It’s hard to miss the impact that the late designer Paul Rand has had on Columbus.
The Cummins logo visible everywhere on buildings and signs across Columbus.
The C-shaped bike racks.
The Tipton Lakes logo with the three ducks.
They were all — to some extent — designed by Rand, best known for the corporate logos he created for IBM, UPS, Enron and ABC.
He branded the Columbus Area Visitors Center with the dancing C’s, which the city then adapted in its branding.
However, few visitors pass the Columbus welcome sign with the iconic green and blue “C” on Jonathan Moore Pike and think of Rand, a world-renowned designer.
The School of Fine Arts & Design at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus — along with a growing list of partners — hopes to change that, starting with an exhibit and The Rand Workshop.
Randy Tucker, former Cummins director of public relations, worked closely with Rand while he designed the company’s logo and more than 20 annual reports between 1962 and 1994 as its design consultant.
“I never understood from the beginning that I was going to become close friends with a genius,” he said. “To have that kind of experience, and not even knowing I was having that kind of experience, it kind of becomes real now as opposed to when I was working with him.”
A collection of Rand works was stored in Tucker’s closet, and he never thought much of it — until he crossed paths with Lloyd Brooks, visual communications chairman at Ivy Tech’s School of Fine Arts & Design.
When Brooks started at the school in the summer of 2010, he was immediately asked to think outside the box by adding community learning experiences to the program. He did so by creating Big Art Bang, a visual communications learning experience and professional development for Ivy Tech students and a community art event for the public.
Brooks came up with even bigger plans for this year.
“I have always been a fan of Paul Rand’s work, growing up in the industry and in Indiana being very aware of his connection to Columbus. So from the very beginning, one thing I wanted to do was figure out how to have an exhibit in our own gallery,” Brooks said.
After a few lunch meetings with Tucker, Ivy Tech’s School of Fine Arts & Design became the new benefactor of a collection of Rand markups, reports and books, which will be on display in the exhibit. Also included in the exhibit is a copy of the book Rand presented to Steve Jobs with the NeXT educational computer company logo.
“Stuff accumulates,” Tucker said.
They’d bounce ideas off one another, and that meant sharing a lot of material.
Tucker donated the collection to the college with the understanding the exhibit would be used for community education and tourism and to promote the Rand legacy and his connection to Columbus.
“This could have been given to Yale or Indiana University, but I’m kind of a committed community person,” Tucker said. “I got acquainted with these people, and I felt it wouldn’t get stored someplace and not used. Obviously what’s going on here somewhat justified the gift.”
Some pieces will be on display at the gallery in Hotel Indigo through April 15. Others can be seen at the Ivy Tech Gallery of Fine Arts & Design March 31 through April 15.
“It’s a living lab to teach our students,” said Jonathan Wilson, dean of the School of Fine Arts & Design.
Brooks called the collection a teaching experience of a lifetime.
“The artwork is primitive and crude,” he said. “He was not a master craftsman; he was a conceptual designer. His actual craftsmanship is messy.”
He said the exhibit reveals that. The pieces are not framed as in a museum, for example.
Brooks also said it’s a good lesson for students, who are used to a neat design process on a computer.
“Paul was very respectful of ability,” Tucker said. “He thought instruments should never define what you can think about or accomplish. It should not be creativity constricted by a computer or any other instrument.”
The Ivy Tech School of Fine Arts & Design, along with the Columbus Redevelopment Commission, will apply that philosophy next week to a two-day workshop that will explore design in the classroom, through fashion shows and through ideas for the future.
Rand’s influence in Columbus stretched from the ’60s through the ’80s, but who else was in the design field in Columbus at the time?
Monday, the first day of the workshop, will explore that question with sessions including “The History of Architecture and Its Impact on Columbus,” “Mid-Century Modern Textiles and Colour Palettes” and “Mid-Century Modern Furniture History.”
That evening, there will be a photo workshop where families can have their photos taken by photography students at Poling Hall. Also that night are film showings of “Typeface the Movie” and “Pollock” at YES Cinema.
Columbus Museum of Art & Design board member Sharon Beach said the workshop will help bring an awareness back into the community. Since the organization lost its exhibit space in the old Commons, she said, it has struggled to reach the general public.
“This will help to bring the heritage of Columbus to residents in a way that is really approachable,” she said. “These people might not have gone to an art museum, but now they can see the impact this can have beyond just art.”
Brooks said about 430 people came out to last year’s Big Art Bang put on by the School of Fine Arts & Design, which focused on sustainability and community. He’s anticipating more this year.
Jeff Baker, owner of Baker’s Fine Gifts & Accessories downtown, said he supports the mission of the workshop and the school in general. He said the event could draw in community members and tourists who are more interested in history than art.
“It’s part of the Columbus story,” he said. “So many people here are interested in the Columbus story to start with, but this not only takes what is relevant today but also what is relevant from a historical standpoint.”
Design for the future
The driving question of the whole workshop is “How can we as art and design students convey, enhance and fulfill the Modernist vision of downtown Columbus arts and business districts through visual and environmental design for the future?”
April 1 sessions will focus on the future — the future of design, the future of development and the future of sustainability.
Jan Banister, with the contribution of computer-assisted design plans for a building on Washington Street, has led a yearlong project to design a retail store with urban living space and rooftop gardens.
Those designs will be presented from 9:30 a.m. to noon April 1 and then archived into an Imagination Library for developers, investors and the City of Columbus to access for years to come.
The designs for the Washington shop will be made available in case an investor wants to bring the plan to life.
Baker said retailers — who might think they know everything they need to about branding but do not — will greatly benefit from the library. They can consult student designs for business cards, letterheads or logos.
“These students are thinking outside the box,” Brooks said. “They’re not encumbered by the political structure of downtown. They don’t know anything about politics. They’re just presenting ideas. They’re rethinking Columbus.”