Mobil, NBC, the Library of Congress, Chase Manhattan Bank - all these huge brands have one thing in common aside from their hugeness. Their identities were designed by Chermayeff & Geismar, the New York agency that has led the way in logos since the 1960s. For the first time since it was founded by Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff, the agency has released a book taking you behind the scenes on their logo design process.
Identify brings you 256 pages of great design, looking at classic logos such as National Geographic, as well as more modern ones like Armani Exchange. You can see sketches and rejected variants of logos for dozens of the world's biggest brands, and read about how Chermayeff, Geismar and their more recent partner Sagi Haviv have worked side-by-side with clients over the years. The book also covers some logos that have flopped when redesigned such as Gap, AT&T and Pepsi.
"You have to listen carefully to your client to learn what issues the new identity has to address, to understand what makes them special, and to learn everything about their industry. But ultimately your expert opinion must be offered," says Haviv. "When exploring designs make sure you take the long term view. In order to fulfill its role a trademark must be able to endure. In that sense, if the mark derives from or relies on the latest technology or the newest Photoshop filter, it will become dated very quickly."
A great deal has changed since the company first started out. For instance, when the Chase Bank logo was designed in 1960 and although it has a very basic form to it, there was no need to run an international trademark search to make sure it didn't infringe upon another company's designs. The tools have also changed phenomenally during the lifetime of the agency, which used to send typesetting out to be done overnight, but can now do it instantly on a Mac.
"However, our approach of searching for the simplest and most appropriate and memorable solution has not changed," adds Haviv. "Although changes in technology have also revolutionised the way our logos are experienced – primarily through internet browsers, app icons and the like – the simplicity of the trademarks works even better in the digital applications than it did in black and white newspaper ads in the 1960s, which is a big part of what we’re trying to convey in Identify."