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IBM – International Business Machines, 1974
S.M. writes about the IBM design structure for issue 173 of Graphis
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Since 1956 IBM – its full company style is International Business Machines Corporation – has had a corporate design programme directed at maintaining a high level of quality in all the company's visual expressions. The programme encompasses architecture, interiors, products, graphics, exhibitions and films. Three outside consultants have worked continuously on the programme together with IBM designers and management people: Eliot Noyes, Consultant Director of Design; Paul Rand, graphics consultant; and Charles Eames, consultant for films and exhibitions. The consultants set quality standards and act as teachers, critics and evaluators.
IBM has succeeded in creating one of the most effective corporate images in the world today, and one that won recognition in a surprisingly short space of time. One of the main elements of this striking success was no doubt the design by Paul Rand of a company typeface based on City Medium, from which the familiar logotype was also derived. This alphabet combines exemplary clarity and modernity with a suggestion of computer applications. It has been used consistently on a wide scale, and thus reflects the thoroughness and constancy of purpose with which the design principles originally adopted by IBM have been implemented. Most of the day-to-day work done up to the present has been accomplished by in-house designers who specialize in either graphics, products or interiors. Inasmuch as IBM is an international company, the programme has been extended to IBM locations in all parts of the world, with frequent contacts between IBM designers working abroad and consultants and designers in the United States.
Manager of IBM's Design and Arts Programmes is Marion Swannie, who has worked on the design programme since its inception and became manager in 1960, with responsibility for overall co-ordination. All activities relating to architecture and interiors are handled by IBM's Real Estate and Construction Division, while product design is a function of the System Development Division and is headed by Walter Kraus.
Graphic design is carried out in over 40 IBM locations around the world. Many of these are design departments associated with the communications function in a given country. Others are known as Design Centres, located at major plant or laboratory sites. The centres are responsible for handling a full range of design requirements, including product, interior, exhibition and graphic design.
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The largest group of graphic designers is the promotional design group of the Data Processing Division, located in White Plains, New York. This group is responsible for producing several hundred brochures, slide shows and film strips each year. Virtually all designing is done in-house, with mechanicals, photography, illustration and other special services purchased on the outside as needed.
Arthur Boden, Edgar Fitt, Jerry Mancini, Mary Beresford Matthews, John Milligan, Robert Paganucci, Jack Reich and Richard Rogers are among the IBM staff designers from the Data Processing Division who, in addition to Paul Rand, have made a large contribution to creating and consolidating the IBM style in graphic design.
About Logo Histories’ Extra Issue
Logo Histories’ Extra Issue unlocks opinion and insights lost to time, buried within the pages of rare out-of-print design books and magazines. Through this series, you'll come to understand the challenges and opportunities corporate identity designers of the past faced to help you better understand design practice of the present. For Logo Histories, click here.