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Thoughts on Design

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  886 ratings  ·  60 reviews
One of the seminal texts of graphic design, Paul Rand's Thoughts on Design is now back in print for the first time since the 1970s. Writing at the height of his career, Rand articulated in his slender volume the pioneering vision that all design should seamlessly integrate form and function. This facsimile edition preserves Rand's original 1947 essay with the adjustments h ...more
Hardcover, 95 pages
Published December 31st 1970 by Studio Vista (first published 1947)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was ok
It's probably sacrilege to say this, but I was disappointed in this book. It took me all of 20 minutes to read it. Given the time at which it was written, its focus is understandably on graphic design and advertising. I found a few tidbits that I thought were relevant to my work today, but wish there was more.

I have mixed feelings about Paul Rand. He brought a lot of exposure to design, but left Yale in protest after a feminist leader (Sheila Levrant de Bretteville) took over their historic gra
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arts, 1970s
Most remembered today for his logos from the 60's - IBM, UPS, ABC, Westinghouse, etc. - I'm not sure how much Rand is still considered one of the design "greats." While this book is a true classic, Rand was a famous critic of "postmodernist" graphic design, denouncing it as faddish and frivolous, and "harbor[ing] its own built-in boredom;" and after resigning as an instructor at Yale in 1992, he was increasingly criticized as reactionary and hostile to new ideas about design.

Personally, I was ne
Sachin Benny
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A great intro in 100 pages

A lot of books stretch on for pages before winding down to a single good idea. Paul Rand does the opposite - A lot of wonderful ideas within 100 pages. Must read intro for a designer or anyone interested in design
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The forward to the 2014 edition of Thoughts on Design says, "Paul Rand admitted all his life that he was insecure as a writer. It was his passion for his subject that made him such an effective one."

I beg to differ. I found the writing not so effective (and not so passionate either). Some sections of the book are vague; others are indirect with the main point buried; and much of the writing has a joyless air.

The visual examples are another matter. They make the text clear, and they make the boo
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Mad Men era commentary on the basic principles of design by one of America's great graphic designers, supported with great visuals. A closing caption:

"Even if it is true that the average man seems most comfortable with the commonplace and familiar, it is equally true that catering to bad taste, which we so readily attribute to the average reader, merely perpetuates that mediocrity and denies the reader one of the most easily accessible means for esthetic development and eventual enjoyment." -P
A very short manifest of Mr. Rand philosophy. I've found some of his point very interesting, and the others less appealing to my taste.

I wonder what he'd write if it was in the Photoshop era. of course, the ideas of good design are not dependent only on today's standard tools, but I couldn't avoid the thought that perhaps the technological leap actually did shadow just a tiny bit of his works.
Gisela Valdera
Jul 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
Insightful and yet, simultaneously, quite vague in regards to most subject matters in the design world. I felt like I almost grasped some important knowledge while reading this small book. Almost.
Nov 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andrew Patterson
Invaluable book for graphic designers of all skill levels - read in one engrossed sitting. Frankly a bit surprised I made it all the way through Illustration school without exposure to it - while it develops a different mental toolset than what might be required for Illustration specifically, the overlap in approach is almost an eclipse.

Full of emphasis on foundational design principles and surprising revelations connecting visual examples to brief text explanations of concepts, a must-have for
Deniss Ojastu
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
A book by the 20th century's guru of visual design.

Short, precise and effective.

Beauty and utility shall be integral part of design.

Simplicity in design is good.

Using symbols as design elements is smart.

Visual repetition creates emotional comfort.

Isolated symbols (such as letters, numbers, punctuation marks) can be a good idea.

This short book only scratches the surface of semiotics of visual communication though. And it is only based on (and illustrated by) a very narrow field of design - graphi
Maya Gopalakrishnan
A short and insightful book packed with principles of visual design. Paul Rand starts by talking about the mutually generative effects of beauty and utility. He then advises the designer to let go of templates and preconceptions! The book reads exactly like random thoughts where each chapter feels a bit disconnected while packing in some concepts in each. He goes on to talk about use of symbols, humor and repetition of words or images. A very interesting insight is how to leave things unsaid and ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great resource on design. Paul was 33 when he wrote this book and he displays a great understanding of design thinking. On of the things that proves your knowledge on a subject is to be able to effectively articulate principles and concepts in a way that people are able to understand. Paul does a great job of explaining basic design principles, concepts behind good design and provides his own thoughts and commentaries on what makes the design work. Very quick read and well worth it the time!
Jan 06, 2020 rated it liked it
Not saying I regret reading it. There is just not very much information or inspiration to be found in the text.
I largely didn't understand the example designs (the one for air wick was gorgeous). There was no feeling that the text changed my thoughts.

Probably this has historical importance and should be read as part of the graphic design canon. But it's not an important read at the journey's start; nevertheless, it's a short read and gives some familiarity with *Paul Rand*.
Rohit Gupta
Feb 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very insightful and precise. I have never read a more to the point book. The book discusses various nuances of visual communication. I like the part where it talks about montages and collages. Paul Rand's work speaks for itself. I would read this book first and then read Vignelli's cannon. That is "the" perfect orientation to good design habits :) ...more
Tim Lapetino
Aug 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In his sparse prose, design legend Paul Rand still speaks volumes about what makes great design, and models in his own work, economy, whimsy, and modernism. A fast yet thinking person's read, this re-issue of the classic both should be on every designer's shelf. Recommended. ...more
Andres Moreira
Jan 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice and short book

It’s a nice book, with a compendium of advices on what design means and what a designer needs to think when doing it.
However, I would have preferred a bit more of examples descriptions and a bit more of content.
Ben Reynolds
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to me by one of my role models, John Maeda. Definitely some good wisdom in here about how to communicating through art and design. Fairly short. Nothing groundbreaking to me personally but maybe if I re-read it later I'll get more out of it. ...more
Utsob Roy
Dec 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's my first read of Paul Rand. I only know him by reputation. The book was overall good, concise, to the point, but sometimes a little vague. Enjoyed it. ...more
May 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
particularly like his comments on amusement
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. Wisdom of his lifetime as designer
Allen Mueller
Sep 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art-and-design
Every designer should find a way to get hands on an original print and read this.

A lucky designer might get a chance to own it.
Jul 19, 2019 rated it liked it
A book I'd probably have enjoyed way more if I'd read it a decade ago and instead have mostly picked up its insights from people who learned from it already. ...more
Maddie  Archambault
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-books, design
It has some good tips for beginner designers. It was interesting to see some of the older designs for ads and magazine covers.
Gaurav Mathur
Nov 10, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: design
Hmm this was quite small and ended a bit suddenly for me.

Not bad at all, some examples and insights were interesting, but maybe I was expecting a bit more from one of the greats of graphic design.
Alex Fitzsimmons
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
It was alright. Not as verbose as many of the other art theory books. He used the power of imagery to further bolster his points, which was helpful.
Jaideep Sai
A timeless piece on design, aesthetics, and the creative process.
Shelley Stottlar
I was disappointed. It was short and lacked any depth in my opinion. I expected more from it.
Dec 27, 2020 rated it liked it
It has some thoughtful words here and there about design in general but this book mostly talks about advertising and print ads. It’s a very short read, which will take you back in time.
Eric Smooth
Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
My thoughts on design: it is my passion
Gerson Chicareli
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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Paul Rand (born Peretz Rosenbaum) was an American graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs. Rand was educated at the Pratt Institute (1929–1932), and the Art Students League (1933–1934). He was one of the originators of the Swiss Style of graphic design. From 1956 to 1969, and beginning again in 1974, Rand taught design at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Rand was indu ...more

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