Paul Rand’s personal artistic awakening came from a magazine in the late 1920s. He had a epiphany at a little Brooklyn magazine store where in 1929 he bought his first issue of Gebrauchsgrafik, the most influential German advertising arts magazine ever published. It was in this periodical that Rand learned about the practice of, and the term, graphic design.
Rand's first of three careers was in media promotion and cover design.
In 1936 Rand was hired as a freelance-designer to produce layouts for “Apparel Arts”, a men’s fashion magazine. Rand earned a full-time job and an offer to become art-director for the Esquire magazine.
He turned out a spectacular series of covers for Apparel Arts, a quarterly published in conjunction with Esquire. He managed in these crucial years to find time to design an impressive array of covers for other magazines, particularly Directions. From 1938 on, his work was a regular feature of the exhibitions of the Art Directors Club.
His most coherent project was the series of covers he produced for Direction. Appearing over a period of several years, these covers had a collective impact that was revolutionary. Each individual cover was a radically inventive. By drawing upon the creative discoveries of a host of modern art movements, Rand linked the fine arts with popular graphic application. The imagination, vitality and quality of those covers have probably never been equaled.