When IBM premiered its boxy, geometric logotype in 1956, designed by Paul Rand, the idea of a coordinated corporate identity system was just taking off. Indeed, Rand’s logo design set the mark for a new standard of graphic communication in business. A corporate identity was intended to be more than a logo, however: it was conceived as a broader program encompassing signage, letterheads, packaging, publications, and more.

Angelo Testa designed the printed linen fabric shown here. Testa attended the School of Design—the “New Bauhaus”—in Chicago in the 1940s. Studying there with modernist pioneers László Moholy-Nagy, Gyorgy Kepes, and Marli Ehrman (a weaver), Testa was the school’s first graduate. Founding his own firm in 1947, he went on to create original textiles in a bold, painterly style. He started out cutting his own stencils and screen-printing his fabrics by hand.  When his business grew after World War II, he hired printer Ruben Auguilar to produce his company’s fabrics. Testa also conceived designs that were printed by other manufacturers. Designing patterns primarily for use within the architecture and interior design trade, his clients included many of the leading producers of mid-century modern furniture and fabrics, including Herman Miller, Knoll Associates, and Jens Risom.

Little is known about how the IBM fabric was used or how closely Rand and Testa worked on the design. By presenting the logo in several line weights as well as in solid blue, Rand and Testa imparted a varied tone and texture to the overall pattern. Several other designers at the time created patterns based on corporate logos. Below, William Golden, art director for CBS, is shown lounging against a wall covered with the famous “eye” he created in 1951, inspired by a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign. Such pieces are testaments to the growing field of corporate identity design and the role designers hoped to play in crafting fully branded environments.

 

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