Thomas Geismar

Thomas Geismar is known to be one of the most influential designers in the 20thcentury. He is best known for the firm Chermayeff & Geismar, which he founded with his life-long partner, Ivan Chermayeff. For the past 40 years, Geismar has changed what it means to be a graphic designer. His designs are recognized daily and are viewed are the world. Some of the more iconic designs which he created were for Mobil Oil Corporation, Gemini Consulting, The Chase Bank, New York University, the United States Department of the Interior, Univision, Rockefeller Center, Screen Gems, Xerox, and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Those are just a few of the more popular designs that Geismar is responsible for. However, he is responsible for over 100 logos for corporations.

Thomas Geismar was born in New Jersey on July 15th, 1931. He graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University. Geismar performed exceedingly well at Brown as he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and cum laude. One of his first design projects was for the U.S. Army in Washington D.C., he spent two years working on an exhibit for them. After his work with the U.S. Army, Geismar was invited to work with Ivan Chermayeff and Robert Brownjohn as a new partnership. These designers soon became famous for their work with Pepsi-Cola and Ciba Pharmaceuticals. Their designs seemed unique and fresh which drew the attention of many. Eventually Robert Brownjohn moved to London which caused the firm to change names. They are now known as Chermayeff & Geismar. Throughout his career, Geismar has continued to find great opportunities in different exhibits. His work has been featured in the Ellis Island Museum, Hall of the Sun, Library of Congress, and the Statue of Liberty Musuem.

Perhaps the most important relationship Geismar had was one with Mobil. Throughout his career, Geismar has designed for multiple clients and companies. He considers his design for Mobil to be one of his greatest accomplishments and one that he is most proud of. The logo for Mobil is one with blue text and features a red “o” which helps give this design a distinct look. Geismar not only created the design for Mobil but also created a distinct alphabet using this lettering. His partnership with Mobil continued for 30 years.

In an interview with designboom, Tomas Geismar describes what a successful and appealing design looks like to him. Geismar appreciates designs that are more simplistic which is a common trend in many of the designs he has created. He enjoys finding the core of the company he is designing for and uses this to create a simple and subtle design that can be recognized indefinitely. It’s challenging to represent such a large company with simple lines, colors, shapes, and text. However, Geismar has shown that simplicity can achieve great success in the design world. Finding this essence to the company is essential to each design he creates. Geismar has always enjoyed designing letters and creating distinct alphabets for his designs. Creating designs is much more complicated than meets the eye. Process is one of the most important aspects in the design world.

It’s important to understand how a designer such as Geismar approaches a logo design. Each designer has a different approach to logo design but Geismar does an excellent job at explaining his method in an interview with Logo Geek. First, he starts by ideating. This is best done by created multiple sketches with pencil or ink on tracing paper. This is much faster than using a computer. Hand drawn sketches allow for more freedom and quick expressive movements. For the actual design/artwork, he might even draw this too. When Geismar first started producing logos with type, the process to get a proof was much longer and inconvenient. In order to get type printed, the designer must write out the text he or she wanted along with the specific size and lettering and other details for the design. Then the information was sent out to a typesetter. Depending on the designers’ location, the design may come back the next day if they’re lucky. Typesetters worked a shift overnight that was called the lobster shift. The Typesetters would work throughout the night so the designers could receive their proofs in the morning. Once the proofs were received, the designer would make changes and send it back to the typesetter. This process was repeated many times so this could be a very lengthy way to create a design. Geismar and his fellow designers often opted to draw their type instead. Simply by studying the letters and using a pencil or pen, the designers were able to create the mock-ups that they desired. Geismar also used other mediums to add to his designs as he got more detailed with the drafts. He often used markers, pencils, pens, and whatever medium he needed to get the desired look. With the technology now, designs can be made much faster using computers and printers. This technology also allows designers to easily visualize their work in the appropriate settings, which was previously difficult to do. While technological advancements have been extremely useful, the overall process has stayed nearly the same.

One challenge that all designers inevitably face is pricing. In his interview with Logo Geek, Geismar describes how he deals with charging clients and understand what a fair price is. The best way to price a client is by setting an hourly price and recording how much time was spent working on their design. It’s best if this is done by comparing experiences a designer has had in their previous jobs. Price depends on how much time was spent on a project. It’s important to recognize the scale and scope of the project as well. Pricing is often negotiated with the client and this can be tricky at times. The outlier for Geismar was working with Mobil. This was a unique situation that most designers don’t get the opportunity to do. He worked with Eliot Noyes, an architect, to create a concept for their service stations which completely revolutionized Mobil. This project lead to them becoming the official graphic design consultants for the company. Mobil continued to pay them per project for the next 30 years. They worked on hundreds of projects throughout that time.

Overall, Thomas Geismar is a very successful graphic designer. He created many globally recognized designs for large companies. He was an outstanding student and motivated designer. Geismar is well recognized for his company, Charmayeff & Geismar & Haviv. These talented designers formed an unforgettable company that changed the way logos were viewed.





Butler, Andy. “Tom Geismar Interview.” Designboom, 22 Feb. 2010,

“Interview with Design Legend Tom Geismar.” Logo Geek.

“Thomas Geismar.” RIT Libraries.

“Tom Geismar.” ADC Awards.

“Thomas H. Geismar.” The New York School.