NeXT (later NeXT Computer and NeXT Software) was an American computer and software company founded in 1985 by Apple’s co-founder, based in Redwood City, California. The company developed and manufactured a series of computer workstations intended for the higher education and business markets.
As was a common part of the Paul Rand design process, a presentation book was produced in order to help persuade the client that the proposed idea was the right direction.
“Ideally, a logo should explain or suggest the business it symbolizes, but this is rarely possible or even necessary. There is nothing about the IBM symbol, for example, that suggests computers, except what the viewer reads into it. Stripes are now associated with computers because the initials of a great computer company happen to be striped. This is equally true of the ABC symbol which does not suggest TV. The mnemonic factors in both logos are graphic devices: stripes and circles.
“In this example the e is the mnemonic factor.”
A few legible scans from the book are hosted on the Print Magazine website.
When Paul Rand arrived to introduce the NeXT logo idea to the company team, it’s clear how excited Jobs was about the result.
When Jobs was asked what it was like to work with Rand, he said, “I asked him if he would come up with a few options, and he said, ‘No, I will solve your problem for you and you will pay me. You don’t have to use the solution. If you want options go talk to other people.’”
The NeXT logo mightn’t be a classic, but the style of presentation is.
Related, from the archives:
How Paul Rand presented logos to clients
Three-part Paul Rand interview
A conversation with Paul Rand
Don’t try to be original. Just try to be good.
Is the full 100 page brochure available anywhere? It would be very interesting to read. Although I suppose it is not publicly available.
I thought I would add to the post an interesting fact I found earlier this year on this same subject – apparently Paul Rand actually renamed the company from being NXT to NeXT – motivating the ‘e’ as meaning education. (The history off NeXT can be seen here: http://lowendmac.com/orchard/06/steve-jobs-next-years.html).
Hi David and ‘A6’
I was also interested to find the 100 page brochure, so did a little search:
I found this interesting post by Jonathon Baxter (http://www.nextcomputers.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1590) who explains that the hundred page document doesn’t really exist. Unfortunately the link on the site to the copy that he has does not exist anymore either – but you can find the presentation document that he is talking about here: http://www.paul-rand.com/index.php/site/identity/ if you scroll down to ‘Identity Presentations’ you will see the NeXT logo presentation.
It does exist I have one of the original copies. it is a perfect bound french fold booklet.
Hey Regina, do you want to sell it?
No thank you. I have no idea what it is worth.
Hi, did you receive the book of Paul Rand’s presentation?
I would like to have a copy if it’s possible please.
The link has moved here. https://www.paulrand.design/work/Logo-Presentation-Books.html
Me too. I have several.
With all due respect, the logo is not exactly remarkable. Yes, Paul Rand. Yes, Steve Jobs. Horay for NeXT. Before you start disagreeing, consider this – if NeXT were branded today, do you think this logo had a slightest chance of being accepted?
I remember seeing first NeXT stations back when they came out, and they were mind-boggingly incredible. The design of the hardware, the fit and finish of the software… and then you would look at the logo and go like “what the heck is this?”. It was just inconsistent with the overall polish of the product.
Wrong. The logo was great.
I agree — great logo.
His opinion isn’t wrong, you just don’t agree with it. Also, at least Alex put forward more of a debate while you just shut him down. I completely agree, it is just two large names attached to a rather unimpressive logo mark.
Didn’t meant to shut down without details. This logo was made to look simple and iconic in a time when plain sans serif type wasn’t the norm, the next logo looks like it could have been made by an agency today. When I first saw it, it was really eye opening. You just didn’t see playful logos back then. Using capitals and lowercase letters in the same logo is again something you see a lot today but wasn’t really done back then. Same with using multiple colors for type on a corporate logo, this was kind of popularized by google, but this logo was released in the 80s. It was ground breaking imo. When seen against today’s landscape it’s become the norm.
Precisely. Subjective evaluations.
I don’t think its fair to evaluate based on whether it would be accepted today. Instead you have to consider how much the design elements in this logo influenced other designs and made the concepts it introduced more ubiquitous within the industry. I don’t know how influential this design was in particular but I find that this is a common poor criticism of past design.
I agree with Jacob. You can’t compare past and prresent, only the mark and legacy it has left behind and how it has influenced modern times. It’s like comparing the first aeroplane with a stealth fighter and saying “well that’s a bit crap.” It has taken a developmental process of many generations and designers, and Rand’s logo was one of the earlier ‘bricks in the wall’ that newer logos stand upon.
As a designer, and having been in the business for 47 years, (Yikes! I started in a production department at a retail chain store in 1971 before college), I don’t see any of this as a black and white issue. First off, logo styles and trends develop and recede. Maybe the NeXT logo would not be looked at as anything unique today, but for the time it was competently executed. That should be a comfort to all mediocre designers out there or those who think it was just “ok.” If it was just ok, then there remains a market for the mediocre, and work is available to all those who might not be a “10” design wise. The second, and maybe more important issue here is presentation. In a world of taking shortcuts and quick emails and texts, I think a client is still impressed with an “identity presentation book,” hand-delivered by FedEx. In a world where print was declared dead over 15 years ago, here’s something that would stand out to the client and something he might not ignore(?). I recently did one for an out-of-state client I had never met or spoken to. It took 3 tries at Kinkos to get the job correct but at the end of the day overnight charges in shipping to Hawaii was never better spent. Just think about it. I’m always willing to learn about new ways to make my work start out and shout above the rest.
Considering how well recognized the NeXT logo is in the industry even though it was a minor company with barely any market, the logo is as remarkable as their products were (and still are, in Apple’s current software stack).
I don’t think the original Apple logo would fly today either, it’s kinda clunky. As proof, they don’t use the Apple with the stripes. So too, if NeXT was branded today, it probably wouldn’t be a box. Rand was smart to add the ‘e’ as this was the ‘next’ thing for both consumers and Jobs, but with the creative spelling of the current generation, the designer would suggest taking the ‘e’ out. NXT.
I remember my first encounter with a NeXT computer more then 30 years ago when I was in my first or second year at Uni. I was blasted away by how beautiful and extraordinary the cube was. Like magic, the cube could swallow the CD then a screen so crisp and pleasing was displayed. The concept of drag-drop and object programming was so ahead-of-time. Yes, the logo was impressive and very fitting, too, as most logos of the time were just flat 2D and not a cube as the NeXT was.
Same exact feeling I got, like seeing a zebra in Manhattan, it really stood out in a good way.
I think “What the heck is this?” is exactly what Jobs and Rand were going for.
If it was done today it wouldn’t be good. This logo is good because he made it first. He made this design before it was generic, like every other famous logo. Don’t think you’d ever buy the Coca Cola logo these days. That thing is so bad. But makes sense because it was the first one like it.
Respect those who make things first, then everyone can make something better later.
Alex, I couldn’t agree more.
If in doubt, rand it out! … don’t ask.
You can always rely on rand to spark up some great discussion and inspiration. I must admit, what I love most about his legacy is his work ethic. Design isn’t 9-5, Design it isn’t a job… Design is a predisposition. Our brains are hardwired to think the way we do. I am so proud to share the same profession as this man!
I completely agree with Alex.
It’s like with designer clothing. People only think it’s so great is because of the name behind it.
I agree with Alex. I respect Paul Rand but I must say I think this lacks a basic graphic aesthetic. It meanders somewhere between the rubiks cube and a really bad design. (love rubiks!)
Enron was amazing, IBM was brilliant, NeXT was poor.
I really like Paul Rand but sometimes designers do get things wrong.
Hi Gary, interesting link, and it’s a shame those pics are no longer available. Thanks a lot, though.
Alex, it’s not a remarkable logo compared to his iconic designs, but isn’t it fascinating how those at the top of their game can command the price and respect given by Jobs?
I’m also with Alex on this one. In fact I’m not a huge fan of Paul Rand. I always considered his work to be weaker versions of work done by Pentagram or Minale Tattersfield (yes I know they were about in the 1960’s after Rand had started and he did influence them). I saw a Paul Rand lecture a number of years ago (he died soon after which seems to happen a lot, the same with Alan Fletcher and Ray Harryhausen) and he was witty and articulate, as are most of the old guard, but the work lacked wit and polish. I loved his illustration style because I love that whole period, but I think he’s overated (along with Glaser) compared to Brian Tattersfield, Robert Brownjohn, Bob Gill, Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar and John McConnell. But unlike Rand they don’t seem to get the same exposure.
Over to you on that one David. ;-)
Leave it with me, Lee. I’ll see what I can do.
For others wanting a quick look at C&G here’s an interview with Tom Geismar.
I admire that sort of confidence and control Paul Rand had over clients. And being able to put Steve Jobs in his place like that is pretty cool!
Yes, that was a great interview with Tom Geismar David, I liked that A LOT.
I was a huge fan of the Partners, Pentagram and Minale Tattersfield at college. Brilliant ideas beautifully crafted.
This was really a great interview.
Always a big fan of both Steve and Paul. Very interesting video interview. I like it a lot. Thanks for putting the story together. :)
It may be sacrilegious, but I feel that much of Rand’s work doesn’t stand the test of time. Yes, he created some iconic logos in his day, but not everything was a jewel. The NeXT logo being one of them. I appreciate Steve Jobs’ opinions (the man definitely knows style and what makes for good design) but I think he had to justify being swindled on this one, a bit of “the emporer’s new clothes” in my humble opinion.
First of all to whom say Rand’s work doesn’t stand to the test of time are simply revealing their imprudence.
If any of you have ever taken a PEEK at any of Paul Rand’s books, (e.g. Design, Form, and Chaos, where the NeXT brochure is replicated in) then you will understand that this is an ingenious design, and innovative for its time.
If not, you cannot speak in regards to dismissing this extraordinary design because you lack the knowledge of what the proposal consisted of.
In regards to standing the test of time, Paul’s work is JUST AS RELEVANT as it was when it was first designed 24 years ago.
If all the corporations weren’t following these TRENDS we wouldn’t even be having this debate.
ABC and UPS have both followed these trends; both for the worse. Although, ABC is mostly in tact besides of button-like supplement to the identity.
To stand the test of time merely depends on the principles of design (e.g. contrast, unity, balance, scale, texture, etc.).
Judging stricly on the principles of design, Paul Rand’s work stands the test of time.
“if NeXT were branded today, do you think this logo had a slightest chance of being accepted?”
Yes, because Steve Jobs understands GOOD DESIGN!
Yes, you could argue Apple uses the three-dimensional identity, but it seems from research that they use that strictly for online purposes. While I am typing this post I am also looking at the black filled apple that is stamped right onto my IMAC. Furthermore, they use the same original identity for their stores.
Paul Rand said in “A Designer’s Art”,
“I believe that it is only in the application of those timeless principles that one can even begin to achieve a semblance of quality in one’s work”.
a post paying tribute to Morton Goldsholl is needed on this site!
I was informed by my mentor DesignMaven that Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar BOTH attended Yale and studied under Paul Rand.
Basically they’re offsprings of Paul Rand, and if you diss Paul Rand, then you’re basically dissing Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar.
It isn’t exactly glorious, but maybe back in the days it was something that might be considered ahead of its time.
Sadly we can clearly see that times have passed it.
Maybe it’s of the colors used?
I don’t know, but I’m sure it worked pretty well back then.
What I’m surer of is that it doesn’t work at all NOW and BEYOND.
28 degree angle? :)
I have a Paul Rand book (A designers Art), I saw his speak at a D&AD lecture. He is a great lecturer and obviously a great teacher. I think his students were better than him and I stand/sit by what I said.
It’s only an opinion. I’m just not a fan. Give Robery Brownjohn, Brian or Bob Gill etc a look. I will check out Morton Goldsholl as I am ashamed to say he hasn’t figured on my radar. Hopefully you will check out the names I mentioned (if you don’t know of them already). It’s always good to find out about good design.
Check out Penrose annuals too, I used to collect them (along with other old design books).
I love that quote from Rand: “No” to Steve Jobs. Maybe Jobs borrowed some reality distortion field modeling methods from Rand :)
That said, this is one logo by Rand I never cared for. My right brain says “ick” but my left brain says “must like this…it is Rand”. Right brain wins. Perhaps it was not dated looking when it came out, but it sure has not help up like Rand’s other classic logos.
It’s true, though, that logomarks have shelf life no matter how great of a designer you are. This is a good case study in shelf life. Probably one of the shortest lives of any work Rand did.
The only person I’m fully aware of is Bob Gill. He is another design great and founder of Pentagram. I’ve only seen a very small amount of work that was designed by Robert Brownjohn.
You’re foruntunate to see/hear Paul Rand lecture; makes me wish I was born earlier to be able to possibly chat and meet him.
I undertand you have your own opinion; I was sharing and backing up my own as well.
I doubt you’ll be able to find much information on Morton Goldsholl online.
Look for his book “Inside Design: A review of 40 years of work.”
I’m not sure where you’re located, but if you’re interested in purchasing check under this site:
One of his most well known work is the Motorola Identity and various work for Kimberly Clark. Morton Studied design at the New School of Bauhaus (Chicago) with Laszlo Moholy Nagy, Gyorgy Kepes, Walter Gropius, and other professors.
Here is what Paul elucidated about his rationality about the twenty-eight degree angle and the hue choices.
“In its design, color arrangement, and orientation the logo is a study in contrasts. Tipped at a jaunty angle, it brims with the informality, friendliness, and spontaneity of a Christmas seal and the authority of a rubber stamp. Together with its lively black silhoutette it becomes a focal point difficult for the eyes to avoid.”
In regards to the hue choice Paul said, “The unconventional yet dignified array of colors–vermillion against cerise and green, and yellow against black (the most intense color contrast possible)–is designed to appeal to a youthful audience and to add sparkling, jewel-like touch to paper, package, or machine. It is the sparing use of brilliant colors on a predominantly black ground that produces this effect, like stars in the sky.”
Paul was inspired greatly by children (as he has alluded to in his books) and by Robert Indiana’s LO VE as he mentions in the brochure.
So, in essence the identity was designed for a youthful audience and suceeds greatly in doing so.
thank you for quoting Rand and shedding the light on his choices concerning composition, color choice and personal inspiration…
However, I find myself even more convinced about myself not liking this logo.
It might have been designed for a youthful audience but I have to ask: is it still succeeding “in doing so”?
I am no graphic guru nor am I “judging” Rand’s creativity, I am just saying that this identity wasn’t designed to last.
And I insist again that the color combination that was meant to strike the eye and attract the “youthful audience”, strikes the eye indeed and causes near blindness to me, a sample of “the youthful audience”.
Check a logo created for Computer Impressions in ’95… same problem there, it’s even more “unconventional” than NeXT yet, sadly, I find it hideous.
In a nutshell:
even masters like Rand have their weaknesses and this logo could have been developed into something way more interesting.
thanks for the reply. I’m based in London (UK). There are Robert Brownjohn exhibitions at design museums occasionally. Robert was from the USA but lived in the UK and was responsible for the titles for the Bond films From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, some brilliant ideas which seem fresh even today.
I was lucky enough to meet some of my design heros (Alan Fletcher, Bob Gill and Colin Forbes signed by business card a few years ago which after moving I can’t find!!!!).
I worked at Minale Tattersfield with the late, great Marcello Minale and Brian Tattersfield. It was great fun. Marcello was occasionally scary but great fun, inspirational and is sadly missed. They designed the Harrods logo and a lot of their packaging, iconic posters for British Airports, London Tube Stations, Armarni logo, various identities for museums such as the Imperial War Museum in London.
I’ve been fortunate to see lot of designers speak thanks to D&AD.
Paul Rand told Steve Jobs what we all want to say to our clients, but never have the balls to do so. Paul Rand was a bad bad man. So cool.
@Alex: The NeXTcube was the predecessor to the NeXTstation. This logo is related to the cube. I agree that the logo didn’t always seem to fit… but not because of polish. The first NeXTs were 2-bit monochrome (four values: white, 33% grey, 67% grey, and black) IIRC with nice dithering used in in-between values. Of course there were later models, like the NeXTstation Turbo Color and even the amazing Dimension model before that.
I like this logo–it does feel very 80s but in a good way. Bright colors that pop against the black, tech but playful. It’s not the first logo that pops in my head when I think of PR’s greatest hits but it made me happy when I saw it. And I’m sure whoever designed the Playstation button icons was influenced by this.
I love the comment about seeing options. Our clients always ask to see options. I really like the idea of only showing one, but there is always two ways to skin a cat.
I like the approach of “no I will not give you options, I will solve your problem and you will pay me”
I dont know how often that would work for the rest of us in practice but maybe if someone is waving a big amount of money in your face they will obviously have major confidence in you…. anyone got a 100grand they want to pay me for a logo design?
Love Paul’s stance on options, at the end of the day graphic designers are the experts as they are doing design 24/7 however trying telling that to your clients!
I am a great admirer of Steve Jobs and Paul Rand, but Steve misspoke when he said that Rand was the only designer approached to design the NeXT logo. I know because my firm, Vigon Seireeni (later Studio Seireeni Inc.) was also invited to the competition. Our solution was an elephant with wings symbolizing “memory” and “speed”, the two principal qualities of this new computer aimed at researchers and college students. Had we known that Steve had privately hired Paul Rand, we would have dropped out. He was a god to all young designers of the time – someone we mere mortals could never outthink.
This one of the most perfect logos ever created. Course it doesn’t show a computer ;-)
I visited the Paul Rand website after reading this article. Was really surprised when I looked at his portfolio page. My impression was “huh?’ Almost feel dirty saying that – but it reinforces a long held belief that many times the loudest designer wins. A LOT of cult-of-personality at play here.
For a good look at the CI document, check out this youtube video:
~ 2 minutes in.
A few thoughts: 1) The blackness of the logo most likely made it difficult to stand out on the black cubes it was made to be put on – not very astute of Paul in my opinion. 2) His cockiness in the initial negotiations would never fly in the post-80s world. 3) With only one $100,000 choice, Steve had two choices, dump the logo and waste the money or convince himself that it was ground-breaking and live with it. Not sure if Paul was serving his client’s best interest there.
Here are some scans if anyone is interested.
I really like the logo design and how he talked about incorporating the e in the logo to bring out a recognition. I never really realized the lower case e as we see being used in branding today might have stemmed from the NeXT logo.
I’m inclined to see the negativity some express here as arising from the failure of the product. I didn’t like the logo either when it first appeared. It has a bit of the uncanny valley about it. It looks as if it should have perspective and doesn’t. But I got used to it, then the company almost disappeared and subsequently took over Apple and dropped the logo. Had the product been a success, the logo may have grown on us. For all the talk of the IBM logo being a success, in the 1970s when I first encountered it in stripy form, I didn’t like it much either. It’s the combined quality of instant recognition and growing familiarity over time that makes a great logo. No one would design something like the Ford signature now, but when Ford tried to drop it for something more modern, their research showed it was so recognizable that they couldn’t.
Well, a good question to ask oneself is – if you didn’t know who created this, would you still consider it a great design?
I have to agree with criticism here. He was a great salesman – if you read through the NeXT brochure his argumentation is what sells the logo, not the design itself. And in fact all other logos. Yale is legendary but horrid, IBM is just plain etc. etc.
The only reason they’re considered great today is because of the man behind it, not because it was a ground-breaking design. Out of all his works, corporate identities were his weakest area design-wise.
I am no graphic designer in any way, but I do remember the NeXT logo, from the computer magazines I used to read back then, from a NeXT center I passed by while riding the bus, and from the few next cubes I had the chance to see from a distance at school.
The NeXT machine was an inaccessible dream for a computer enthusiast at that time, and this unconventional logo (angled, colorful yet black) certainly was a part of these machines standing out. I know in my brains it was.
My two cents. Gee I feel old now.
You people clearly know nothing about design! The logo is genius, as were other logos Rand did. Look at the Apple logo designed by Rob Janoff. Same minimalist feel. Look at ANY great corporate logo.
First off, I love these names (or rather trove of references) — Bob Gill (I highly recommend you listen to his interview with Debbie Millman on Design Matters), Alan Fletcher, Colin Forbes, Brian Tattersfield, Robert Brownjohn, Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar and John McConnell — mentioned by Lee.
But, more importantly, this quote below makes an interesting statement about the “mystery” behind why some logos become famous while others simply don’t:
“It’s the combined quality of instant recognition and growing familiarity over time that makes a great logo.” — Philip Machanick
I agree with Philip on this true observation, just to some extent, though; especially, with the number of logos being created by logo design experts almost every day, one cannot help it but strive hard for the former (which is the quality of INSTANT RECOGNITION).
This may sound somehow “insane” or too much a challenge for many people but the truth is, logos received their reviews and GROWING FAMILIARITY in just a day (that is, the day a logo first appeared on social media platforms, especially Twitter). Logo designers therefore cannot afford to create something and hope for a growing familiarity over time to make such a logo great. Ha!
That’s exactly why I love the context in which Philip rightly put it, “THE COMBINED QUALITY” of the former and the latter. But I’ll rather pretend the latter does not exist, and go for the former — strive for instant recognition.
Thanks for sharing these useful posts, David.
OK, here’s the thing. Paul Rand just didn’t deliver a logo and say, “That’s it, pay me.” No. He prepared an entire booklet/style guide that explained why and what he created for NEXT. He had a team of people behind him. He and his team labored for months. So for $100,000 the end justified the means. What you are missing is the caveat: You can take it or leave it. Just pay me. Love it!
I’m no designer but on the dollar value of design take a look at this “logo”…
Essentially, he wrote him a book and designed a logo for 100k. That’s a lot of money, so of course a lot of research can be done.
The logo sucked, and I think deep down inside, Jobs didn’t like it either but he used it becuase of the built up anticipation, time, money invested, and the notorioty of the designer. It’s no Apple logo, which is probably the perfect logo.
I agree. His whole creative input always centred around his divine understanding of typeface. This logo butchered that.
Was cleaning out my closet today and found a NeXT logo tote bag! Hate to throw it out, but I never cared much for the logo. Reminds me of Robert Indiana’s LOVE logo combined with some late 60’s 3D typeface.
I am wondering when the logo became angled at 28°. Watching the presentation video, the cube in the brochure presented by Paul Rand to Steve and his colleagues was not tilted at all. There is also a copy on the web of pages 18 and 19 that show the NeXT logo cubes not tilted. Can anyone clarify this?
One word: Complicated
Paul Rand provided an explanation for the angling in an interview excerpted from Print Magazine:
“Someone at the presentation meeting told me the thing that sold him on this logo was just that — the skewed logos — which is amusing because I originally did two versions. The first showed the logo parallel to the picture plane. The only one that was askew was the one on the back of the envelope. While the presentation was being printed, someone asked, ‘Why don’t you do them all like they appear on the envelope?’ I agreed. That made it more playful and more lively.”
A picture of the envelope he mentions can be found in the presentation booklet visible on the same page. I worked at NeXT between 1991 and 1996, part of the time in sales, and my experience was that the logo angle was an important part of the identity the logo conferred to the company and its products.
What’s wrong with the graphic is the isometric projection, distorting the 3rd dimension and monospacing the font.
As a designer, isometric is a poor creative effort associated with engineering assembly drawings. Jobs projected design, but was a poor engineer, thereby the conflict in identity.
Loved the company, tolerate the logo.