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Interview with Design Legend Tom Geismar

An interview with
Tom Geismar


In this interview Ian speaks with Tom Geismar, one of the most highly acclaimed designers in the industry. We discuss logo design, including the process before computers, presenting to the client, working in black and white, mistakes to avoid, pricing big projects, launching a new identity, a beautiful tribute to Ivan Chermayeff and more.

Tom is a founding partner of design agency Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, where he worked on iconic logos for brands including Mobil Oil, Xerox, Chase Bank and many more.

Tom Geismar Interview Transcription

IP: You’ve had an impressive career spanning over 60 years. A lot has changed over that time. How did you approach logo design when you first started?

TG: Well, we just had different tools. That’s really the only difference. We started out doing sketching. And we still do, you know, with a pen or a pencil and paper or tracing paper, or whatever, ’cause we find it much faster and less restrictive than doing it on the computer in terms of coming up with ideas. But then, to do the artwork, I mean, you might even draw it. I mean, at that time, you know, ordering type required that you write out … you’d have the text that you wanted typed out and you would specify size and lettering and so on, and then you would send it out to a typesetter. And maybe the next day, if you were in a big city, you would get it, or the next morning. They used to work what they called the lobster shift. They would work overnight, the typesetters, and you would get back a proof in the morning. And then if you had changes, you’d have to go through the process again. So it was reasonably cumbersome, but it is what it was.