Rand's Roman Separated-at-Births

Funny what you’ll find while strolling around Rome’s maze of streets. Along the Tiber River I came across the poster (below). Now, where have I seen that exact image before? Let me see . . . in my own book on Paul Rand? In Rand’s own book on himself? As the cover of Sparkle and Spin by Paul and Ann Rand?

Yes, in all three! Rand died in 1996, but Sparkle and Spin, which was first released in 1957, has been republished twice in succeeding years, first in 1991 and most recently in 2006. What’s wrong with this picture?

Maybe it is just coincidence that a hand in a multicolored sleeve, balancing a top, appears prominently in both images? Or maybe . . .

Only an hour later, but many streets away, while wading through the stacks of my favorite antiquarian paper dealer, I stumbled upon this familiar design (below). Was it . . . ?

Hmmmmm. Sure looks like Rand’s Dada exhibition poster from 1951. But its a press folder for The Rank Organization, which produced European films. Perhaps the designer, who signed his name as “nano,” thought he and Rand were related. They both have four-letter names. And Rank is four letters too. Coincidence? Deliberate homage? We’ll never know.


In Design Dialogues, Steven Heller interviews Paul Rand and 33 other crucial figures from the world of design.

8 thoughts on “Rand's Roman Separated-at-Births

  1. Pingback: Inspiration And The Creative Code | Stemmings

  2. Mike

    Since neither are exact photographic or traced copies but rather thefts of the visual or typographic concept (child like hand made of cut paper with top off finger tip and overlapped black and white capital san serif letter composition) is this plagiarism or just being lazy or lacking the simple “homage to Paul Rand” added at the bottom of the poster?
    I don’t see either as something innovative even in Rand’s time. (Take a deep breath.) But it was the *appropriateness* of the application by Rand for its purpose and time that made them work so well. Cut colored paper for a children’s book. DADA style typography for DADA poster. The rip offs here seem to fail in *that* regard. If these rip offs were for similar things, a children’s book or DADA poster/cover, then I would be pretty upset.
    Which raises a good question: How long does a design have to age before it is acceptable to use it again? (Irrespective of any legal time lines.) With fine art taking from fine art, it seems to be about 100 or so years at most. For fine art taking from design, it seems to be instant, these days.

  3. Eric Hanson

    I learned how to be an illustrator by imitation, but my imitations never matched. I ended up looking fairly original, unintentionally. I was a pale Chwast, a bad Elwood Smith, a Ronald Searle that wound up looking more like Ben Shahn who I didn’t discover until later. But it was how to draw a line, how to build a palette, how to draw hands or noses or windows. I grew into my inabilities. My mistakes became a style.

    Out in the hall here I have some prints I found in the same ephemera shop, I’m sure.

  4. chris

    Plagiarism is so common now that some of the most famous “artists’ (i.e. Shepard Fairy) are willing to perjure themselves to protect their reputations.
    I think it’s a trickle-down effect from the so called ‘fine arts’ where ‘appropriation’ is not just practiced; it’s celebrated: Richard Price and Sherry Levine being among the leading thieves.

  5. Scott Hussey

    I really don’t know what to make of this…

    This reminds me of a project I did in sophomore year… we were supposed to take three designs we found and change the content. Mostly it was a technical exercise and a way to get us to research designers… I never would have thought to USE those for something…