Rand's father required Paul Rand to attend Manhattan's Haaren High School. He also took night classes at the Pratt Institute in 1932.
Besides, Rand attended Parsons The New School for Design and the Art Students League of New York.
His career began with humble assignments, starting with a part-time position creating stock images for a syndicate that supplied graphics to various newspapers and magazines. It was around this time that he decided to camouflage the overtly Jewish identity conveyed by his name, Peretz Rosenbaum, shortening his forename to 'Paul' and taking 'Rand' from an uncle to form a Madison Avenue-friendly surname.
Rand went into business for himself in 1935, designing layouts for Apparel Arts and then for Esquire magazine.
Rand's most widely known contributions to design are his logos for IBM, ABC, Cummins Engine, UPS, Enron, and Westinghouse, and others, many of which are still used.
Rand became a professor of graphic design at Yale University in 1956 and worked there till 1991. During that period he wrote the books "Thoughts on Design" (1946), "Education of Vision" (1965), "Paul Rand: A Designer’s Art" (1985), "Design, Form and Chaos" (1994) and "From Lascaux to Brooklyn" (1996). He also contributed illustrations to several books and magazines and was a consultant to the International Business Machines Corporation from 1956 to 1992, Cummins Engine Company between 1962 and 1996, Westinghouse Electric from 1960 to 1981, and numerous others. Moreover, he was a teacher at Yale Summer School Program, Brissago, Switzerland, from 1977 to 1996.
Rand worked on commercial art from his Connecticut studio until his death and devoted his final years to design work and the writing of his memoirs. He remained vital as he aged, continuing to produce important corporate identities into the eighties and nineties. The most notable of his later works was his collaboration with Steve Jobs for the NeXT Computer corporate identity.
Rand died of cancer on November 26, 1996, at age 82 in Norwalk, Connecticut United States.
Rand was very interested in producing books of theory to illuminate his philosophies. During Rand's later career, he became increasingly agitated about the rise of postmodernist theory and aesthetic in design. In 1992 Rand resigned his position at Yale in protest of the appointment of postmodern and feminist designer Sheila Levrant de Bretteville. In justification of his resignation, Rand wrote the article "Confusion and Chaos: The Seduction of Contemporary Graphic Design", in which he denounced the postmodern movement as "faddish and frivolous" and "harboring its own built-in boredom".
The core ideology that drove and influenved Rand's career was the modernist philosophy he so revered. He admired the works of artists from Paul Cézanne to Jan Tschichold, and constantly attempted to draw the connections between their creative output and significant applications in graphic design.
"From Impressionism to Pop Art, the commonplace and even the comic strip have become ingredients for the artist's cauldron. What Cézanne did with apples, Picasso with guitars, Léger with machines, Schwitters with rubbish, and Duchamp with urinals makes it clear that revelation does not depend upon grandiose concepts. The problem of the artist is to defamiliarize the ordinary."
"...Art as experience deals with everything - there is no subject he does not deal with. That is why it will take you one hundred years to read this book. Even today's philosophers talk about it. Every time you open this book you find good things. I mean the philosophers say this, not just me. You read this, then when you open this up next year, that you read something new."
"Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated.”
“You will learn most things by looking, but reading gives understanding. Reading will make you free.”
“Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.”