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Object Timeline

1981

  • Work on this object began.

2002

  • We acquired this object.

2012

2017

  • You found it!

Poster, Eye, Bee, M (IBM), 1981

This is a poster. It was graphic design by Paul Rand and made for (as the client) IBM. It is dated 1981 and we acquired it in 2002. Its medium is offset lithograph. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

In the 1950s, IBM hired Eliot Noyes as design consultant to revamp the company’s identity. Noyes subsequently hired modern graphic artist Paul Rand, who designed the iconic striped IBM logo as well as various packaging, posters, and other design work for which he became renowned as a leading corporate designer. Rand’s IBM logo was intended to give consistency to the letters, each of which is wider than the last. The striped letters, with eight- and thirteen-bar variants, suggest speed, dynamism, and make the ordinary block letters less standard, and therefore more memorable. In this poster, Rand has replaced the first two letters with pictograms while retaining the “M” of what by this time had become iconic. He claimed that the “B” and “I” were the least likely letters in the alphabet to be misinterpreted in a rebus. Rand has described the rebus as “a kind of game designed to engage the reader and, incidentally, lots of fun.” Further, the rebus humanized the corporate giant while maintaining reference to its iconic striped letters. The in-house poster was considered so successful that IBM has continued printing the design for other purposes and in variant forms.

This object was donated by Marion S. Rand and catalogued by Dr. Gail Davidson and Karin Zonis. It is credited Gift of Marion S. Rand.

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Its dimensions are

H x W x D: 91.6 × 61.1 cm (36 1/16 × 24 1/16 in.)

It is signed

Signed [imprinted] in grey ink, lower right: Paul Rand

It is inscribed

Imprinted in gray, lower left corner: ©Copyright IBM Corporation, 1991. All Rights Reserved. / TM Trademark of the IBM Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.

Cite this object as

Poster, Eye, Bee, M (IBM), 1981; Graphic design by Paul Rand (American, 1914–1996); USA; offset lithograph; H x W x D: 91.6 × 61.1 cm (36 1/16 × 24 1/16 in.); Gift of Marion S. Rand; 2002-11-20

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18695343/ |title=Poster, Eye, Bee, M (IBM), 1981 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=20 October 2017 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>

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