Today would have been Paul Rand’s 100th birthday and Design Observer pulled together some of their previously published essays about the iconic designer. One of the essays they’ve resurfaced is Jessica Helfand’s Logocentrism that focuses on Rands corporate identity work.

IBM is perhaps more the exception than the rule. Rand typically designed trademarks, not corporate identity programs. His marks were simple, modern, geometric abstractions of letterforms, recognizable shapes, and symbols. He designed them to work at any scale or at an angle, on the side of a truck or emblazoned on an annual report cover — but they were rarely conceived of as part of larger, more complex communications programs, designed to embrace evolution and permutation over time or across disparate media. For Rand, a modern mark was a simple mark, and the secret to making things last lay in keeping them simple. In keeping them simple, he was indeed able to lay claim to the greatest endurance record of any trademark designer to date: while the Westinghouse logo was retooled five times between 1900 and 1953, Rand’s 1960 redesign has remained intact for 37 years. His 1961 logo for UPS has lasted almost as long. (It is now reportedly being redesigned by Pentagram.)

That UPS redesign, of course, never happened—Michael Beirut chronicles some of that experience in his essay Graphic Design Criticism as a Spectator Sport.

Now here is everything I’ve posted on this blog about Mr. Rand. Last month I added From Lascaux to Brooklyn, Rand’s book, to the library.

The Creative Influence produced a really nice interview with Michael Bierut that opens with a lovely tribute to the enduring legacy of Massimo Vignelli before Bierut speaks about logo and identity design and the idea that design is a vessel and can only be truly judged by what we fill it with and how it lasts over time.

When Penguin and Random House merged last year, it wasn’t just two companies coming together—with it they brought 250 publishing imprints under one roof. The question quickly becomes, how do you brand an entity like that, one that is both singular and multiple? That was the question that framed Michael Beirut and his team at Pentagram’s process for designing the brand for the new company. BusinessWeek reports:

Although Pentagram explored different ways to merge the penguin and house—including one of a penguin stepping out from behind a door—the hybrid logo fell flat with the stakeholders. “Instead of satisfying to both sides,” Bierut says, “we found it to be insulting to both sides.”

Bierut’s solution is both smart and beautiful, by combining the parent company’s word mark with each sub-brands unique logo, they can simultaneously communicate both a singular global brand and the diversity of various imprints catering to each market:

The branding system, comprising the wordmark and rotating imprint logos, won out, to the designers’ surprise. “It seemed to solve all the problems,” Bierut says, “but it didn’t appear to be, ‘What’s our new logo going to look like?’—which was the question we were there to answer.”

The wordmark itself is a nuanced statement. Rendered in a lightweight font and stacked three lines high, Penguin Random House softly endorses the imprint logo on its left, creating an association that can be mutually beneficial. “If you put your logo next to Penguin Random House, you become the symbol of Penguin Random House, as opposed to feeling you’re being smothered by some unwanted corporate parent,” Bierut says.

The entire system works great and feels perfectly suited to the company’s unique challenges. Really, really smart.