Let Me See: Paul Rand on Reader Participation
The designer's challenge is to visually communicate a message. For that message to be read and appreciated, it must propose its own challenge to its reader. Paul Rand, one of the greatest designers of the 20th century, writes on the roles of the reader and designer in his book Thoughts on Design.
Focused on designers of printed materials, Rand describes collage, montage, photograms and repetition as tools to create visual challenges for the reader. As I analyzed my appreciation for Rand’s work, I noticed that it was the challenge of connecting all the elements he includes in a piece that makes me love it; makes me love the work of his work. As in his famous IBM pictogram poster, it is that challenge of connecting ideas, more so than the techniques themselves, that makes his work memorable and, of course, appreciated.
Rand expounds upon his connecting of ideas through the use of collage and montage, a technique that is prominent in his portfolio:
"Collage and montage permit the showing of seemingly unrelated objects or ideas as a single picture, they enable the designer to indicate simultaneous events or scenes which by more conventional methods would result in a series of isolated pictures. Compactness of the complex message in a single picture more readily enables the spectator to focus his attention on the advertiser's message...In one sense montage and collage are integrated visual arrangements in space, and in another sense, absorbing visual tests which the spectator may perceive and decipher for himself. He may thus participate in the creative process."
The art of choosing which elements exist in a visual arrangement and their positions is what makes design so compelling. Knowing that each piece is important entices the mind to participate in putting the puzzle together. To share something divided. Rand's design is an experience in which Rand and his audience share a divided work.
Let me participate. Let me see. I'll appreciate it.
- Christopher W. Cureton