Steff Geisbuhler

Steff Geisbuhler is a prominent graphic designer most well known for the NBC peacock logo shown in image 1, as well as the Time Warner Cable logo, which was later redesigned, more on that later. Geisbuhler was born in Zofingen, Switzerland where graphic design is much more prominent and as a kid he would run around and steal posters from designers such as Herbert Leupin, Celestino Piatti, and Armin Hofmann, three prominent local graphic designers in the area. He would then steam apart the posters and hang them to dry [2]. He grew up with a passion for graphic design and luckily he had supportive parents of his art. His godfather was a lithographer, and his mother painted porcelain as well as designed tapestries. With such a supportive family, as well as paid tuition, he later moved to Basel, where he attended the Allgemeine Gewerbeschule (The Basel School of Art and Design) in 1958 [1]. In The Basel School of Art and Design he studied with Armin Hofmann, and Emil Ruder and received his Graphic Design Masters equivalent 6 years later. During his college years he explored illustration as well as typography which led him to his first job at the Promotion Department of Geigy Pharmaceuticals in Basel, Switzerland [1]. In that position he created “promotional material, packaging, advertising campaigns and displays for chemical, pharmaceutical and dye products.” [1]. Following this position, he started a job at the Philadelphia College of Art as an Associate Professor in Graphic Design. This position led him to move to the United States with his family in 1967 and soon became the chairman of the Graphic Design Department. Geisbuhler was invited to this position because one of his classmates in Basel, Ken Hiebert, was appointed chair of graphic design for the college and asked for Geisbuhler’s help in developing the program [2]. He was appointed to chair of the department from 1973 to 1975 while still working with Hiebert as well as maintaining a freelance business working for Murphy, Levy, Wurman, Architects and Urban Planners as well as George Nelson [2].


Geisbuhler moved to New York City following his position at the Philadelphia College of Art and worked full time working on corporate-identity designs with the idea that ‘less is more’ [2]. Accross the street was another design firm, Chermayeff & Geismar that he always was interested in because they were working late, and also had a great connection between the two artists. In 1975 he was invited to join them as an associate and became a partner in 1977 [2]. He worked very well with the designer working with artistic styles such as typography and the abstraction of symbols. He stayed with Chermayeff & Geismar Inc. for 30 years and designed works such as a silhouetted Godzilla and King Kong holding hands representing the peace between the United States and Japan. He also worked on the NBC peacock and the TimeWarner piece, as well as symbols for the EPA, and many other large groups. Geissbuhler lectures at a conferences and is currently on the faculty at The Cooper Union in New York City, and is a former president of the AIGA’s New York Chapter as well as a national board member. He “is perceived as a leader within the international design community for his tenure as U.S. president and director of education for the prestigious Alliance Graphique Internationale.” [2]. He received the AIGA Lifetime Achievement Award and a gold medal from the New York Art Directors’ Clib as well as other honors in his name. He was also a finalist in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in 2006. At this time, Geisbuhler is still happily married to his wife with four successful sons. Geisbuhler said that “(m)y family is my greatest achievement.” [4].

In terms of his work, he has said that he goes off of the idea that less is more. Most of his designs are relatively simplistic with a white background, minimal blending of colors, and simple phrases or acronyms. When looking at his most famous works, such as the NBC peacock or the TimeWarner symbol, it is very simplistic. For example, the TimeWarner symbol is just one plain color, but it has a hidden element where the main design is both an eye and an ear. Maybe he believes that a simplistic design means that there will be no workarounds when working with a company, it will be cut and dry, and an easy process for the customer. Another interesting fact is that he likes to actually get to know his clients that he works with rather than just be their designer [4]. He wants to show the client that he is just as invested in improving the company as they are, as they would likely hire him for future work, and a successful design will lead to the next position. He also thinks that he should “study the problem and come up with solutions that work rather than just looking pretty” [4]. Another idea that he lives by is that he doesn’t want to push a design on a company, rather he wants it to be open to discussion and embrace it as a collaborative effort. If he can try and understand what the company is trying to say with a logo, then he will be able to accurately portray their ideals with a simplistic design.

Geisbuhler also likes to branch out and not stick with one design type. He likes to have a broad selection of projects, such as working with museums, sports stadiums, financial institutions, or media and television companies. By branching out, he is gaining a lot more experience with different people and will be able to more accurately help out the next client. He also gained experience by going to the theater or a movie as well as frequently visiting museums of art where he can find tons of inspiration. While he has done countless designs for impressively large companies, it still seems that his moral compass is pointing in the right direction. His main focus is on his family and making sure that everyone is comfortable and successful. It’s very nice to see a person who is successful but does not let that get to their head, and they still try to be a benefit to the community and provide lasting positive impacts on his community.


Steff Geisbuhler




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