Daily Heller Newsletter — Imprint-The Online Community for Graphic Designers

7.1.16 / Weekend Heller: When Creative Partners Change


You may not know Ann Rand (1918–2012), but she was trained as an architect by Mies van der Rohe and authored a trio of delightful children’s books: Little 1, Sparkle and Spin and I Know a Lot of Things. You probably know, however, that Paul Rand, her husband when she wrote these books, illustrated them and routinely (unfairly) gets more credit than she does. In late April, Princeton Architectural Press posthumously released Ann’s What Can I Be?, illustrated by Ingrid Fiksdahl King.


ann rand001


Paul Rand brought the childhood joy of cut paper and random squiggles to the first three books, which today are compared and contrasted with his corporate, advertising and book cover work that often bore a similar sense of wit, if not style.

But Ann Rand’s engaging concepts and minimal witty wordplays are often overshadowed by Paul’s renown. She also wrote expressly for Paul’s typographic instincts, where words were intended as playthings. This was as collaborative as any creative partnership could be, where the partners play on each other and their harmonies make the overall project melodious.


ann rand002


ann rand003


After their actual marriage ended in divorce, they did do another book, Little 1, together. It was the last children’s book either worked on. But in the 1970s Ann wrote another manuscript, which after she died in 2012 was brought to the attention of Princeton Architectural Press and was later illustrated by Ingrid Fiksdahl King, a painter and one of the co-authors of the 1977 Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction. She may be very well suited to Ann’s concept that explores how the mind constructs the entire world from lines and shapes, but the Paul Rand comparative specter looms large.


ann rand004


ann rand005


ann rand006


It is hard not to compare the Rands’ partnership with this new posthumous one. The original aesthetics of simplicity and economy are missing, and the wit that existed in Paul’s collages has been toned down as well. The nagging question, unfair but inevitable, is “what would Paul have done” with this delightful material?

Still, What Can I Be? is insightful and engaging for young children just exploring imagination. It is also historically valuable to see how Ann, a decidedly skilled minimalist wordsmith for children, is interpreted by a very different artist whose work has some of the playful traits but lacks the design spirit that made the three earlier books so utterly delightful.

Get More PRINT
Rather than focusing on the how-to of design, the experts who write for PRINT magazine cover the why–why the world of design looks the way it does, how it has evolved, and why the way it looks matters. Subscribe to PRINT today, and get in on the conversation of what the brightest minds in the field are talking about right now—essential insight that every designer should know to get ahead.

Get an entire year of PRINT for $40—which includes the massive Regional Design Annual ($29.99 on newsstands).



• Subscribe today and get one year for only $40 — save 57% off the newsstand price

• Are You a Design VIP? Join today and get Print and HOW for one low price!

• In an age of retina and high definition displays, accurate and effective use of color is paramount. Grow in your understanding of how color works, and how you can make it work for your design work with Color: The Professional's Guide by Karen Triedman. With comprehensive information on color design and over 300 color images, discover a wide range of examples, techniques, inspiration, and solutions to fit your needs, whatever your discipline.


• Typography 101: Letterform Design I—Workshop: This class will help you to learn the details of typographic perception through basic letterform design. You will learn typographic nomenclature, basic letterform design, positive/negative space balance, and more.

• Register today


• HOW In-House Design Awards. Deadline is June 3rd, 2016. Details at http://www.howdesign.com/design-competitions/inhouse-design-awards/


• HOW Design Live - Register by April 19, 2016 to save www.howdesignlive.com


July 1

Flattery or Felony?

June 30

Art and Design is His Bag

June 29

The Devil’s Christmas in June

Previously on heller goes here


• 22 of the Big Apple's Best Designs

• Color Matching Systems: Choosing & Using Color

• 10 Tools for Building the Perfect Color Palettes



is the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts. He writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review and the Graphic Content blog for T-Style. He is the author, coauthor, and/or editor of more than 120 books on design and popular culture, including the recent book Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig (Chronicle).