Paul Rand’s Logo Design Principles (And How They Can Help Designers)

by Mike Jansen
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Paul Rand's Logo Design Principles and How They Can Help Designers

A 60-years long career that changed the American landscape of design.

As it is a creative domain, in design, two plus two does not always turn out to be four. Every designer – a novice or an expert – brings their own reasoning, approach, and working style to the table. That is what makes design such a welcoming yet tough nut to crack field. However, there shall be a method to the madness. 

To Follow Principles or Not To Follow

As an artist – a designer – we have come across the dilemma of taking a suggestion from an expert or trying it our way, read a book on designing, or explore from what we know, most of all – to follow principles or create our own. Therefore, before we go through the legendary designer, Paul Rand’s principles, let us understand what good those will bring:

  • Clarity: These design principles will bring you clarity – you may or may not follow a rigid path concerning the implementation of the same. 
  • Subtraction, not addition: Eliminating negative blueprints is generally a lot simpler than tracking down the specific right approach to act. That is where design principles help, guiding you not about what to do, but, what not to do.
  • Stability: You can be assured that design principles will always remain a safe place to explore. They’re extremely straightforward perceptions. They depict human instinct and nature, not the specific situation of the moment. Thus, can be applied under multiple scenarios. 

Now that we have gone through an understanding of the importance of design principles. Let us explore the ones given by the legendary graphic designer, Paul Rand. 

Related: Paul Rand, everything is design!

Paul Rand’s Design Principles

The only designer approached by Steve Jobs for the creation of a logo of NeXT Inc. Nonetheless, the stretch with Steve Jobs or the Next logo was not anyway Paul Rand’s zenith of expertise. The iconic designer has gifted the modern era with the following set of logos:

Paul Rand's Logo Design Principles (And How They Can Help Designers)

While setting a benchmark like never before, he has given his best to help aspiring designers reach their fullest potential. For starters, he laid out the following principles to guide us along the way:

“A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around.”

Designers consider graphics and logos as though they were liable for passing on significance without a company and any other factor. Thus, the achievement or the opposite – failure – of a logo is considered a factor by some.  

Rand never appointed such significance to a logo. Obviously, this doesn’t imply that he considered a logo as a mere symbol holding no significance, but he saw the logo as a method of marking and not of meaning. Accordingly, giving a logo enough degree of significance, however no obligation.

Paul Rand's Logo Design Principles (And How They Can Help Designers)

His logo for IBM was a basic logo (the logo in 1956) and it is world-famous today. In view of this principle, we can see that from this logo we aren’t sure what kind of organization IBM is. Be that as it may, the manner of speaking of this logo shows that the company is a solid and expert organization with a strong, grounded, and adjusted surfacing, without utilizing unpredictable design work. In the next logo (1972) Rand added even, horizontal stripes through a blue typeface. This led to an additional pace and vitality to the logo, which is what the organization depended on at that point.

Read more: How to design an enduring logo: lessons from IBM and Paul Rand

“The only mandate in logo design is that they be distinctive, memorable, and clear.”

With the growing presence of most companies on the internet, we zoom in on even the smallest aspects of a company. When it comes to design, there have been factors bothering designers – such as matching a logo to the company’s color palette or representing the logo in a way that portrays what the company is about.

Paul Rand's Logo Design Principles (And How They Can Help Designers)

However, if we look at the logo for Westinghouse created by Paul, we will understand how little importance relativity plays in logo designing. Through this principle, he implies that even though it is a good idea to give a hint of the company’s mission to the customer through a logo, it also puts a ceiling to the company’s expansion possibilities. 

Presentation is Key

Rand brought a sense of confidence to the client at every meeting, and as soon as he would provide them with the final output, the confidence seemed entirely justified. 

While every designer focuses on ensuring that the logo is clean and unique, not all of them are successful at understanding the meaning of the presentation in its entirety. According to Paul, a designer must never leave a client or a design with simple symbols and fonts but also add a pinch of story into the same. Only through excelling at implementing this element of a logo (story), will a designer be able to evoke emotions within the client and their customers, make the entire design more engaging and versatile, and represent an idea as planned by the client and designer together.

Paul Rand's Logo Design Principles (And How They Can Help Designers)

While working on Steve Jobs’ logo project, Rand simply refused to offer a revision of the logo he provided. He concocted a 100-page handout specifying the brand, including the exact angle utilized for the logo (28°) and the organization name, NeXT – and won it all by adding a layer of presentation to his work. 

“Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.”

While the term minimalism came around recently, simplicity has always been an epicenter of the process of logo design. It goes without saying, Paul Rand knew the importance of simplicity in a logo, and ensured it was implemented in each set of his work. 

Paul Rand's Logo Design Principles (And How They Can Help Designers)

If we take a look at some of the logos created by Rand, such as UPS and Enron, we will see a layer of simplicity and modern design in his works. As per Rand, forward-thinking, reductive (or as we call it, minimalistic), and simple logos or graphics are always better than fancy and restrictive logos. 

Related: Paul Rand on Beauty, Simplicity, the Power of Symbols 

To Wrap Up,

Starting from painting signboards for his father, Paul surely came a long way, and with time and his principles of design, took all designers to the path of understanding and creating true design. A lot of designers look up to the Brooklyn-born iconic designer, Paul Rand, who started creating with ripples and eventually changed the entire dynamics of the design industry. With his timeless knowledge, anyone can start seeing design everywhere. Some experts even believe that before Paul took over the torch, it was all about writers. The writers would create a copy and companies would consider designers to simply add colors to it. With his principles, he put designers on the map. And we couldn’t agree more. 

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