Paul Rand + Steve Jobs

I can’t help thinking that Paul Rand and Steve Jobs are cooking up a new identity for a heavenly company. In 1986 Jobs approached Rand to design the logo for his NeXT educational computer company. After obtaining permission from IBM, Jobs offered Rand a handsome sum to develop a logo for a product that was not yet public. The only thing Rand knew was that the mysterious NeXT computer was a black cube. With this scant yet meaningful intelligence,  Rand developed a unique proposal book for the mark that walked the reader – Mr. Jobs – through the step by step conceptual process to the final, logical outcome.

I recall seeing a draft of the text and images prior to printing the limited-run booklet. I was floored by the simplicity and concision of the argument. Rand later told me that had no intention of making a formal presentation other than handing the booklet to Jobs. In fact, Rand waited in his hotel room for Jobs’ response.

Rand talked to me about the logo design in an interview for Design Dialogues (Allworth Press):

Below is a scan of the NeXT logo book (which Jobs loved so much, he reprinted it and gave it out as a keepsake/textbook). The pages are scanned as it appears in an original French-bound copy, although the color gray is not faithful to the original.  Also, here is a 1993 video interview between Jobs and Alan Pottasch about Rand.


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40 thoughts on “Paul Rand + Steve Jobs

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  3. David Price

    If you stumble upon these comments, take note of “Mat H’s” comment on November 6, 2011.  “How does the logo look on a black background?”  Google “Next Computer” and take a look for yourself. To question Paul Rand is to express your ignorance.  Follow his lead, create a solution. Don’t create options. Don’t let people who know nothing about design make choices. They don’t make very good ones. Look at the 90% of amateur garbage that pollutes every corner of our lives.

  4. Ken

    Really nice read. Should one just simply look at the logo, one can say it doesn’t have much of a spark on it but upon reading, I was simply fascinated at the process. The underlying thoughts and meaning throughout the process is indeed such a contribution, which is what clients should really delve deep into and not go for what’s sparkly and trendy because it simply looks good and stop there.

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  12. YetiMade

    Boy, oh boy. What a genius. We could all learn a thing or two from him. I love his process–breaking everything down and instilling value not just in color, type or composition; but in the thoughts and ideas which carry us to these choices, creating an economy of value and understanding in the mind of the client. This sort of approach to branding i feel gets lost in the culture of today’s web-heavy market; this article reminded me to go back to my roots and rediscover what is really useful :c)

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  22. Tony Vahl

    I love the way Rand used his thought processs to pitch his logo idea to Jobs.  Talk about out-of-the-box thinking 😉
    I think there is a great lesson here in being yourself when pitching ideas.  This was something Jobs excelled at, as well.

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  25. Jo Oskoui

    Great read. I appreciate the design process. I always thought that the NeXT brand identity was a bit too simplistic and underdeveloped. The brand identity is certainly not on par with Paul Rand’s best work.

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  32. Joseph Szala

    This is absolutely phenomenal in all respects. Many times conveying how we get to an end result is so very important. It’s hard to guide our clients to that point without their own preconceived notions of “good logos” getting in the way. Something like this presentation becomes undeniable and irrefutable.

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