Paul Rand’s contribution to the world of design and specifically posters and book covers remains unprecedented. As the pioneer of the new wave of creative designs which broke away from the busy over designed advertising and posters of the late 50s, his contribution makes him an artist in his own right amongst other contempory artists.
In one of his lectures at Yale University, he said “Form and content are asymetric. Formal values are very often independent of content. Time can, and does, erase meaning of once familiar artifacts, but time can never erase form. Spontaneity, fantasy, intuition, invention, and revelation also play an important part in the language of art.
Among the many aspects of form, problems pertaining to the principles of proportion, for example, are significant. The rules of proportion apply equally well to the Parthenon or to a can of Campbells soup. The same is true for all formal relationships: contrast, scale, balance, rhythm, rhyme, texture, repetition, etc.“
In looking at the designs of his posters which were often to promote “serious” if not potentially boring topics, he would use primary colours, simple designs, almost childish, where white spaces between designs was also a important protagonist in the design, giving more impact and a distinctive and modern look. Although his methods were unconventional, for they relied on the intelligence of the viewer, it was never too extreme either.
Here, this poster made for the Ministry of Interior in the USA was a reference to a historical heroic figure of the 19th century, and a picture of the statue representing this guard can be seen in the left corner. However, the rest of the poster is very modern.
In 1936 Rand was hired as a freelance-designer to produce layouts for “Apparel Arts”, a men’s fashion magazine. Even though, these could be considered not as real posters, they have a very modern edge – and are now used as posters.
In his advertising work Rand frequently used futura font instead of the more common calligraphic fonts. He wanted something simpler looking and in turn more eye-catching that the typical ads. Rand thought his designs should communicate, so the guy in the street knew what they were trying to sell. For every product he defined the problem and costumized a solution. Every detail was meant to attract the eye. He often divided designs into two components; a large mass that drew the attention and a smaller mass that needed closer attention.
Rand’s ads often contained sketchy drawing with visual puns, which at that time was unique and alluring. The “El producto” , Coronet or Dubonnet ads were a typical example of his way of working. He developed a logo which could be seen as an icon, a touchstone for everything that followed. He wouldn’t just put the logo at the base of an advertisement, it became a potential illustrative feature, a character.