As an IBM alumnus, I am inspired by the role of designer Paul Rand in shaping the identity of the company. Rand designed the blocky IBM logo in 1956 and the striped 8-bar and 13-bar versions in the early 1970s. He also designed logos for ABC, Westinghouse, Cummins Engine and others. News this week that Yale University Press is dropping the logo designed by Rand is disappointing. It repeats a regrettable decision by UPS in 2003, when UPS “updated” the elegant tied package in Rand’s logo with a brown swoosh.
Rand’s geometric Yale University Press icon evokes watermarks, printing symbols, embossing, stamps, waxed seals, and the simple idea of pressed letters. It immediately communicates “book publishing from Yale University.” The new logo looks like, and is, the word “Yale” in a classic typeface. The need of an academic institution to reinforce consistency in brand identity is understandable, but I am not convinced that this decision distinguishes the institution. As an exercise in design, the work of Paul Rand is as inspiring as the work of architects Louis Kahn, Philip Johnson or Eero Saarinen, and even more globally accessible. The idea of removing their buildings from the Yale campus would be unthinkable.