In This Case: Artist Paul Rand

Madeline on September 22, 2017

Paul Rand, a 20th-century graphic designer and art director, was a master at combining elements of fine art and design. His hallmark style combined recognizable symbols, text, and humor to communicate clear messages in creative ways. His iconic logo designs for major firms such as IBM, UPS, NeXT Computer, and ABC transformed the way major companies created brand identity.

SAAM owns a striking example of his work that is now on view at the museum's Luce Foundation Center. In the 1950s, Walter Paepcke, founder of the Container Corporation of America (CCA) and patron of the arts, wanted to bolster awareness of his business and distinguish his manufactured corrugated box company from the competition. His wife, Elizabeth Paepcke, suggested he partner with avant-garde artists "to associate the CCA with design excellence." This idea was forward thinking for its time since most companies featured realistic product images in their ads.

From this came the Great Ideas of Western Man campaign. Artists were chosen to create an ad based on quotes from the classics. The only restriction was the ad could have no copy except for the CCA name and logo.

Paul Rand was asked to participate and was given this quote to work with by the 18th-century British lawyer and politician Thomas Erskine, on the advantages of free speech:

When men can freely communicate their thoughts and their sufferings, real or imaginary, their passions spend themselves in air, like gunpowder scattered upon the surface; but pent up by terrors, they work unseen, burst forth in a moment, and destroy everything in their course.

Rand thought the figure had "haunting eyes." The strategic placement of the quote, laying across the mouth, suggests the individual in Rand's piece is unable to speak. The face's fleeting glance, frantic eyes, and the ripped paper edges of the quote create an underlying sense of anxiety when the freedom to speak freely is absent.

For Paul Rand, the line between fine art and commercial art wasn’t always a clear one. Learn more and explore artworks by Rand in SAAM’s collection.