Thoughts on Design – Paul Rand’s iconic design manifesto back in print

Decades ago, when I was a budding graphic designer, I found a copy of iconic designer Paul Rand’s then out-of-print Thoughts on Design at the annual State Department book sale in DC (a mecca for bookworms). The modest little tome made a big impression on me. Rand’s insistence on the integrity of form and function, his immaculately modern designs, and his brilliant sense of humor (often with cleverly hidden visual puns in his designs) really helped wire my nervous system as a designer.

Sadly, this seminal book has been out of print since the 1970s. But no longer. For the centenary of Rand’s birth (Aug 15, 1914), Chronicle has re-released Thoughts on Design. The new edition remains faithful to the 1970s edition (the one I had), with the addition of a new foreword by designer Michael Bierut.

One impressive thing about Rand’s book to me was always how much he was able to say about the nature of good design in 96 short pages (with the majority of those pages reproductions of his work). He was a master at arriving at designs that boiled down the essence of the intended messages, be it an advertisement or a corporate identity, and he similarly renders out the heart of basic design philosophy in this book. Take passages like:

There are, however, instances when recognizable images are of sufficient plastic expressiveness to make the addition of geometric or “abstract” shapes superfluous.

So, with that principle in mind, he inverts wooden coat hangers to make a flock of birds for a spring apparel poster.

Looking through this book, you realize how many monumental logos he was responsible for: ABC, UPS, Westinghouse, IBM, Ikea, Adobe, the list goes on. As a designer, I always marveled at the Westinghouse logo. Something so absurdly simple, so potently suggestive of electronics and light bulbs, and something that was just so pleasing to look at (and easy to apply in branding/packaging). To me, that logo boiled down the essence of Paul Rand’s genius, and the wisdom and the portfolio of work found in this book.

Thoughts On Design, by Paul Rand ($12)

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Watch with microscopic sculpture inside

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Tucked inside this $1.5 million watch by Greubel Forsey is a tiny ship sculpture by Willard Wigan who is the master at artworks you can't appreciate without high-powered optics.

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Video: Ferdinando Buscema on "The Magic of Breaking Ideas"

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Donate a sock - free house elves!


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Yin-yang Star Wars tee on Threadless


Ciro Trezzi's Death of a star/Birth of an hero shirt design is up for your votes on Threadless -- it's quite a lovely take on the eternal struggle for the Force.

Temporary tattoos by accomplished tattoo artists


Carl sends us, "beautiful, authentic-looking temporary tattoos designed by famous tattooers, including Dan Smith, Dean Sacred, BJ Betts, Dusty Neal, Myra Oh, and many more."

Temporary Tattoos | Tattoo You (Thanks, Carl!)

Photography: Summer (on toast), Alvaro Dominguez

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"Summer," by Barcelona-based illustrator and graphic designer Alvaro Dominguez. This series is a collaboration with photographer Javier Almar.

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Renovation of power station on Pink Floyd "Animals" cover

The decaying chimneys atop London's iconic Battersea Power Station, recognizable from the cover of Pink Floyd's Animals (1977) will be "painstakingly" reconstructed to precisely match the originals as the building is turned into shops, offices, and, yep, luxury condos.

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Tripping on Hollywood: We Buy Your Kids' psychotronic movie posters

Australian psychedelic designers We Buy Your Kids turn their third eye to science fiction and cult movie posters for a mind-bending new gallery show.

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WWII's VD posters: exciting nexus of propaganda, Mad Men, gender and design


Ryan Mungia's Protect Yourself: Venereal Disease Posters of World War II uncovers many obscure propaganda posters that were, once upon a time, just as popular as the iconic "We Can Do It!" woman.

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Airplane parts recycled into furniture

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MotoArt, an outfit I've blogged before that transforms airplane parts into furniture, built this glorious conference table based on an engine scavenged from a Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. (via Laughing Squid)

Amazing optical illusion and Spirograph

UntitledPhil "Bad Astronomy" Plait deconstructs Brusspup's "Crazy Circle Illusion" and ties it to the wonderful classic art/science/toy Spirograph.

Icons of animals in space

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Wonderful illustrations of "Animal Space Travellers" by Budapest designer/artist Norbert Mayer. (via Ariel Waldman)

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Sign Painters: book and documentary

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Sign Painters looks to be a fascinating book and documentary about the traditional art and craft of hand-drawn signage that is being lost to digital prints and die-cut vinyl. The film is playing at venues around the US right now, including this Sunday (7/27) at the Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, Texas!

Alien Autopsy: William Barker on Schwa, two decades later

Twenty years ago, William Barker’s Schwa artwork revealed a world of alien abductions, stick figure insanity, conspiratorial crazy, and a hyper-branded surveillance state. It’s now more relevant than ever.

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