Avoiding the Cliché: Paul Rand on Imagination
Paul Rand was quite original in his work for a man often quoted for saying "Don't try to be original. Just try to be good." His originality as a designer, a product of his imagination as a man, made him exceptionally good at visually communicating.
In his book, Thoughts on Design, Rand points out the flatness and dullness of literal visual representations ; acknowledging that the designer's job is not to merely pair words with their expected visuals, but to add depth to the message by reframing it for the viewer. Imagination, to Rand, was a prerequisite for that reframing.
"Frequently, trite ideas or unimaginative translation of those ideas is the result not of poor subject matter but of poor interpretation of a problem. In the absence of a fresh, visual solution, subject matter sometimes become the scapegoat. Such difficulties may arise if: a) the designer has interpreted a commonplace idea with a commonplace image; b) he has failed to resolve the problem of integrating form and content; or c) he has failed to interpret the problem as a two-dimensional organization in a given space. He has thus deprived his visual image of the potential to suggest, perhaps, more than the eye can see. And he has denied himself the opportunity of saying the commonplace in an uncommon place way."
In his work, Rand takes the idea behind a communication and connects them to seemingly unrelated symbols. His symbols suspend the literal and spark imagination. The reader can read the title or headline and picture the obvious, but that thought is met with an image that challenges them to see something different.
"The designers capacity to contribute to the effectiveness of the basic meaning of the symbol, by interpretation, addition, subtraction, juxtaposition, alteration, adjustment, association, intensification, and clarification, is parallel to those qualities which we call "original.""
Rand equates originality with the designers ability to interpret and present symbols in a way that adds meaning.
Without imagination, there is no originality.
- Christopher W. Cureton