In 1986, Steve Jobs paid renowned graphic designer Paul Rand $100,000 to create a visual identity for his computer company. Rand developed a unique 100-page proposal book for the NeXT logo that walked the reader step-by-step through the conceptual process to the final outcome.
NeXT (later NeXT Computer and NeXT Software) was an American computer and software company founded in 1985 by Apples co-founder, based in Redwood City, California. The company developed and manufactured a series of computer workstations intended for the higher education and business markets.
As was a common part of the Paul Rand design process, a presentation book was produced in order to help persuade the client that the proposed idea was the right direction.
Ideally, a logo should explain or suggest the business it symbolizes, but this is rarely possible or even necessary. There is nothing about the IBM symbol, for example, that suggests computers, except what the viewer reads into it. Stripes are now associated with computers because the initials of a great computer company happen to be striped. This is equally true of the ABC symbol which does not suggest TV. The mnemonic factors in both logos are graphic devices: stripes and circles.
In this example the e is the mnemonic factor.
A few legible scans from the book are hosted on thePrint Magazinewebsite.
When Paul Rand arrived to introduce the NeXT logo idea to the company team, its clear how excited Jobs was about the result.
When Jobs was asked what it was like to work with Rand, he said, I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You dont have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.
The NeXT logo mightnt be a classic, but the style of presentation is.
How Paul Rand presented logos to clients
Dont try to be original. Just try to be good.
Is the full 100 page brochure available anywhere? It would be very interesting to read. Although I suppose it is not publicly available.
I thought I would add to the post an interesting fact I found earlier this year on this same subject apparently Paul Rand actually renamed the company from being NXT to NeXT motivating the e as meaning education. (The history off NeXT can be seen here:
I was also interested to find the 100 page brochure, so did a little search:
I found this interesting post by Jonathon Baxter ( who explains that the hundred page document doesnt really exist. Unfortunately the link on the site to the copy that he has does not exist anymore either but you can find the presentation document that he is talking about here: you scroll down to Identity Presentations you will see the NeXT logo presentation.
With all due respect, the logo is not exactly remarkable. Yes, Paul Rand. Yes, Steve Jobs. Horay for NeXT. Before you start disagreeing, consider this if NeXT were branded today, do you think this logo had a slightest chance of being accepted?
I remember seeing first NeXT stations back when they came out, and they were mind-boggingly incredible. The design of the hardware, the fit and finish of the software and then you would look at the logo and go like what the heck is this?. It was just inconsistent with the overall polish of the product.
His opinion isnt wrong, you just dont agree with it. Also, at least Alex put forward more of a debate while you just shut him down. I completely agree, it is just two large names attached to a rather unimpressive logo mark.
I dont think its fair to evaluate based on whether it would be accepted today. Instead you have to consider how much the design elements in this logo influenced other designs and made the concepts it introduced more ubiquitous within the industry. I dont know how influential this design was in particular but I find that this is a common poor criticism of past design.
If in doubt, rand it out! dont ask.
You can always rely on rand to spark up some great discussion and inspiration. I must admit, what I love most about his legacy is his work ethic. Design isnt 9-5, Design it isnt a job Design is a predisposition. Our brains are hardwired to think the way we do. I am so proud to share the same profession as this man!
Its like with designer clothing. People only think its so great is because of the name behind it.
I agree with Alex. I respect Paul Rand but I must say I think this lacks a basic graphic aesthetic. It meanders somewhere between the rubiks cube and a really bad design. (love rubiks!)
Enron was amazing, IBM was brilliant, NeXT was poor.
I really like Paul Rand but sometimes designers do get things wrong.
Hi Gary, interesting link, and its a shame those pics are no longer available. Thanks a lot, though.
Alex, its not a remarkable logo compared to his iconic designs, but isnt it fascinating how those at the top of their game can command the price and respect given by Jobs?
Im also with Alex on this one. In fact Im not a huge fan of Paul Rand. I always considered his work to be weaker versions of work done by Pentagram or Minale Tattersfield (yes I know they were about in the 1960s after Rand had started and he did influence them). I saw a Paul Rand lecture a number of years ago (he died soon after which seems to happen a lot, the same with Alan Fletcher and Ray Harryhausen) and he was witty and articulate, as are most of the old guard, but the work lacked wit and polish. I loved his illustration style because I love that whole period, but I think hes overated (along with Glaser) compared to Brian Tattersfield, Robert Brownjohn, Bob Gill, Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar and John McConnell. But unlike Rand they dont seem to get the same exposure.
Leave it with me, Lee. Ill see what I can do.
For others wanting a quick look at CG heresan interview with Tom Geismar.
I admire that sort of confidence and control Paul Rand had over clients. And being able to put Steve Jobs in his place like that is pretty cool!
Yes, that was a great interview with Tom Geismar David, I liked that A LOT.
I was a huge fan of the Partners, Pentagram and Minale Tattersfield at college. Brilliant ideas beautifully crafted.
Always a big fan of both Steve and Paul. Very interesting video interview. I like it a lot. Thanks for putting the story together. 🙂
It may be sacrilegious, but I feel that much of Rands work doesnt stand the test of time. Yes, he created some iconic logos in his day, but not everything was a jewel. The NeXT logo being one of them. I appreciate Steve Jobs opinions (the man definitely knows style and what makes for good design) but I think he had to justify being swindled on this one, a bit of the emporers new clothes in my humble opinion.
First of all to whom say Rands work doesnt stand to the test of time are simply revealing their imprudence.
If any of you have ever taken a PEEK at any of Paul Rands books, (e.g. Design, Form, and Chaos, where the NeXT brochure is replicated in) then you will understand that this is an ingenious design, and innovative for its time.
If not, you cannot speak in regards to dismissing this extraordinary design because you lack the knowledge of what the proposal consisted of.
In regards to standing the test of time, Pauls work is JUST AS RELEVANT as it was when it was first designed 24 years ago.
If all the corporations werent following these TRENDS we wouldnt even be having this debate.
ABC and UPS have both followed these trends; both for the worse. Although, ABC is mostly in tact besides of button-like supplement to the identity.
To stand the test of time merely depends on the principles of design (e.g. contrast, unity, balance, scale, texture, etc.).
Judging stricly on the principles of design, Paul Rands work stands the test of time.
if NeXT were branded today, do you think this logo had a slightest chance of being accepted?
Yes, because Steve Jobs understands GOOD DESIGN!
Yes, you could argue Apple uses the three-dimensional identity, but it seems from research that they use that strictly for online purposes. While I am typing this post I am also looking at the black filled apple that is stamped right onto my IMAC. Furthermore, they use the same original identity for their stores.
Paul Rand said in A Designers Art,
I believe that it is only in the application of those timeless principles that one can even begin to achieve a semblance of quality in ones work.
a post paying tribute to Morton Goldsholl is needed on this site!
I was informed by my mentor DesignMaven that Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar BOTH attended Yale and studied under Paul Rand.
Basically theyre offsprings of Paul Rand, and if you diss Paul Rand, then youre basically dissing Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar.
It isnt exactly glorious, but maybe back in the days it was something that might be considered ahead of its time.
Sadly we can clearly see that times have passed it.
Maybe its of the colors used?
I dont know, but Im sure it worked pretty well back then.
What Im surer of is that it doesnt work at all NOW and BEYOND.
I have a Paul Rand book (A designers Art), I saw his speak at a D&AD lecture. He is a great lecturer and obviously a great teacher. I think his students were better than him and I stand/sit by what I said.
Its only an opinion. Im just not a fan. Give Robery Brownjohn, Brian or Bob Gill etc a look. I will check out Morton Goldsholl as I am ashamed to say he hasnt figured on my radar. Hopefully you will check out the names I mentioned (if you dont know of them already). Its always good to find out about good design.
Check out Penrose annuals too, I used to collect them (along with other old design books).
I love that quote from Rand: No to Steve Jobs. Maybe Jobs borrowed some reality distortion field modeling methods from Rand 🙂
That said, this is one logo by Rand I never cared for. My right brain says ick but my left brain says must like thisit is Rand. Right brain wins. Perhaps it was not dated looking when it came out, but it sure has not help up like Rands other classic logos.
Its true, though, that logomarks have shelf life no matter how great of a designer you are. This is a good case study in shelf life. Probably one of the shortest lives of any work Rand did.
The only person Im fully aware of is Bob Gill. He is another design great and founder of Pentagram. Ive only seen a very small amount of work that was designed by Robert Brownjohn.
Youre foruntunate to see/hear Paul Rand lecture; makes me wish I was born earlier to be able to possibly chat and meet him.
I undertand you have your own opinion; I was sharing and backing up my own as well.
I doubt youll be able to find much information on Morton Goldsholl online.
Look for his book Inside Design: A review of 40 years of work.
Im not sure where youre located, but if youre interested in purchasing check under this site:
One of his most well known work is the Motorola Identity and various work for Kimberly Clark. Morton Studied design at the New School of Bauhaus (Chicago) with Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Gyorgy Kepes, Walter Gropius, and other professors.
Here is what Paul elucidated about his rationality about the twenty-eight degree angle and the hue choices.
In its design, color arrangement, and orientation the logo is a study in contrasts. Tipped at a jaunty angle, it brims with the informality, friendliness, and spontaneity of a Christmas seal and the authority of a rubber stamp. Together with its lively black silhoutette it becomes a focal point difficult for the eyes to avoid.
In regards to the hue choice Paul said, The unconventional yet dignified array of colorsvermillion against cerise and green, and yellow against black (the most intense color contrast possible)is designed to appeal to a youthful audience and to add sparkling, jewel-like touch to paper, package, or machine. It is the sparing use of brilliant colors on a predominantly black ground that produces this effect, like stars in the sky.
Paul was inspired greatly by children (as he has alluded to in his books) and by Robert Indianas LO VE as he mentions in the brochure.
So, in essence the identity was designed for a youthful audience and suceeds greatly in doing so.
thank you for quoting Rand and shedding the light on his choices concerning composition, color choice and personal inspiration
However, I find myself even more convinced about myself not liking this logo.
It might have been designed for a youthful audience but I have to ask: is it still succeeding in doing so?
I am no graphic guru nor am I judging Rands creativity, I am just saying that this identity wasnt designed to last.
And I insist again that the color combination that was meant to strike the eye and attract the youthful audience, strikes the eye indeed and causes near blindness to me, a sample of the youthful audience.
Check a logo created for Computer Impressions in 95 same problem there, its even more unconventional than NeXT yet, sadly, I find it hideous.
even masters like Rand have their weaknesses and this logo could have been developed into something way more interesting.
thanks for the reply. Im based in London (UK). There are Robert Brownjohn exhibitions at design museums occasionally. Robert was from the USA but lived in the UK and was responsible for the titles for the Bond films From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, some brilliant ideas which seem fresh even today.
I was lucky enough to meet some of my design heros (Alan Fletcher, Bob Gill and Colin Forbes signed by business card a few years ago which after moving I cant find!!!!).
I worked at Minale Tattersfield with the late, great Marcello Minale and Brian Tattersfield. It was great fun. Marcello was occasionally scary but great fun, inspirational and is sadly missed. They designed the Harrods logo and a lot of their packaging, iconic posters for British Airports, London Tube Stations, Armarni logo, various identities for museums such as the Imperial War Museum in London.
Ive been fortunate to see lot of designers speak thanks to D&AD.
Paul Rand told Steve Jobs what we all want to say to our clients, but never have the balls to do so. Paul Rand was a bad bad man. So cool.
@Alex: The NeXTcube was the predecessor to the NeXTstation. This logo is related to the cube. I agree that the logo didnt always seem to fit but not because of polish. The first NeXTs were 2-bit monochrome (four values: white, 33% grey, 67% grey, and black) IIRC with nice dithering used in in-between values. Of course there were later models, like the NeXTstation Turbo Color and even the amazing Dimension model before that.
I like this logoit does feel very 80s but in a good way. Bright colors that pop against the black, tech but playful. Its not the first logo that pops in my head when I think of PRs greatest hits but it made me happy when I saw it. And Im sure whoever designed the Playstation button icons was influenced by this.
I love the comment about seeing options. Our clients always ask to see options. I really like the idea of only showing one, but there is always two ways to skin a cat.
I like the approach of no I will not give you options, I will solve your problem and you will pay me
I dont know how often that would work for the rest of us in practice but maybe if someone is waving a big amount of money in your face they will obviously have major confidence in you. anyone got a 100grand they want to pay me for a logo design?
Love Pauls stance on options, at the end of the day graphic designers are the experts as they are doing design 24/7 however trying telling that to your clients!
I am a great admirer of Steve Jobs and Paul Rand, but Steve misspoke when he said that Rand was the only designer approached to design the NeXT logo. I know because my firm, Vigon Seireeni (later Studio Seireeni Inc.) was also invited to the competition. Our solution was an elephant with wings symbolizing memory and speed, the two principal qualities of this new computer aimed at researchers and college students. Had we known that Steve had privately hired Paul Rand, we would have dropped out. He was a god to all young designers of the time someone we mere mortals could never outthink.
This one of the most perfect logos ever created. Course it doesnt show a computer 😉
I visited the Paul Rand website after reading this article. Was really surprised when I looked at his portfolio page. My impression was huh? Almost feel dirty saying that but it reinforces a long held belief that many times the loudest designer wins. A LOT of cult-of-personality at play here.
For a good look at the CI document, check out this youtube video:
A few thoughts: 1) The blackness of the logo most likely made it difficult to stand out on the black cubes it was made to be put on not very astute of Paul in my opinion. 2) His cockiness in the initial negotiations would never fly in the post-80s world. 3) With only one $100,000 choice, Steve had two choices, dump the logo and waste the money or convince himself that it was ground-breaking and live with it. Not sure if Paul was serving his clients best interest there.
Here are some scans if anyone is interested.
I really like the logo design and how he talked about incorporating the e in the logo to bring out a recognition. I never really realized the lower case e as we see being used in branding today might have stemmed from the NeXT logo.
Im inclined to see the negativity some express here as arising from the failure of the product. I didnt like the logo either when it first appeared. It has a bit of the uncanny valley about it. It looks as if it should have perspective and doesnt. But I got used to it, then the company almost disappeared and subsequently took over Apple and dropped the logo. Had the product been a success, the logo may have grown on us. For all the talk of the IBM logo being a success, in the 1970s when I first encountered it in stripy form, I didnt like it much either. Its the combined quality of instant recognition and growing familiarity over time that makes a great logo. No one would design something like the Ford signature now, but when Ford tried to drop it for something more modern, their research showed it was so recognizable that they couldnt.
Well, a good question to ask oneself is if you didnt know who created this, would you still consider it a great design?
I have to agree with criticism here. He was a great salesman if you read through the NeXT brochure his argumentation is what sells the logo, not the design itself. And in fact all other logos. Yale is legendary but horrid, IBM is just plain etc. etc.
The only reason theyre considered great today is because of the man behind it, not because it was a ground-breaking design. Out of all his works, corporate identities were his weakest area design-wise.
I am no graphic designer in any way, but I do remember the NeXT logo, from the computer magazines I used to read back then, from a NeXT center I passed by while riding the bus, and from the few next cubes I had the chance to see from a distance at school.
The NeXT machine was an inaccessible dream for a computer enthusiast at that time, and this unconventional logo (angled, colorful yet black) certainly was a part of these machines standing out. I know in my brains it was.
You people clearly know nothing about design! The logo is genius, as were other logos Rand did. Look at the Apple logo designed by Rob Janoff. Same minimalist feel. Look at ANY great corporate logo.
First off, I love these names (or rather trove of references) Bob Gill (I highly recommend you listen to his interview with Debbie Millman on Design Matters), Alan Fletcher, Colin Forbes, Brian Tattersfield, Robert Brownjohn, Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar and John McConnell mentioned by Lee.
But, more importantly, this quote below makes an interesting statement about the mystery behind why some logos become famous while others simply dont:
Its the combined quality of instant recognition and growing familiarity over time that makes a great logo. Philip Machanick
I agree with Philip on this true observation, just to some extent, though; especially, with the number of logos being created by logo design experts almost every day, one cannot help it but strive hard for the former (which is the quality of INSTANT RECOGNITION).
This may sound somehow insane or too much a challenge for many people but the truth is, logos received their reviews and GROWING FAMILIARITY in just a day (that is, the day a logo first appeared on social media platforms, especially Twitter). Logo designers therefore cannot afford to create something and hope for a growing familiarity over time to make such a logo great. Ha!
Thats exactly why I love the context in which Philip rightly put it, THE COMBINED QUALITY of the former and the latter. But Ill rather pretend the latter does not exist, and go for the former strive for instant recognition.
Thanks for sharing these useful posts, David.
OK, heres the thing. Paul Rand just didnt deliver a logo and say, Thats it, pay me. No. He prepared an entire booklet/style guide that explained why and what he created for NEXT. He had a team of people behind him. He and his team labored for months. So for $100,000 the end justified the means. What you are missing is the caveat: You can take it or leave it. Just pay me. Love it!
Im no designer but on the dollar value of design take a look at this logo
Essentially, he wrote him a book and designed a logo for 100k. Thats a lot of money, so of course a lot of research can be done.
The logo sucked, and I think deep down inside, Jobs didnt like it either but he used it becuase of the built up anticipation, time, money invested, and the notorioty of the designer. Its no Apple logo, which is probably the perfect logo.
Was cleaning out my closet today and found a NeXT logo tote bag! Hate to throw it out, but I never cared much for the logo. Reminds me of Robert Indianas LOVE logo combined with some late 60s 3D typeface.
Hosted byFused. Updated byDavid Airey.