideas, layout and typography. These principles can turn a bad design into a good one.

Paul Rand - AIGA Design

A Designer's Art performs two different tasks. Although it is similar to other technical design books that I've read, it does have something that others simply do not - design work from Rand. Rand has a very unique way of approaching design that all designers can appreciate. The tips that Rand brings to the table are valuable. Being a well-known graphic designer proves or gives support to the points that he is trying to make. Why wouldn't you believe the words of a designer who has done graphics for some of the most popular companies in the world?

“The visuals of  Rand's work are  a BIG plus of  the book…”

The visuals of Rand's work are a big plus of the book. His work is distinct and it helped prove the points he made. Since the book is sort of like the do's and don'ts of graphic design, I found everything to be useful. Sections of the book that I enjoyed the most consist of The Role of Humor, The Meaning of Repetition and The Third Dimension. As a designer, I never thought of incorporating humor into my work.

Paul Rand - Cummings Cover Design

In the Meaning of Repetition, Rand changed my viewpoint of repeating an image throughout a design. I always thought that showing the same image more than once was dumb; if you saw it the first time, why show it again? Rand proved that you can do so without looking obnoxious.

The Third Dimension deals with product packaging and even interior design. With product packaging you have to think of your design and how it can relate to the viewer based on the viewer's perspective, which designers need to be aware of. Rand shows his IBM product room concept in this chapter which is very breath-taking.

With every good book there is a downside - or maybe I expected more. I would like to know or get inside the head of the designer. Why did he make the decisions he made? What inspired him? A lot of Paul Rand's work is impressive but to know what he was thinking would have made the book that much better. Another thing that would have been interesting to see in the book is proof. More like evidence, or slight things he did within the design that made it better. To do this he could have simply had some first drafts or shown slight revisions that helped make the design come to life.

Teachers, students and experienced designers are sure to find vital lessons that can be learned from A Designer's Art. He puts a lot of things into layman's terms, which makes this an easy read and he also gives visual references to help illustrate his points. Even if you thought you knew everything about design, read this book and you are bound to learn something new about Graphic Design.

- Written by Ernie Armstead, Jr. 11/10

Quotes from Paul Rand

On the designer - "He must therefore discover a means of communication between himself and the spectator (a condition with which the easel painter need not concern himself)." Rand, 7

On the design task - "The visual statement... that seeks to express the essence of an idea, and that is based on function, fantasy, and analytic judgment, is likely to be not only unique but meaningful and memorable as well." Rand, 48

On the design - "Through trial and error, I have found that the solution to this enigma rests, to a large extent, on two factors: the kind of problem chosen from study, and the way it is posed." Rand, 189