What is Graphic Design?


Looking for information for a class I’m teaching on Page Layout, I ran across a video on YouTube of Paul Rand, the designer for whom was, perhaps, my first entree to the notion of design as a profession. The interview I attached is by a group interviewing Steve Jobs, who at the time, was developing a company called Next, after he left Apple in the early nineties, oh so long ago.

Job’s description of the work of Paul Rand embodies what, if anything, describes the direction of the modern designer: “[Paul] is  the intertwining of a pure artist and somebody who is very astute at solving business problems.”

In another interview from around the same time, I heard Rand speak about the relative simplicity of the solution that he develops. In an interview on Connecticut Public Television (search YouTube for miggb), he retorts that the relative simplicity [of various logos—in this case the logo for ABC] could be duplicated and drawn by a child.

Reading between the lines, the designer is in the solution business, not the art business, nor the consultant business. Rand’s approach was about being both.

There’s a matter-of-fact, bluntness that leaves one wanting when hearing Rand speak of the pursuit of the solution. His book A Designer’s Art, perhaps my first graphic design read, is where his thoughts go into full bloom. But, in the Connecticut Public Radio interviews he’s basically like: I did this or that because I think it works.

I attached this video because the Steve Jobs of the 1990s, captures the speakable and the unspoken of what paul Rand brought to the table and that factor that a designer or design firm should be bringing to the table. Asked about Rand’s process, Jobs said it’s not to so much that he could say about it, but more that you could feel it.

By AIGA Baltimore
Published February 11, 2011