Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Design

Dialogues with Creative Legends and Aha Moments in a Designer's Career: Tipping Point on a Train and Paul Rand

  • Print
  • + Share This
David Calvin Laufer discusses what finally pushed him to become a freelance designer, and shares the story of IBM graphic designer Paul Rand.
This chapter is from the book

Tipping Point on a Train

MAY 1977 New York is in a raw emotional state; there has been a bloody accident that is all over the news, involving a helicopter shuttle from Kennedy Airport to the top of the Pan Am building in midtown Manhattan. I am very familiar with this shuttle, because from my north-facing window at Oxford I feel the percussive whump, whump, whump as the copter settles several times a day onto the rooftop heliport ten blocks away. During a recent rush hour, one of the choppers had malfunctioned, and there was terrible carnage. People standing by were cut to pieces. The part of the story that gets the most buzz, though, is the tragedy of a commuter walking down Madison Avenue. Fifty-nine stories below and several blocks away from the accident site, she is struck by a piece of the helicopter’s rotor and killed without ever knowing what hit her. Numerous others are injured by what was described as a hailstorm of broken glass. I even hear that Ed Gottschall sustained an injury from this glass while walking in the area, though fortunately not too serious. In Manhattan, everyone is a pedestrian for part of the day, everyone identifies with this commuter. Everyone’s inner voice says, “That could have been me!”

I am in a muddle. I shuttle daily between New Brunswick and New York City. My job at Oxford pays for food, rent, and my train ticket. I make up the difference by staying up all night designing book jackets, so I am always exhausted. I calculate that I am making enough by freelancing to quit my day job, just barely, but letting go of the security of a regular paycheck is terrifying.

If I can get out of the shower by 5:20, I can catch the 6:02 Metro-liner out of New Brunswick and get to Midtown between 7:00 and 7:30. Oxford starts at 8:30, so this gives me an hour to deliver freelance projects or make calls from Penn Station Booth 6. The blue bloods from Princeton are on the 6:02 heading for Wall Street, and on one particular morning I sit behind a Princeton banking executive and his boss, the very picture of a British aristocrat, visiting the operations in the States.

My work at Oxford has attuned my ears to the fine points of the King’s English, so without intending to eavesdrop, I find myself drawn into their get-acquainted conversation.

The Princetonian is explaining, “No, I don’t come from a banking family; in fact I read economics with the intention of teaching, but a college chum convinced me to help him for a year at his start-up company. I became the bookkeeper and CFO and liaison with their bank—Rodney was our lending officer. After it took off, I decided I liked the thrill of companies in their go-go growth years. Rodney had just gotten kicked upstairs and I talked him into letting me start a unit to serve that market. I didn’t realize at the time how risky that was, but fortunately my friends brought me enough business to make my quotas until I learned what banking really is. So I fell into it because of enthusiasm, not training or competence!”

His British counterpart nods as if he knows this narrative, and responds, “You know, I’m in banking because it’s what my father’s family has always done, and I had to do what was expected of me. If I had announced that I wanted to be a soldier or a choreographer, he’d have discouraged me. If I did as you did, following my own interest, the Pater would have given me a stern thrashing. If I persisted, it would go without asking that I’d be disinherited.

“But here in the US, you have this amazing agreement amongst yourselves—you can just declare yourself to be whatever you want, and everyone says, ‘OK, fine, jolly good, carry on!’”

He turns to look his American counterpart squarely in the face. “Do you have any idea how extraordinary that appears to the rest of the world? How like an impossible dream? That anyone at any station in life can just decide their destiny and enjoy the support of family, government, and even get a tax incentive to do it? Is it any wonder that people are risking their lives stowing away in cargo containers, crossing oceans to immigrate to your ‘land of the free?’”

It seems this little paean to American exceptionalism is put in my ear by Providence for me to hear, at this hour, at this juncture in my career. I can’t really keep burning both ends of the candle, that’s for sure. The newsstand in Penn Station is a wall of tabloid photos of the recent helicopter crash. The sudden feeling of everyday danger somehow puts me over the top. The risk of freelancing seems small compared to the risk of doing nothing.

  • “Here in the US, you have this amazing agreement amongst yourselves—you can just declare whatever you want to be, and everyone says, ‘OK, fine, jolly good, carry on!’ Do you have any idea how extraordinary that appears to the rest of the world? ”

I must find a way to tell Fred Schneider, who has become like a second father to me. I stammer my way through a sentence or two, but it seems he has expected to hear it for some time. In words remarkably like those still fresh in my ear from the bankers on the train, he tells me, “Well, OK, fine, go ahead. I’ll give you as much freelance work as I can—get an office close by.” He writes a recommendation letter that is as humbling as it is useful. It opens many doors. To complicate matters, I break my foot playing squash racquets the same week I begin freelancing, so I hobble to meetings with my leg in a cast and the Valise in a backpack. It generates a lot of sympathy, and work surges. Nevertheless, I don’t recommend the old “Break a leg” as a marketing strategy for a new business.

  • The feeling of everyday danger puts me over the top. Suddenly, the risk of freelancing is small compared to the risk of doing nothing.
  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020