Graphic Design

By The Editors / November / December 2000
October 24th, 2007

Tom Geismar ’53

If you watch television, drive a car, or visit museums, you’ve seen the work of Tom Geismar. As one half of Chermayeff & Geismar he has created some of the most visible trademarks in the world, including the red-white-and-blue Mobil logo, the three-headed PBS logo, and dozens of others that we now take for granted as part of our visual landscape.

In fact, Geismar and his design partner, Ivan Chermayeff, have been among the century’s most influential graphic designers. Geismar, the recipient of many honors, including a Presidential Design Award and an American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal, explains that because a trademark is the “graphic identity” of a company, “it should stand out and be seen.” A company, he says, “does not want to be confused with someone else.”

What distinguishes Geismar’s work is its staying power; trademarks by Chermayeff & Geismar don’t try to be trendy. “Most of the things we design,” Geismar says, “have lasted a long time.”

When they started doing design in the 1950s, Geismar says, “graphic arts was a very undetermined field.” Few schools offered a degree in it, but he was lucky enough to gain some exposure early by concurrently attending Brown and RISD and then earning an M.F.A. in graphic art at Yale.

Among the museum exhibits designed by Geismar and his associates have been the Statue of Liberty Museum, the Ellis Island Museum, the United States Pavilion for the World’s Fair at Expo ’70, and Library of Congress exhibits on Sigmund Freud and Thomas Jefferson. His most recent museum project, he says, is “a complete redo of the Truman Presidential Library” in Indepen- dence, Missouri.

In November, Princeton Architectural Press is publishing TM:Trademarks Designed by Chermayeff & Geismar.

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November / December 2000