Paul Rand: quotes

“The artist is a collector of things imaginary or real. He accumulates things with the same enthusiasm that a little boy stuffs his pockets. The scrap heap and the museum are embraced with equal curiosity. He takes snapshots, makes notes and records impressions on tablecloths or newspapers, on backs of envelopes or matchbooks. Why one thing and not another is part of the mystery, but he is omnivorous.” 

Paul Rand, Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art

This is me. I am this magpie. I search hoard and collect anything that I find interesting and this makes sense of why. Inspiration can come from the smallest source and things ideas textures and items of the everyday may become unexpected items of interest one day, for the right brief. Things should be collected. Some people may do this automatically with notes mentally stored away, but for me i need a physical cue or memory jigger. I agree.

He implies that design is a way of life – it is all encompassing and that a designer doesn’t ever and shouldn’t ever stop thinking about design. There may be a separation from conscious and subconscious thought, but you should be armed and ready to catch the thought when it comes to you. By producing small notes, sketches, drawings and ideas this is a method of recording the thoughts at that time, or the imaginary products, but also they then become the product and the art themselves. It is linked in with the design cycle of constant spiral thought revisiting the brief and reflecting and readjusting.

“Visual communications of any kind, whether persuasive or informative, from billboards to birth announcements, should be seen as the embodiment of form and function: the integration of the beautiful and the useful.” 

Paul Rand, Thoughts on Design

I think what Paul Rand is referring to here is the not losing sight of form (beauty) over function (use) or function over form. The complexity and difficulty with designing a product, of any kind, lies in the product being suitable for both. Specifically, in graphic design it must be tempting to follow your own interests rather than stick to the specifications of the client and the brief. The indefinable skill lies in satisfying both well and the by-product should be positive reviews and appreciation.  In context, it may be easier to make an uncomfortable good looking chair rather than a good looking comfortable chair. I interpret this as meaning both concepts are of equal importance, despite there being an element of subjectivity about reviewing others art. Persuasive refers to advertising, such as billboards, and informative, with the example given as a birth announcement. The range is to illustrate this is across the board in all aspects of design.

I use the term play, but I mean coping with the problems of form and content, weighing relationships, establishing priorities. Every problem of form and content is different, which dictates that the rules of the game are different too.

— Graphic Wit “Paul Rand: The Play Instinct” 1991

I like that he sees the design problem as a game. We play a game. This conveys an element of fun and positivity. It implies not that there is a problem to be solved but a game to be played, which is for a finite time and at the end there will be a result. By talking about every problem being different this is in relation to the brief, which changes according to expectations, client, situation product, cost, purpose, and many other considerations that need tweaking and adjusting as part of the design cycle. Every brief is different and the skill set needed will be subtly different to satisfy the brief. Reflection and discourse – get feedback, rethink and redo – design means constantly changing.

Mies van der Rohe once said that being good is more important than being original. Originality is a product, not an intention.

— Graphic Wit “Paul Rand: The Play Instinct” 1991

True. I suppose intending to be original is setting yourself up for a fall. Just attempt to be good, and if you’re good enough you will in the end become original by forming your own style and associated acclaim.

I am a big fan of Paul Rand design work and writings. He had an indefinable, apparently effortless skill that we all strive to achieve. His writing share the complex undercurrents of the though processes involved in creating the simple effective designs, which he did very well. The swans paddling legs underwater as they apparently glide by? I like he was willing to share and help educate others to his techniques.



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