The Birth of Branded Environments: The Life and Work of Rudolph de Harak

Read Time: 3 minutes

The 2022 SEGD Branded Environments event will feature a keynote session by Richard Poulin (
FSEGD, Designer, Educator, Author, Artist), that will celebrate the life and work of Rudolph de Harak (1924-2002), one of the most influential graphic designers of the mid-twentieth century. Poulin’s anticipated release of the first publication on de Harak, entitled Rational Simplicity: Rudolph de Harak Graphic Designer, will be the foundation of his presentation of how brand “storytelling” gained popularity and de Harak’s influence on this new field of practice. A Q&A will follow. During the morning networking break, Richard will sign copies of his newly released book, available exclusively to BE participants. Read on to learn more about Rudolph de Harak and Poulin’s upcoming book.



“. . . I wanted to create constellations so rich that they could communicate content. I was searching for what I called ‘the hidden order;’ trying to find some common principle or scheme inherent in all things that would answer questions that maybe I hadn’t yet asked.”

– Rudolph de Harak, 1987



Rudolph de Harak (1924–2002) is one of the unsung forces of twentieth century graphic design. Inspired by early modernist masters Will Burtin, György Kepes, Alvin Lustig, and Max Bill, as well as by the rigor of European Modernism and the International Typographic Style, de Harak developed and refined his timeless and innovative work from his early years in Los Angeles to his success as a design consultant and educator in New York City. He possessed a definitive and unique point of view, which he stayed true to throughout his entire career.

He was an anomaly among his peers in the graphic design profession, yet no one equals his diversity nor his accomplishments across the various design disciplines. In the 1950s and 1960s he was one of the few American designers who fully embraced the ideals and philosophies of Modernism.

De Harak believed that a Modernist’s foundation and philosophy provided creative freedom to practice and move from one design discipline to another. He brought his pioneering inventiveness to everything he created, from album covers and book jackets to furniture and museums. Whether designing a poster, an exhibition, or a house, his creative process and approach were always the same—it was a shared process and approach. This was clearly evident in the branded environments he designed throughout his career—from his groundbreaking work on 127 John Street in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan and his extensive, multidisciplinary work for the Metropolitan Museum of Art to his masterpiece of corporate culture and storytelling for the Cummins Engine Headquarters in Columbus, Indiana.

He was a rare individual—a thinker, a challenger, an advocate for new ideas, and an inspiring colleague. He believed that all great ideas, and all significant works of art and architecture, came from dreamers, visionaries, and communicators.

Rational Simplicity (Thames & Hudson, 2022), the first major publication on the life and work of modernist graphic designer Rudolph de Harak, will be the foundation of my keynote presentation on how brand “storytelling” gained popularity in the mid-twentieth century and de Harak’s influence on this new field of practice. 


Richard Poulin


See Steven Heller’s recent review of Richard’s new book in Print Magazine’s The Daily Heller: