• Steven Heller

IBM’s Classic Look Explained

Paul Rand was meticulous when providing guidelines for his various corporate identities. But he was also able to project discipline without being hard-fisted — and humor without being irreverent. He created a few publications for IBM concerning the “use and abuse” of the logo and its many working parts.

The “IBM Design Guide, House Style” from May 1972 begins with the question, “What is the IBM look?” By way of an answer Rand delivered an virtual lesson in the art and craft of corporate image. In fact, the “material shown on these pages is based on talks by Paul Rand to IBM personnel in 1971,” states the small footnote on page 1. “Because of its importance to the understanding of the design and application of the IBM logotype, it has been made a part of the Design Guide.”

Furthermore, another footnote informs that the terms “trademark, logotype and symbol are interchangeable” in these brief essays on the quality of the IBM look, style and typography. The “what not to do” section (below) is as revealing as the accepted practices.

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