Not by Words But by Things

The original version of the rebus poster design was produced for an internal IBM design conference held in Washington, DC. Less than 100 examples were printed. The presentation of the logo was met with criticism within the firm and almost ten years would elapse before Rand was able to convince IBM of the power of the design. The rebus design campaign would be re-introduced for internal and external materials and would become one of the most iconic designs of Rand's later work for IBM.

In our daily work we have all had the opportunity to employ, study, criticize, or exercise our talents or authority in the use of the IBM logo.

Paul Rand

The IBM Logo is the IBM Look

In 1956, Paul Rand would begin his landmark work for IBM, and over his three decades with the firm would fulfill his modern vision for graphic design. Rand was brought into the firm by acclaimed architect Elliot Noyes, who was hired to move the historic IBM identity in a modern direction. Thomas J. Watson, Jr., founder of IBM stated “[G]ood design must primarily serve people, and not the other way around. It must take into account human beings, whether they be our employees or our customers who use our products” and it was this foundation upon which Watson, Noyes and Rand would develop the groundbreaking design ideology for the firm. While Noyes focused on the products and architecture, Rand began to develop the enduring visual identity. From his transformation of the iconic IBM logo to the revolutionary Eye, Bee, M rebus design in the 1980s, Rand's designs for IBM left not only an indelible mark on the company, but would forever alter the approach of modern graphic design.

Stripes have appealed to people of dramatically different persuasions and cultures. Stripes evoke exciting images of Romanesque architecture, African ornament, and Parisian fashions. They are part of a geometry which decorates and animates. Stripes are indelibly linked with the IBM image, and serve a useful function as a background pattern.

Paul Rand

Paul Rand 1914–1996

Paul Rand was born Peretz Rosenbaum in Brooklyn in 1914 to Orthodox Jewish immigrants. His father owned a small grocery store, for which Rand often painted signage and advertisements. As a young man, Rand studied at Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute but never finished a degree. He found the courses unstimulating, as many of the era’s arts programs were stuck in very classical methodologies. Independently, Rand studied early 20th century European modernism, which influenced much of his early designs. He drew influence from the Bauhaus, Constructivist, Cubist and de Stijl movements, as well as the art of Paul Klee, Alexander Calder and Joan Miró.

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