Paul Rand Awarded 1984 TDC Medal

Gutenberg & Family
Vol. 1, No. 1, January, 1985

View the Original Article
The Original Text

This Fall the Type Directors Club awarded Paul Rand its highest honor — the coveted TDC silver medal for typographic excellence. An event larger than any in the clubs 38-year history, the ceremony took place at Sheraton Center and was attended by over 200 members and guests.

Paul’s long-time friend and Randophile, George Lois — himself an institution in art direction and graphic design — was guest speaker.

Lois showed randomly selected slides of Rand’s work.

Except for the sound of the turning turret of the carousel and an occasional sigh of reverential awe, not a sneeze, not a cough, not the tinkling of a teaspoon could be heard in the plush ballroom as Paul Rand’s mesmerizing masterpieces paraded across the screen.

Silent too was Paul Rand. The normally feisty verbalist was evidently so moved by the club’s presentation that when Klaus Schmidt handed him the medal and certificate he chose not to speak despite urging from those around him on the day. Besides how would you feel if George Lois had just given the following speech about you?

The world of art direction is not known to bring forth truly famous men — in the sense that da Vinci or Demosthenes or DiMaggio have earned an eternal kind of fame. Nonetheless among the greatest heroes of my life, I include, devoutly, a handful of art directors. “A hero,” said the Spanish philosopher, Ortega y Gasset, “is one who wants to be himself.”

During my learning years, the heroes I held highest were those who wanted to be nothing but themselves — but what selves, what talents!

Artists like Cassandre and Bill Golden and Herb Lubalin and Lou Dorfsman and Bob Gage were, to me, the great pioneers and innovators of our beloved craft.

Their art thrilled me, their ideas inspired me. Their work had an awesome visibility and — to the astonishment of their contemporaries — their work evoked a powerful response from all kinds of people.

These inspired forefathers of our craft drew their inspiration from the bold artists of the past — artists who were great because they were gutsy enough to break with the traditions that preceded them; in short, who were bold enough to be themselves.

At the top of that list, at the very pinnacle, stands the name of Paul Rand. Cantankerous, irascible, loving — bristling with talent, brimming over with taste, and endowed with invincible personal conviction — the original and badass Paul Rand showed the way. For those of us who knew how to see and sense and feel, his mind and instinct created an absolutely supreme standard for the rest of our lives.

I regard the body of his work as that of an artist — as the reflection of a marvelously honest sensibility that is true to the artists character; sensibility that reveres values while rejoicing in change. But his art has nothing to do with putting images on canvas.

The concern of the scholarly and humanistic Paul Rand was to create images that attract peoples eyes, penetrate their minds, warm their hearts and cause them to act. And he did it, believe me, his way.

And his concern was also to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.

Because Paul Rand is that great…pioneer of graphic communication, the Art Directors Hall of Fame, the Type Directors Club, and all of us who understand cause and effect, shall always be the keeper of his flame, because we know him to be the father of the expression of modern graphic ideas, of the exquisite blend of theme and image and the use of typography that defied anything before him!

But few understand the incredible happenstance of history, when a young copywriter by the name of Bill Bernbach was assigned to help Paul Rand tool the words in his Ohrbach’s ads.

Working at the feet of Paul Rand, Bill Bernbach learned to worship the art director’s power creating the visual image. Bernbach seemed to understand in a flash, what was now possible that great advertising was great imagery, that the essence of powerful communication must be the unforgettable image. Studying the work of Paul Rand, he was astonished to see a new kind of art direction whose goal was an imagery that was a marriage of the verbal and the visual, where one and one made three.

Bernbach arrived at the advertising scene at exactly the right moment, when the Great War as over, when America was changing, when people were thirsting for a new grace and clarity in a brave new world. And he met the one-man wrecking crew named Paul Rand, and he reveled at the Rand power to conjure images.

So when Bill Bernbach started the world’s first creative agency he started with the art director. And he started with the art director whom Paul Rand told him to start with, young Bob Gage. Bernbach’s powerful revelation brought taste to our business by continuing to spot the talent around him and summoning art directors to their rightful role — as creators in the advertising process as makers of memorable images, as the vital other half of the creative mystery that is the heart of great advertising.

Bernbach went on to discover many Ad Hall of Famers, and his special wisdom changed the role of the art director, of graphics and typography, and of the art of advertising, for the next hundred years.

To truly understand the historical significance of Paul Rand, we must more than understand his explosive contributions to our visual language. His legacy to us is never-ending. Because without the great Paul Rand to learn from, to emulate, to try to surpass, there would have been no Golden, no Lubalin, no Dorfsman, no Bernbach, no Gage, no Creative Revolution, no you and no me.

As today’s art director becomes more and more successful and moves up the company ladder, he becomes a critic, an observer (they call them Creative Directors!). Paul Rand, unlike the hot-shot art directors we know so well, stays at his drawing board, doing his work, his way, using his head and his heart and his hands!

It was my great pleasure to sift through 400 slides of Paul Rand’s work to choose a group to show to you today. I wound up just grabbing a couple of fistfuls, because all his work is so incredibly, so consistently up to snuff. His work, forty years later, is still so fresh that the ink still looks wet on the paper!

A media critic in New York Magazine remarked a few weeks ago that she was surprised to see that a giant agency had a surprisingly good reel of commercials. She was right. They do terrific work for about 30 million dollars of their half a billion dollar agency. But great agencies, and great art directors, hit doubles and triples every time. Rand hits homers, one after the other, and he’s been doing it since I was a little boy in public school, for half a century!

Take a look at a small fraction of the work of the heroic Paul Rand and see what I mean.

George Lois

The Original Article

Paul Rand Awarded 1984 TDC Medal
Paul Rand Awarded 1984 TDC Medal
Paul Rand Awarded 1984 TDC Medal

(Use ← → keys to navigate. Click for larger view.)


Published In

Gutenberg & Family

Vol. 1, No. 1, January, 1985
Find in a local library

Purchase a Copy

Next Article

Mohawk Paper Graphics Collection: The Graphic Art of Paul Rand


Graphics Collection, Cohoes, NY

View Now