Paul Rand is considered by many to be one of the most significant visual communicators and commercial artists in history. His first book, Thoughts on Design, is one that invigorated the design world and has become a seminal text for design students and professionals. Rand’s simple, straightforward approach to design eventually helped him create some of the most iconic corporate logos, many of which are still in use today (think IBM, the American Broadcasting Company, Westinghouse, and the United Parcel Service).
Rand was just 33 years-of-age, with much of this notable work still ahead of him, when he published Thoughts on Design in 1947. The book is an idealistic, passionate call to arms for designers to integrate form and function. Rand summarizes this simply, saying that design should reflect “the integration of the beautiful and the useful,” and asserts that one’s work “is not good design if it is irrelevant.” Furthermore, he urges designers to create from their singular point of view: “The system that regards aesthetics as irrelevant, which separates the artist from his product… will, in the long run, diminish not only the product but the maker as well.”
In the foreword to the new, 2014 edition of the book, Michael Bierut writes: “Ostensibly, it is nothing more than a how-to book, illustrated with examples from the designer’s own portfolio. But in reality ‘Thoughts on Design’ is a manifesto, a call to arms and a ringing definition of what makes good design good.” Thoughts on Design was out of print for almost 40 years, until its recent re-release by Chronicle Books. At only 96 pages, it is a modest book that has made a huge impact on a generation of designers.