Paul Rand on Design

by on 04/12/10 at 10:37 pm

Paul Rand is one of the greatest graphic designers that ever lived. The quality of his work was not only stunning, but it was deep in meaning. He is widely known for designing the logos of ABC, IBM, UPS, Westinghouse and many more. This video gives us a glimpse of his design genius.

“Design is the synthesis of form and content.”

- Paul Rand

His definition of design couldn’t be more simple and true. Form and content are exist not only in graphic design, but in web design as well. In web design, the content is the information that’s displayed on a website. The form is how the information is displayed. In other words, the form is the layout, colors, typefaces, navigation, functionality and etcetera. It’s important that both form and content coalesce harmoniously in order for design to be effective. If you have good form, but bad content you may get users to your site, but they may not stay for long if your content doesn’t interest them. If you have good content, but bad form users might tolerate it if they love the content, but after a while if the site makes it difficult for users to find what they want, it is likely they will leave to find a better alternative. Both form and content are equally important and cannot be ignored by the designer or the client. Below is another clip of Paul Rand elaborating on his definition of design.

“A work of art is realized when form and content are indistinguishable.”

- Paul Rand

A UX designer doesn’t have much control over the content their client holds, but they do have control over the form that is used to express and display the content. In that case, a UX designer must thoroughly explore and understand their client’s content before any designing occurs in order to find a form that matches the content. All content have their unique style and personality. When it is expressed in its form the content comes alive.

In the clip, Paul Rand provides a few ways form can be expressed:

  • Order
  • Variety
  • Contrast
  • Symmetry
  • Tension
  • Balance
  • Scale
  • Texture
  • Space
  • Shape
  • Light
  • Shade
  • Color

This is a lot to keep in mind when designing, but it’s necessary, so that content can be expressed in perfect form.

“Don’t try to be original, just try to be good.”

- Paul Rand

Paul Rand emphasizes how important it is to be good, than to be original. There are many designers who try their hardest to come up with original ideas, but they don’t realize that by just being exceptionally good they can stand out from the crowd. Mediocrity is prevalent and original ideas are limited. True mastery, however, is quite rare, but achievable. Trying to be original is like throwing darts in the dark. To hit the bulls-eye you will need throw it a million times, and even then you might not hit it because you cannot clearly see your target. It’s hard to gauge originality. Getting good is simply throwing darts with the light on. You can clearly see which direction you are going and measure your progress along the way.


Light Resume Light Freelancer

Author and editor-in-chief of UX Movement. Loves great web experiences and fights for the user.

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