Thoughts on Paul Rand

Long ago I used to have a blog called Design Thinking Digest that has long been lost to the ages. I’m posting some of my older writings that I still think have value on Medium.

Originally published on September 25, 2006.

Recently a friend gave me a rare pamphlet created by Paul Rand called “Some Thoughts…and Some Logos”. Paul Rand was an iconoclast and often worked alone in his projects, but he was systemic in his processes and didn’t just rely on intuition.

To quote Paul Rand, “Bad design is frequently the consequence of mindless dabbling; and the difficulty is not confined merely to the design of logos. This lack of understanding pervades all visual design.”

Much of what Paul wrote about logo design could apply to user experience and interaction design. Note what happens when we use the word user experience in place of the word logo in the following passages from Rand.

“If a user experience can be refined, without disturbing its image, it seems reasonable to do so. A user experience, after all, is an instrument of pride and should be shown at its best.”

“Here is what a user experience is and does;

A user experience is a flag, a signature, an escutcheon.

A user experience doesn’t sell (directly), it identifies.

A user experience is rarely a description of a business.

A user experience derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around.”

“A well designed user experience, in the end, is a reflection of the business it symbolizes. It connotes a thoughtful and purposeful enterprise, and mirrors the quality of its products or services, it is good public relations — a harbinger of goodwill. It says, ‘We care.’”

A user experience is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important than what it looks like.”

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