After leaving Apple, Steve Jobs founded a company called NeXT. Jobs said it normally took 10 years and millions of dollars to establish a company’s brand and logo. But he didn’t want to wait, he wanted it to happen straight away. So he needed a really powerful corporate identity.
As usual, Jobs only wanted to work with the very best designer. So he contacted Paul Rand.
Rand had worked on some of the most famous and enduring corporate designs in America.
IBM: the biggest computer company of all.
ABC: one of the three biggest broadcasting networks in the US.
UPS: the original worldwide courier delivery company.
Westinghouse, the massive domestic products group.
Esquire, the brand that launched the men’s magazine market.
And many more, all iconic brands.
Jobs decided that Rand was the best, so he was right for the job. He took him through exactly what the company was, its ethos, its marketing problem, exactly what he wanted from the corporate design, how and where it would have to work.
Eventually, when he was satisfied he’d covered everything, Steve Jobs said “So, I guess you’ll get back to me with some options.”
Paul Rand put the cap back on his pen.
He said “I don’t think you understand how this works, Steve. I don’t do options. I will solve the problem, and you will pay me. It’s up to you whether or not you use my solution, that’s your choice. But I don’t do options. I will give you my solution, and you will pay me. That’s how it works.”
Steve Jobs just looked at him. He’d never been spoken to like that before. That was how he usually spoke to other people. To Jobs, Paul Rand’s attitude was proof that he was the best.
He was supremely confident, and not desperate for work. Paul Rand’s attitude was exactly like Steve Jobs’.
And eventually Jobs said “Okay, if that’s how it works, I’ll wait for you get back to me with the solution.” And they shook hands and parted.
The interesting part about what Paul Rand was saying was the subtext. He was actually saying “Of course I’ll do lots of options, many, many of them. But you won’t see them, you don’t have to, that’s my job. I’ll see all the options and I’ll decide which one’s the best solution, and I’ll show it to you. But, if I show you all the options, you’ll just end up choosing the one you like, which means you’ll be doing my job. In which case I’m not really in charge of the design anymore, I’m just running the studio, and you’re the head of design. I appreciate that in designing your products you’re the best, so it must be hard for you to let go of that. You’re used to people bringing you lots of options for product designs, and you choose the best. But this isn’t about product design, this is about corporate design. And that’s my field, not yours. And in that field I’m the best, not you. So in corporate design I see all the options and I pick the best one, then you see my final solution. But, if you’re not happy with that arrangement, you can get some other designer to show you lots of options and let you pick the one you like. You just won’t be working with the best anymore, so you won’t get the best solution. Your choice.”