When we think about legendary designer Paul Rand, many things come to mind: a slew of corporate logos for the likes of IBM, UPS, Westinghouse, ABC, and Enron; his role in spreading Swiss or International style; his seminal books on design (Thoughts on Design (1947), A Paul Rand Miscellany (1984), A Designer’s Art (1985), Design Form and Chaos (1993), and others). One thing we don’t typically associate with Rand? Sexiness. But that’s indeed what we’ve pulled from AIGA Design Archives for this week’s mini history lesson.
First published in 1959 by Houghton Mifflin, Goodbye, Columbus is a collection of fiction by American novelist Philip Roth, an excerpt from which first appeared in the Paris Review. All five stories deal with Jewish assimilation into American culture via its working class, New Jersey protagonist Neil Klugman. Perhaps as an Orthodox Jew, born in Brooklyn as Peretz Rosenbaum to working class parents, Rand felt a special affinity for the material. In any event, his cover is unlike anything else in his oeuvre. He’s generally not associated with the use the visual vernacular (the lipstick stain), nor did he typically use faded or aged paper as a background, which is so in vogue today. And the use of panels is more closely associated with another designer, Rand’s contemporary Alvin Lustig. The bottom panel is more like Rand, but even here his sinuous, loopy hand lettering, reversed out of the background beside cut paper stars add to the overall spontaneous and sensual feel of the cover.
However, according to Rand himself this cover is fully in keeping with his design philosophy:
“From Impressionism to Pop Art, the commonplace and even the comic strip have become ingredients for the artist’s cauldron. What Cezanne did with apples, Picasso with guitars, Leger with machines, Schwitters with rubbish, and Duchamp with urinals makes it clear that revelation does not depend upon grandiose concepts. The problem of the artist is to defamiliarize the ordinary.”
Ironically, Rand’s cover was not the one to become closely identified with the paperback. That honor went to the bold swash-serif and purple cover of the 1968 Bantam edition, part of a series of designs that included the equally famous Portnoy’s Complaint by renown cover designer Paul Bacon.
A note to young designers: follow Rand’s lead and always sign your work. Of the three editions shown here, only he did, and ultimately it will be his cover that stands the test of time.