The Marginalian
The Marginalian

Listen! Listen!: A Vintage Invitation to Presence and Attentive Attunement with the World, Illustrated by Graphic Design Legend Paul Rand

Listen! Listen!: A Vintage Invitation to Presence and Attentive Attunement with the World, Illustrated by Graphic Design Legend Paul Rand

Legendary graphic designer Paul Rand was a creative genius who wore his kindness in cantankerous camouflage. His timeless wisdom on design continues to influence generations of creators and visual communicators. Steve Jobs, who hired Rand to design the identity for his second company, NeXT, admired him as “a very deep, thoughtful person who’s tried to express in every part of his life what his principles are.”

Among the principles Rand most passionately espoused was his faith in the power of the relationship between word and image, negotiated in the intricate language of visual communication — a language mastered throughout life, but first acquired in childhood.

In the late 1950s, Rand and his then-wife, Ann Rand — a prolific and imaginative children’s book author who had been trained as an architect — began collaborating on a series of unusual, semi-semiotic children’s books nurturing that formative relationship with word and image: Sparkle and Spin, an ode to words, in 1957; Little 1, a serenade to numbers, in 1961; and, finally, Listen! Listen! (public library) in 1970, conceived for the Rands’ young daughter, Catherine — a marvelous celebration of presence through the soundscape of daily life, reminiscent of Margaret Wise Brown’s little-known yet enormously wonderful Quiet Noisy Book, published two decades earlier.


This forgotten gem, long out of print, is now brought to life anew by Princeton Architectural Press. Ann Rand’s warmhearted verses wink at Paul Rand’s unmistakable primary colors and collage-driven illustrations to extend an openhanded invitation to attentiveness and attunement with the living world.




Now that’s not a door,
because a door goes wham!
if you slam it,
nor a dog,
and as for a at,
it certainly isn’t that.
A bear would growl
and a wolf would howl.
None of you knows
what that roar was.





I like the whir
that the wings
of a hummingbird make
when it flies,
and the Psssssst!
of fireworks as they
sputter in the sky.


But the noise I like
the very best
is early morning before sunrise
because then
(when I keep my eyes tight shut)
I can hear
the world wake up.
It’s a wonderful mixed-up sound.
From far and near
from air and ground,
it comes from all around.



Complement Listen! Listen! with the lovely Japanese counterpoint The Sound of Silence, then revisit Ann Rand’s What Can I Be? — her wonderful vintage concept book about how the imagination works, written in the same era but only discovered and published in our time.

Published October 17, 2016




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