Tom Geismar

Tom Geismar is a founding partner of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv and widely considered a pioneer of American graphic design. During the past four decades he has designed more than 100 corporate identity programs.

Mobil Oil logoMobil Oil Corporation logo, 1964.

His designs for Xerox, Chase Manhattan Bank, PBS, National Geographic, Gemini Consulting, Univision, Rockefeller Center and, most notably, Mobil Oil have received worldwide acclaim.

Chase bank logoChase Bank logo, 1961.

He has received all the major awards in the field, including one of the first Presidential Design Awards for helping to establish a national system of standardised transportation symbols.

National Geographic logoNational Geographic logo, 2002.

Tom has kindly agreed to be interviewed for Logo Design Love readers. With a wealth of experience in the design profession, we can all learn from him.

What would you ask?

Leave your question as a comment (or by email). It could be about pricing, dealing with clients, a specific project, his process, etc. The interview will be published here in the coming weeks.

More about Tom Geismar:


Hi David,

I’d like to know how he thinks the relationship between designer and client has changed. Has he changed his approach to design over the years?

Does he think design has been overcomplicated with marketing analysis. Do we think ‘too much’? Is there too much bullshit in design? Have we essentially lost sight of simplicity?

Does he have any tips or great stories on selling ideas to clients?

Is there anyone in particular he admires in the world of design today (and not just logo’s)?



First, congratulations on landing such a great interview. Secondly, thank you for opening up the conversation to your readers.

The questions I’d like to throw into the hat are:

Geismar has completed work for Mobil Oil and PBS, two companies on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Is it a designer’s responsibility to consider the companies for which he works and their effect on society? How do you reconcile working with a company that you disagree with philosophically or ethically?


The industry has changed considerably since the beginning of Geismar’s career (circa 1950). The invention of the Macintosh and the internet have created a democratization of graphic design. What positive and negative changes have effected the design industry due to this technological progress?

I just wanted to say that I’m looking forward to the interview, and I think James Kurtz III’s questions are exceptional. I’m sorry I don’t have any questions to add at this point. If I think of something, I’ll be back!

Brilliant, James. Thanks very much to you, too.

Matt, glad you’re looking forward to the interview. It’s a pleasure that Tom is going to take time out of his schedule.

Hello David,

Great stuff man, I’m deff looking forward to this interview.

I would like to know what approach he uses to start working on each logo, we see that logos are getting more and more “stylized” as we could say as new designers try to get a bit to crazy on their logos, but as we can see his logos from 40 year ago still up to date on the design, what’s the key to make a logo survive so many decades.

Thanks a lot!

Question for Tom:

In a world where differentiation is more important than ever, why has compensation for design services to facilitate that differentiation declined so dramatically?


i want to ask, is it good to have something like a localized logo for the brand, i have worked on a lot of multilingual brands, and some of it use localization and some of it don’t, i found it really hard to keep the same brand using different logos as per the used language, so is it better to keep the logo just a one symbol?


Hello David,

Congratulations for the upcoming interview with Tom Geismar.
I just want to know about the process of logo designing and Is there any changes occured in the process through his long career.

I think this’ll be a great interview, well done for getting this David, there are some excellent questions already listed in the comments section. I wasn’t that aware of Tom Geismars work until I read this article, he certainly has some fantastic well known designs in his portfolio.

I’d like to reiterate a previous question regarding the advent of the Macintosh and progress of technology brining design to the masses. I wonder how someone who’s seen this change unfold during his lifetime feels about the capabilities of the Mac and Illustrator and if this has had a positive or negative effect on logo design?

I look forward to reading the interview, I’m sure it will be a valuable read for designers everywhere. Many Thanks.

Hi David,

Much thanks for including your readers. I agree that James Kurtz III asked some brilliant questions. I’d like to add “the environmental impact” to his list.

How do we teach the design community to respect their own work enough to charge livable prices? I don’t see it as a customer problem as much as I see it as a designer problem

I’d like to know how long Tom Geismar works on a logo, from start to finish.

Thx! Giulietta

Hello David.

I’m looking forward to reading this interview. Many thanks for bringing to Logo Design Love, one of the worldwide gurus of branding.

I would like to ask him two things (the first one with two sub-questions)

The first question is “what was the most difficult project he was involved with and why.”

The second one is “what would be the project that he would give anything to work on.”

Thanks a lot


I’m curious about hearing more on the following:

• How to sell ‘simple’ to his clients when more want more
• His process of creation
• His process of refinement
• Sources of inspiration

Stories from masters are always fun, but (call me selfish) I’m really hoping to glean some great tips from hearing about his working methods.

Just me.

Hi David, this should be a great interview, there are some brilliant questions posted above.

In a recent issue of Creative Review, an interview with Milton Glaser produced this quote:

“I find a lot of students beginning to resent the computer as too powerful to use without thinking. They now describe it the same way; they say, “Before I start to do anything, I make notes and sketches and draw because otherwise the computer dominates everything I do”

I wonder what Tom’s view on this is? Do computers influence design, is he more of a traditionalist or has he found the adoption of computers in design to be a positive step forwards?

Hi David,

I am curious about Tom’s view of how the pricing structure has changed with new technology and online overnight logo companies. How does the up-and-coming designer market him/herself for the right rates when competing with the flooded and technologically advanced masses? Furthermore, how has Tom, or his peers, adjusted their rate structures to accommodate changing ideals about art and the advertising world.

Thanks and looking forward!

I would love to know where I could get prints of their old posters & annual covers?

I’m also curious to know what Tom thought of Saul Bass personally & professionally?

Good luck!

I’d like to hear from either of you, as I respect you, David–in seeing your logos and I guess Tom, in seeing the major clients he’s worked for.

How do you decide whether or not to use:
wordmark vs letterform vs emblem vs pictorial vs abstract

And not to lead the question, but … do you go with (more-or-less) what the client’s industry tends to lean toward?

Dear Tom,
Hope this email find you well & welcome back from India hope you had some time to recover. I am very intrigue by the work that is done for the public projects and I am a big fan especially of some of the recent projects… so 2 thumps up!

At first I wanted to compare your work to Mouton Rothschild 1982 that scores 100 with Robert Parker but then I realized that you have started your work way before the wine was bottled so I guess I should be using a 1961 Latour as a compliment…

My question is related to “Print Production” and the boundary limitation it imposes on the work of the “Graphic Design Community”.

Coming from the print production side I find out that some of my customers are frustrated by the work they receive for print stating that they need to correct various elements of the jobs and that some of the colors are just not going to come out the way the designer envisioned.

The most common argument coming out from the Design School professors is that we should not limit the designer by the scope of current print production technology and that they should push for new boundaries hoping that the technology will catch up…

In some cases the job becomes too expensive to correct or to match up and leaving the print buyer, the designer and the printer all but frustrated!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and observation.

Thanks and good luck, Itzhak Pearl.

More excellent questions. Thanks very much for offering them. I’ll put them to Tom within the next day or two with the aim of publishing answers a couple of weeks or so later.

David –

Congratulations on the opportunity to present a reader generated interview to Mr. Geismar.

I have one question…

“After a lifetime of working in the field, would you choose to be a designer in the present landscape of communication design?”

Thank you for the opportunity.

I LOVE Geismar’s NatGeo work and the identity is rolled out beautifully on their HD channel. Great brand ID’s make easy building blocks.

I can’t believe the Chase logo was designed in 1961! Amazing.

Great post, I live for this stuff, thanks Mr. Airey!

My question to Mr. Geismar would be to ask him if he had any stories regarding any perticular logo or identity direction that didn’t make the final cut or that he thought was stronger/more appropriate and prehaps elaborate on that.


Considering the nature of political cartoons and their use of corporate logos as satire or commentary, does he have any funny or favorite examples or instances using or making reference to any of the logos from Chermayeff & Geismar?

Really looking forward to this interview, some great questions so far and any of the above work for me.

Thank again,


Someone who’s so thouroughly experienced and prefessional, I’m curious of what advice he has for graphic designers who are just starting their careers?

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