Monday, August 19, 2013

How Paul Rand and IBM fathered Apple and the Beautiful Computer

This week at Colour Studio we wanted to introduce you to Paul Rand, an American graphic designer who brought computers and the companies that make them out of the bland realm of corporate design and began the slow process of personalization and brand loyalty we see today with companies like Apple.

He worked with a slew of well known clients including ABC, Ford, Yale University, UPS and IDEO.   The one relationship that came to define his career was his long time work for IBM. Paul Rand not only changed how we see  multinational corporations but  also demonstrated  how a designer can  effect the entire public personality of a client and even an industry.

He convinced IBM that design and the way the audience interacts with your product is just as important as the quality and usefulness of the product itself. This seems like common sense to many designers and companies today but there was a time when the visual stamp of a company was valued little when compared with its grander reputation. With the launch of his first IBM logo in 1956 Rand created not just a 'identity' for potential customers  to relate to, but launched a design ethos that echos to this day.

IBM logo, 1956
IBM logo, 13 bar variation
To modern eyes these original logos may feel  simplistic or dated but  they were designed when bold brand definition was in its infancy. The striped logo  has come to be synonymous with IBM and uses the simplicity of blue and white to convey the companies relationship to information.  Pixelated individual parts were constructed to form a visual whole. Rand set the viewers  emotional response to the logo by introducing that clear effortless blue, a color long associated with dependability and credible practices. 

The logo then began to insinuate itself into the package design, pamphlets, posters, and even annual reports. It helped ground the companies design footprint while still allowing Rand the opportunity to change the colors,  spacing or striping based on the logos context. It was precisely because of its simplicity that the logo was so versatile for use in any design setting.   Clear enough to carry the weight of the brand even when the color spacing and orientation of the letters changed. This image shows a set of package design from back when people actually bought things like typewriter ribbon. The design builds on the companies standard logo but also creates an eye catching and visually new interpretation of the logo itself. 

But by now you might be asking what does any of this have to do with Apple.  Rand and his IBM logo were the historical context which  inspired Apple in development of their brand.   Apple took Rand's design principles and used them not only in their own logo design but also in the design of their physical products.  The apple missing a bite  become  an idea as well as a design.   This was Rand's lasting legacy. It's the idea that matters. The apple can change size or shape, the IBM letters can move around or change or color but the residue of the identity remain.



Even with  brand identity soaked into what is essentially merely a shape, its no coincidence that IBM and Apple's logos most commonly appear in blue and grey, strong and dependable. Those  colors are  associated with reliability in business,   and you can observe those two popular colors in the business suits roaming the halls of offices everywhere. The history of design is littered with  examples of the long lasting effects of Paul Rand's influence. His ideas changed the world. 

1 comment:

  1. Whatever the condition is Apple is always Apple. IBM not yet reached in Apple's position.