Rand, Paul: AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU DRIVE A KAISER? [poster title] Willow Run, MI, Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, n.d. [c. 1949].

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Paul Rand

Paul Rand: AREN’T YOU GLAD YOU DRIVE A KAIZER? [poster title]. Willow Run, MI, Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, n.d. [c. 1949]. Original impression. 30 x 29 - inch [76.2 x 73.6 cm] trim size Photocollage image printed via offset lithography on a medium textured sheet. All four edges display small amounts of uneven etching with minimal loss. Pin holes in each corner. Mild age toning to top corners. A good example archivally repaired and restored with acid-free paper backing by the archival staff of the Museum of the City of New York.

This poster was prominently displayed at the “Everything Is Design: The Work of Paul Rand” from February 25 to October 13, 2015 at the Museum of the City of New York. Previous to this exhibition, this poster had never been reproduced in any form or medium. Of singular rarity.

30 x 29 - inch  [76.2 x 73.6 cm] poster for Kaiser-Frazer designed by Paul Rand during his exceptionally productive years as chief art director at the William Weintraub Agency.

“Car company advertisements were rooted in a tradition that demanded the car in question be shown, usually as an overly rendered painting or dramatically lit photograph. Although Rand tried to adhere to a more or less conventional solution, he opted to use comic drawings and photocollage, in order to truly distinguish Kaiser-Frazer from all the competitors. With his smart headlines and succinct body copy, Rand’s ads were so provocative that it was sufficient to show the car on a small scale, if at all.” — Stephen Heller

The Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was the result of a partnership between automobile executive Joseph W. Frazer and industrialist Henry J. Kaiser. In 1947, the company acquired the automotive assets of Graham-Paige, of which Frazer had become president during WWII. Kaiser-Frazer was the only new US automaker to achieve success after World War II, if only for a few years.

The company was founded on July 25, 1945 and in 1946 K-F displayed prototypes of their two new cars at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The Kaiser was of an advanced front wheel drive design while the Frazer was an upscale conventional rear wheel drive car. The production costs and the limited time available prevented the front wheel drive design from entering production, so the new 1947 Kaiser and Frazer shared bodies and powertrains. Being some of the first newly designed cars on the market while the "Big Three" were still marketing their pre-war designs, the Kaisers and Frazers made an exciting entrance. Kaiser and Frazer continued to share bodies and engines through 1950 with different exterior and interior trim.

Henry Kaiser had no automotive marketing experience while Joseph Frazer did, having been president of the Graham-Paige Corporation prior to WWII. Henry Kaiser believed in pressing forward in the face of adversity; Joseph Frazer was more pragmatic. As the market for K-F products slowed in 1949 with the introduction of new designs from the Big Three, Kaiser pushed for more production creating an oversupply of cars that took until mid-1950 to sell. Kaiser and Frazer conflicted until Frazer left the company in 1951, and the Frazer nameplate was dropped after a 10,000 unit production run. In 1952 the Kaiser-Frazer Corporation was renamed Kaiser Motors Corporation and continued building passenger cars through 1955. [Wikipedia]

If the word legend has any meaning in the graphic arts and if the term legendary can be applied with accuracy to the career of any designer, it can certainly be applied to Paul Rand (1914-1996). By 1947, the legend was already firmly in place. By then Paul had completed his first career as a designer of media promotion at Esquire-Coronet --and as an outstanding cover designer for Apparel Arts and Directions. He was well along on a second career as an advertising designer at the William Weintraub agency which he had joined as art director at its founding.  THOUGHTS ON DESIGN (with reproductions of almost one hundred of his designs and some of the best words yet written on graphic design)  had just published --  an event that cemented his international reputation and identified him as a designer of influence from Zurich to Tokyo.

A chronology of Rand's design experience has paralleled the development of the modern design movement. Paul Rand’s first career in media promotion and cover design ran from 1937 to 1941, his second career in advertising design ran from 1941 to 1954, and his third career in corporate identification began in 1954. Paralleling these three careers there has been a consuming interest in design education and Paul Rand's fourth career as an educator started at Cooper Union in 1942. He taught at Pratt Institute in 1946 and in 1956 he accepted a post at Yale University's graduate school of design where he held the title of Professor of Graphic Design.

In 1937 Rand launched his first career at Esquire. Although he was only occasionally involved in the editorial layout of that magazine, he designed material on its behalf and turned out a spectacular series of covers for Apparel Arts, a quarterly published in conjunction with Esquire. In spite of a schedule that paid no heed to regular working hours or minimum wage scales, he managed in these crucial years to find time to design an impressive array of covers for other magazines, particularly Directions. From 1938 on his work was a regular feature of the exhibitions of the Art Directors Club.

Most contemporary designers are aware of Paul Rand's successful and compelling contributions to advertising design. What is not well known is the significant role he played in setting the pattern for future approaches to the advertising concept. Rand was probably the first of a long and distinguished line of art directors to work with and appreciate the unique talent of William Bernbach. Rand described his first meeting with Bernbach as "akin to Columbus discovering America," and went on to say, "This was my first encounter with a copywriter who understood visual ideas and who didn't come in with a yellow copy pad and a preconceived notion of what the layout should look like."

Rand spent fourteen years in advertising where he demonstrated the importance of the art director in advertising and helped break the isolation that once surrounded the art department. The final thought from  THOUGHTS ON DESIGN is worth repeating: "Even if it is true that commonplace advertising and exhibitions of bad taste are indicative of the mental capacity of the man in the street, the opposing argument is equally valid. Bromidic advertising catering to that bad taste merely perpetuates that mediocrity and denies him one of the most easily accessible means of aesthetic development."

In 1954 when Paul Rand decided Madison Avenue was no longer a two-way street and he resigned from the Weintraub agency, he was cited as one of the ten best art directors by the Museum of Modern Art. The rest is design history.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, a pioneer typographer, photographer, and designer of the modern movement and a master at the Bauhaus in Weimar, may have come closest to defining the Rand style when he said Paul was "an idealist and a realist using the language of the poet and the businessman. He thinks in terms of need and function. He is able to analyze his problems, but his fantasy is boundless."