• Steven Heller

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.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →