Chermayeff and Geismar – The Godfathers of Logo Designing

There is an inextricable link between semiotics and the modern-day field of graphic design. Both are used to establish a visual representation of an identity and convey a message. So, when you come to think of it, ancient Egyptians were the first people to make use of logos and designs to communicate.

Coming back to modern age, the use of logos began with the industrial revolution but it mostly remained utilitarian with businesses using images which depicted the product of the business or something related to it. And then Paul Rand brought a change in this practice by producing an iconic logo for IBM in 1956.

Not long after, Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar appeared on the scene and it is safe to say that they brought a revolution in logo designing as we know and see today. At a time when corporate identities lacked the heart and soul, Chermayeff and Geismar brought a revolution with simple yet bold and meaningful identities for their clients.

By Source, Fair use,  Link

By Source, Fair use, Link

In today’s world, it is a common trend for companies to revamp the logo every five years or so but it isn’t the case with companies whose logos were designed by Chermayeff and Geismar. These include but not limited to PBS, NBC, Cornell University, National Geographic, PanAm, HarperCollins, NYU and The Smithsonian.

According to Chermayeff and Geismar, their design philosophy involves establishing a unique identity of the company as opposed to simply stating the purpose of the business. Their design process comprises interviewing people from the company to get the sense of the culture and values and use those to build a memorable identity for the company. To quote Geismar: “It’s a process of investigation, creativity and politics.”

In a short documentary by Dan Covert on the two design geniuses titled ’60 Years of Logo’, they explain their partnership, their design philosophy and how it helped their clients get a long-lasting and succinct identity. To them, even after 60 years, this is the best kind of job.