The Envato blog had a post about the stories behind Paul Rand’s logo designs.
Born in Brooklyn in 1914, Paul Rand is responsible for some of the most iconic brand identities, including IBM, ABC, Westinghouse, UPS and Next Computer. Though he studied art at Pratt Institute, he claimed that he was self-taught. He was inspired by European commercial arts journals and European modern artists and started his career creating magazine spreads. Soon he created magazine covers, notably for Esquire. At 27, he headed an ad agency, incorporating art into what, in the past, was mostly copy.
By the 1950s Rand moved on to logo work. And the rest is history, as they say.
Good design is good business” —Thomas Watson Jr., IBM
Paul Rand designed the IBM trademark, the Westinghouse “W,” the marks for American Broadcasting Company (ABC), UPS, Esquire Magazine, Harcourt-Brace and other memorable trademarks. A recent post on logodesignlove discussed a 1971/71 article by Stanley Mason on how Rand presented his work to clients. Long before the days of digital graphic arts, Rand created short-run offset print publications to present to his clients. Paul Rand avoided flashy presentations and let the work speak for itself, presenting booklets to the top decisionmaking executives. This was pure genius, as these printed materials helped cement the designs as finished products.
In the 1971/72 article, Stanley Mason wrote that the trademark “should be distinctive, memorable, and reflect in some way, however abstractly, the nature of the product or service it represents.” Rand’s rebranding of IBM added eight horizontal stripes and a brilliant blue to the previous trademark. This added movement and color made the mark more dynamic and memorable. It remains strong today.
The ABC logo is simple and understated, yet everyone remembers it.
The NeXT computer logo may not be as memorable since the company disappeared.
You can read more and download PDFs of the 70s article here.
More and more big companies commission their own typefaces, rather than relying upon the thousands of fonts readily available for marketing their goods and services.
Recent, notable bespoke typefaces
This month, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) introduced its bespoke Unity font. Depending on who you ask, some designers love it, and others hate it. Coca-Cola has used a script logotype for decades, and a while back introduced a serif font with the word, “Coke.” Unity is a departure; it is a sans-serif typeface family with several weights.
In 2017, IBM rolled out its bespoke typeface families, named Plex, and YouTube introduced YouTube Sans.
In 2016, Apple introduced San Francisco typefaces at its Worldwide Developer Conference. These fonts were inspired by Helvetica, and were developed for ease of reading on small screens like the Apple Watch and iPhone, as well as on iPads and Mac computers. The same year, CNN introduced CNN Sans—also modeled on Helvetica.
In 2015, Google rebranded its famous “G” using a proprietary font called Product Sans. Product Sans has a strong resemblance to Futura. Google rolled out Roboto In 2013 for the Android OS. Also in 2013, Mozilla rolled out typefaces for its Firefox OS, called Fira Sans and Fira Mono.
Why use a bespoke typeface?
It’s all about branding. We are bombarded by thousands of advertisements each day on smartphones and other computers. We may see an advertisement for a fraction of a second before engaging with the brand or discarding the ad. According to Envato, simply having a recognizable logo is not enough. Companies have to stand out, so branding today requires notable logos, colors, copy and typography. “Bespoke fonts offer brands more control over their identity, and in some cases can even save them money in the long run.”
Companies must stand out
Will bespoke typefaces result in the death of Helvetica?
Helvetica (Neue Haas Grotesk) was developed in 1957 by Swiss typographer Max Miedinger and became the de facto standard of international typeface design in the mid-20th Century. It remains popular today—Helvetica Neue is the default Mac font—because it is both readable and legible at many different sizes and weights.
It’s not likely that Helvetica is going away anytime soon. It is still the favorite of many designers because of its versatility and simplicity. Just make room for the new, bespoke typefaces to coexist with Helvetica.