Paul Rand “Thoughts on Design”


Paul Rand “Thoughts on Design”

The classic work of Paul Rand, first published in 1947, is still relevant and will be of interest to both experienced graphic designers and students.

A must-read for anyone who takes their profession seriously.

Paul Rand’s book Thoughts on Design is a classic of Western professional literature. The first edition was published in 1947, its author at that time was only 33 years old. By the time of his death in 1996, Paul Rand was the greatest designer in the United States. This work has been republished for 70 years and is still relevant.


What is this book?

“Thoughts on Design” is not an entertaining one-day reading. This is serious professional literature of the old school. Get ready for strenuous and thoughtful reading. It is written in the spirit of the old authors: the scientific approach is felt on every page. In addition, the book is full of references to classical philosophical writings.

Generally, Paul Rand talks about the fundamental things in design. The most popular idea among subsequent authors, outlined in the book, is that design, no matter how beautiful, juicy, funny, is bad if it is inappropriate. After all, design should be a communication tool and serve its purpose.

Unity of form and content

Based on the philosophical works of the past, the author writes about the relationship between form and functionality, he forces the reader to rethink all his projects and ask himself the question: is my design functional? Is there a synthesis of beauty and benefit in it? The aesthetic and the practical must coexist harmoniously in the work of a graphic designer. This principle is the secret of successful projects.

There are many other fundamental questions in the book, the answers to which are simple but very important. These questions will help you understand why your worst work is bad and your best work is so good.

Design is a work of art, think high, let your work be a means of obtaining aesthetic pleasure.

And besides philosophy?

Many other, contemporary and today, topics are covered by the author. For example, it talks about humor in design and reminds us that even military propaganda did not disdain it! And also – about the role of symbols in advertising, about numbers and punctuation marks, type, contrast and the relationship between imagination and images. Despite the abundance of philosophy, the fundamental ideas are stated very clearly and clearly, well, at least hang quotes over the workplace!

What does the book look like?

It is interesting that for Russian-speaking readers this book became available for the first time in 2016. But the look of the book is upsetting: thin cover and black and white printing! Yes, all illustrations are black and white. No, in the original they are, of course, colored, but for some reason in the book they are black and white. And captions will probably help to reproduce the complete picture (for example, “Poster, yellow-brown on white, Art Directors Club of New York”).

Unfortunately, in the publishing house, the author’s thoughts on the synthesis of beauty and utility were not imbued with. It’s a pity, because with a different design, the legendary book could become a wonderful gift and decoration of the workplace. But alas, this is just text with black and white pictures under paperback.


A classic work on graphic design that you should definitely read. It will help you look at your work from a scientific and philosophical point of view and better understand what and why you are doing.

Download the book “Thoughts on Design” by Paul Rand

An excerpt from the book “Thoughts on Design” can be downloaded here.

Buy Paul Rand’s book “Thoughts on Design”

The book “Thoughts on Design” is available for purchase in the online store or from the publisher (by the way, the promotional code infographics gives a 25% discount on all books of the publisher).

Author: Evgeniya Suvorova

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