Letterforms Study Group—Fifth session 22 March 2023: Trademarks and Logos

Edgewood Furniture print with logo (1959). Design by Chermayeff & Geismar. Image courtesy of Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at the School of Visual Arts.

From left to right: Beth Kleber, Paul Shaw, Greg D’Onofrio, Marcos Baer, K.C. Witherell (obscured), Chavelli Tsui, Tom Geismar, Carmile Zaino (obscured), Liz DeLuna, Barbara Cadorna, Rebecca Lehman Sprouse, and Claire Lukacs. (On the wall at the left are a series of small posters designed by Milton Glaser in the 1960s for SVA.) Photograph by Jacob Ford (2023).

The fifth Letterforms Study Group session was the first to have a guest star. Since the session was held at the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at the School of Visual Arts I chose trademarks and logos as the session’s theme and invited design legend Tom Geismar to be part of the event. The archive, despite its name, houses the design work of many other professionals, including the work of Chermayeff & Geismar. Tom graciously accepted and his presence made the session not only wonderful, but unique.

Tom Geismar showing a page from the National Parks Service Standard Sign Graphics Report. Photograph by Chavelli Tsui (2023).

Mobil logo designed by Chermayeff & Geismar (1965).

Paul Shaw showing the Mobil alphabet from the original Mobil Graphics Guidelines (1965). Photograph by Liz DeLuna (2023).

The majority of things we looked at were archival items such as mechanicals, stationery, announcements, corporate identity manuals, color and typography guidelines, and logo art. Naturally, most of the logos were by Chermayeff & Geismar, but I also included some by Paul Rand, George Tscherny, Milton Glaser, Tony Palladino, Ed Benguiat, Stephen Doyle, Noel Martin, and Louise Fili for contrast. To place the various logos into historical context I added several books, some from the SVA Library and some from my personal collection. (The full list is below.)

Among the highlights of the study session were the loose pages from the original Mobil Graphics Guidelines, the silkscreened posters for Edgewood Furniture, the Noel Martin promotional booklet, Louise Fili’s three booklets of logos—and Tom’s behind-the-scenes stories about the Best stores, Burlington Industries, Mobil, and American Revolution Bicentennial logo projects.

American Revolution Bicentennial log designed by Chermayeff & Geismar (1976).

Tom Geismar discussing the American Revolution Bicentennial Official Graphics Standards Manual. To his right are Beth Kleber, Carmile Zaino, and Barbara Cadorna. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2023).

From left to right: Claire Lukacs, Jacob Ford, Chavelli Tsui, K.C. Witherell, Greg D’Onoffrio, Marcos Baer, Tom Geismar, Carmile Zaino, Barbara Cadorna, and Rebecca Lehman Sprouse. Photograph by Paul Shaw (2023).

The participants for this study session were Marcos Baer, Barbara Cadorna, Liz DeLuna, Greg D’Onofrio, Jacob Ford, Claire Lukacs, Rebecca Lehman Sprouse, Chavelli Tsui, K.C. Witherell, and Carmile Zaino. Beth Kleber, curator of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, was also present.

Chermayeff & Geismar
Alvin Ailey—letterhead, envelopes
American Revolution Bicentennial: Official Graphics Standards Manual (1976)
Burlington Industries: Graphic Standards Guide
Edgewood Furniture—logotype
Harper Collins Publishers: Guidelines for Use of Corporate and Division Reproduction Art
Mobil Oil Corporation: Graphics Guidelines (original)
Mobil Oil Corporation—booklets: “Building and Office Identification”; “Corporate Identity 1”; “Fuel Service Design”; and “Landscape Manual”
National Park Service (U.S. Department of the Interior): Standard Sign Graphics Report (c.1974)

Ed Benguiat
U&lc—masthead (1974)

Stephen Doyle
Cooper Union—logotype

Louise Fili
Logos A to Z  (1997)
More Logos A to Z (1999)
Logos A to Z Three (2002)

Milton Glaser
The Overlook Press—letterhead, envelopes, business cards

Noel Martin
Identity Programs (self promotional piece)

Tony Palladino
Conrail identity
Psycho—logotype for movie

Paul Rand
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM): The IBM Logo
Next: The Sign of the Next Generation of Computers (1986)

George Tscherny
Aluminum Association identity program: Graphic Standards manual (“Our New Signature… How It Can Work For You”)
Millipore identity program: Color Guidelines; Typographic Guidelines; Signage Guidelines

BASF Corporate Identity Style Manuals

Logo Beginnings by Jens Müller (2021)
A Treasury of German Trademarks by Leslie Cabarga (1985)
Wilhelm Deffke: Pioneer of the Modern Logo by Gerda Breuer (2014) 
Trademark Designs of the Twenties by Leslie Cabarga (1991) 
Trademarks of the ’20s and ’30s by Eric Baker and Tyler Blik (1985)
Trademarks of the ’40s and ’50s by Eric Baker and Tyler Blik (1988)
Marken und Signete: 471 Firmenzeichen und Suchutzmarken by Alfred Finsterer and Gerda Finsterer-Stuber (1957)—from personal collection of Paul Shaw
Great Icons: American Trademarks Revisited by Philip Meggs, Steven Heller et al (1988)—from personal collection of Paul Shaw
Trade Marks & Symbols vol. 1—Alphabetical Designs; vol. 2—Symbolical Designs by Yasaburo Kuwayama (1973)—from personal collection of Paul Shaw
Logo Modernism by Jens Müller (2015)
TM: Trademarks Designed by Chermayeff & Geismar (2000)

I want to thank Tom Geismar for his willingness to talk about logos in general and some of the work he has done in particular; and curator Beth Kleber for letting us hold a study session at the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives.

Best Products logo designed by Chermayeff & Geismar (1979).