The International Business Machines (IBM) company was founded in 1911 by a group of separate companies, these companies were previously known as the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company (CTR) based in Endicott, New York. CTR was founded by Charles Ranlett Flint who descended from a line of wealthy merchants. CTR would manufacture machinery both for sale and to lease to other businesses and wealthy individuals. Like many companies CTR diversified in a number of products in its infancy such as time recorders, machines to slice meat, commercial scales and punch cards.
In 1914 Thomas J. Watson, Sr. would join the company first as General Manager then he would become President within a year. Watson introduced a series of revolutionary changes to the culture such as training to improve the performance of sales, a policy of employees wearing dark suits, maintaining a professional appearance and a dedication to the service of the customer. His slogan “THINK” became a ubiquitous phrase among CTR and later IBM employees.
“All the problems of the world could be settled easily if men were only willing to think. The trouble is that men very often resort to all sorts of devices in order not to think because thinking is such hard work.”
– Thomas J. Watson, Sr.
Under the leadership of Watson CTR grew its revenues to $9 million ($168 million today) in his first few years as President and the influence of CTR expanded globally. Due to this and the fact that Watson found the Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company name cumbersome he oversaw the change to International Business Machines (IBM) in 1924 and the entire company would be known as IBM from that time on.
IBM already had a number of operations abroad and a year before the CTR changed to IBM the company would take 90% ownership of the German company Deutsche Hollerith-Maschinen Gesellschaft mbH (English: German Hollerith Machines LLC) this company would be known as Dehomag.
In 1933 the Nazi Party would work with Dehomag who would provide the means to trace and track Jewish people within the German Reich. Due to the national security related businesses in Europe IBM’s revenues increased rapidly until the WWII broke out in 1939.
IBM punch cards and other services were also used throughout WWII by Nazi Germany until the end of the war. During this time a number of USA companies had conflicting interests of their corporate responsibilities to their shareholders to grow the revenues of the company and the interests of their national identity.
“Every time we’ve moved ahead in IBM, it was because someone was willing to take a chance, put his head on the block, and try something new.” – Thomas J. Watson, Sr.
The way that corporations operate are not necessarily based on national identity therefore they operate as entities that work one way in one environment and transform in other global locations.
Thomas J. Watson, Sr reduced his responsibilities in 1952 and in 1956 his son Thomas J. Watson, Jr. took over as President.
The leadership of Watson Jr. began with a rebranding of the company that would signify a break from the previous ways of thinking while still building on the successes of the previous era.
Watson Jr. hired the design consultant Eliot Noyes to oversee the corporate identity rebrand of IBM. This was a monumental task for a company the size of IBM and Noyes would hire a team of experts to aid with aspects of the identity rebrand. One of the experts that would have a profound effect on the perception of IBM would be Paul Rand.
The designer Paul Rand was born to a Jewish family in the same year that Thomas J. Watson, Sr. came to IBM in 1914. Rand was born in New York and his birth name was Peretz Rosenbaum. He changed his name to Rand to become more appealing to the commercial market. It has been said that the change to Paul Rand his first successful ‘corporate identity.’
Rand studied at the Haaren High School and Pratt Institute where he learned about creatives and image makers from Europe. Among those who would have a lasting influence on Rand would be the Hungarian artist and painter László Moholy-Nagy, the commercial artist and designer Cassandre, pseudonym of Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron, and the typography Jan Tschichold who would have a great impact on the field of graphic design.
Rand began to work as a designer and art director for a number publications including Direction magazine, he would often receive less financial compensation for his ability to add creative input to each project.
Rand work work on the IBM logo rebrand from 1956 and the first accepted iteration was a similar rendition to the current IBM logo with a noticeable change being the increased thickness of the letterforms and the change of colour to black. Noyes’ team would work on the brand over the next two decades with Rand being responsible for amendments to the logo design and other graphic elements.
In 1969 the engineer Forest Parry would create the magnetic stripe card, these are the devices that are used on credit cards and membership cards to this very day. This same year IBM’s computers would aid The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) with the the Apollo Moon landing missions. Possibly these events would unconsciously influence Rand who in 1972 would redesign the IBM logo with 8 stripes on it.
Rand stated that the design of this version of the IBM logo was not based on any specific rationale.
“The illustration that represents the logo is the product and not the logo, that comes after the logo and that requires that the thing is seen and associated, and the association becomes the logo.” – Paul Rand
The stripes on the IBM logo was also modified to include a 13 horizontal striped version to add to the original 8 striped version. Rand’s work with IBM would continue until the 1990s and in the 1980s he would create the iconic Eye-Bee-M poster.
Due to his work with IBM Rand became a popular designer for corporations who wanted to create or rebrand their identities. Rand worked with UPS, Enron, Westinghouse, ABC, and the NeXT company of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Due to his popularity Rand would be able to dictate terms of his work and many other designers would not have the luxury to do this without his authority in the industry. He would not create variations of a logo design, he would create one version and would need to be paid in full before he accepted an assignment. There were companies such as Ford that turned down his logo designs but Rand would still be paid in full.
“If I think it’s right then why bother making more?” – Paul Rand
Evolution of the IBM logo
A number of companies that preceded the birth of CTR and IBM had a series of logos that represented the different companies. These would still influence the way that the IBM logo developed into its current form.
The International Time Recording Company
Computing Scale Company
Computing-Tabulating-Recording (CTR) – this is logo of the company that was founded by Charles Ranlett Flint who would be the founder of CTR and IBM.
International Business Machines
The first IBM text logo The familiar “globe” was replaced with the simple letters “IBM” in a typeface called Beton Bold.
Created by noted graphic designer Paul Rand, the new logotype replaced the former Beton Bold typeface with City Medium, as the letters “IBM” took on a more solid, grounded and balanced appearance.
Paul Rand striped version with 8 stripes.
Paul Rand striped version with 13 stripes.
“Don’t try to be original; just try to be good.”
― Paul Rand
The next part will be available soon.
Designer: Paul Rand