Prison Stripes Postscript

Some people asked “What about the IBM logo?” in response to my “Stripes Strip Humanity” post from Wednesday.

The post was meant to look specifically at prison uniforms, not zebras, vanilla twirl ice cream, the White Stripes or striped logos. That said, I did reproduce the above doodle by Paul Rand in my book Paul Rand (Phaidon Press).

But don’t misconstrue the evidence: Rand did not base the IBM logo on prison stripes. After the fact he found many playful visual references to stripes. Rand’s rationale for the stripes (or scan lines) was to reduce the solid black of the City Bold IBM letters while creating a mnemonic. Rand further believed there was a problem in the sequence of the letters, going from narrow to wide “without any pause or rhythmic cadence.” He did two versions of the stripes larger and wider and smaller and thinner.

This sketch was one of many doodles Rand made while in meetings with IBM designers. The cover for Direction (below) Rand designed in 1940 and prefigured his logo by two decades.

One thought on “Prison Stripes Postscript

  1. Jude Stewart

    While we’re sharing all things stripey, you’ll enjoy this book, The Devil’s Cloth: A History of Stripes by Michel Pastoureau. In a nutshell, stripes have been used for centuries in Western art to provide a visual cancellation of someone outside the margins of polite society, by rendering the person neither of the foreground or the background. What a gorgeous little book.

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