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295- Making a Mark: Visual Identity with Tom Geismar

2018-02-13 | 🔗

The Chase logo was introduced in 1961, when the Chase National Bank and the Bank of the Manhattan Company merged to form the Chase Manhattan Bank. At the time, few American corporations used abstract symbols for their identification. Seen as radical in that context, the Chase symbol has survived a number of subsequent mergers and has become one of the world’s most recognizable trademarks. Its graphic designer, Tom Geismar, has been a driving force in the field of design and graphic identity for over 60 years. The influence of the firm he co-founded can be felt in logos you see every day.

Making a Mark: Visual Identity with Tom Geismar

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety- nine percent- invisible, I'm roman Mars you ve seen a logo that Tom Guys Moorhouse has design you, probably someone today, Xerox Mobile in my: U Pbs innovation, the Boston Public Transport systems Mark is a tea in a circle. Guys minded than that, but he's work and that his long time business partner. Even to my passed away, passed away and left me, seventeen is truly few into the dna of most modern logos? You see today whether they designed them or not in nineteen sixty one- the logo for Chase Bank that he designed the blue octagon with the square in the metal was introduced. It still you everywhere and is considered when the first of its kind in the: U S and abstract dynamic shape, representing a giant company. The logo was a real sea change, perches chase. At that time it was really Jason.
Back because it was the merger of two giant banks chase National Bank the Bank of the Manhattan company and- they had a logo which featured a map of the United States Globe of the world, wording Chase Manhattan, bank and a few other things. It was quite a credit mix and they were the process of building the first modern skyscraper in the Wall Street area because lovey finance for firms were moving up to mid term at that point David My father was in charge of that process, though he was only thirteen command at the time at the bank. And he felt that it would be appropriate. They haven't also a modern temper, you're. Looking mark for this newly formed form, basically merger of these of these two banks,
and we discussed with him the idea. Maybe we can just do something abstract, because no one any idea of a symbol, banking dollars- I read them. This was so baby. They were going to be the number one or number two in number Largess Bank the country they had advertising in the newspapers every day certainly round the New York meeting Mary, you couldn't miss their branches, they were everywhere. So the idea you could establish something brought to be absent Acta is their mark much as the red browser Mercedes, everywhere. You I mean there are some around. There were some of the time, but not many at all. And there was the idea that we could do that. Stop or something was bold, and that would be recognised as representing the bank re enter
How did you come up with the shape like what were the drawings like? What were you thinking when that shape was applied to chase what we want. Something bold something withstand out, something that could be reproduced in various materials- something like a word- The small size and at the time is very important. Also that something that could work in black and white in the newspaper, it was no color. Printing and newspapers at that time, some very good work on television, but also in a letter head or a formal announcement, so we try to keep all those things In mind- and we looked at a number of different designs, this particular one is also quite similar to all chinese coins rectangular they had a home in the middle and so on and that was helpful. Terms, a rationalizing why that particular design in so you Rockefeller what
oh come on your side in this, but did they expect something? Quite so young an american radical evolutionary or they expecting something more akin to the map. The United States then the globe and the World Bank in word on top of what? What were they expected? Well, you say they David Rockefeller certainly went along with this idea, but the two people above him John, the coup- the German and George to have been the president were pretty shocked when, when we showed it to them, champion said, but why can't we just have a picture the building or this, capture we're gonna, have out fraud and we try persuade them. That was a bad idea eventually said David, We ve, given you this project. If you want this, for that,
to bank. You can do it, but I don't want to see it on my letter head and I want to see in my office, and I want to see if I really dont understand it and don't like. It they they adopted it in the bank when did it and was only, I think six months later, that we're down there and ran into Mccloy in the hallway the. Very was with a tie with the symbol on it. With cuff links with the simple with a pin in the lapel with symbol on? So it was a great lesson to us because suddenly, someone who couldn't understand it and as abstract design. Now really the accepted a greatly as a representation of his this company. So you mentioned the lessons of Mccloy fully on board, with the mark, as soon as it became the mark of his bank. Could you
Expand on what some those lessons are and how you use them, think about your work today and in how you deal with client. Well, I think the lesson that we learn then, was that What people react to is not the more, but they react to it, institution that it represents some of you, people here? What do they think a good marks, they will almost inevitably mention companies or institutions or wherever that they think highly of so, though, often say Apple, Nike and others that they think highly of there. Was never say Enron, for example, even though Enron had a very good mark by a famous designer Paul ran, so it nothing do the quality pretty much. It has to do with what represents so that these logo with something that, from the ground up just a brand new invention, which vote
but done a number of adaptations and and and updates, and as one of you talk about the PBS logo, which is something that I think a lot of people are familiar with what that process was like and in what you are to do there. You are very often we will try and build on something. That's there if it has real real value and in the case of PBS There was a problem that, they and the stations, the various public broadcasting stations had, at the time people presumed the public broadcasting system. The way CBS is the Columbia Broadcasting system, and so on at sea Yes, you know they have a number of ground stations in whatever and that the issue was that actually the stations Complete responsibility for raising their own funds to keep in business and PBS is not a conglomerate that supplies funding and so
provide some programming, but not funding and people, Miss perceived what PBS was then there and their logo was a very clever, p b s. Where the p was a person, the silhouette of her of a man- and the idea was: could we do something that make the clear that is public television, not some kind of network. Oh, I thought was actually at the time to take that p that they had the PBS turn around the sort of game of about me and picked him up. A bit and repeated it. So that was the idea of multiple people that it was public tv, but that was the whole reason to do it but again got built. Something that existed a part of the letter, So it was no great radical change at the time.
But it was something where appropriate and something to solve a problem. So how do you steer a client to select the shape near the idea that, in your heart you really know is the right one like coming options. Do you give them many variations to you, president? Is there a psychology in presenting a logo to a group like this Well, today, we do President Cox We almost almost ways do because there is not necessarily one right answer for these issues. It just your having to make a decision and go ahead with it, but we now explain what the bosses and minuses are of the various options and we often have favoured, which we try to push you freak. Hence, but there's there is not necessarily a computer. The obvious right answer and when you have a favorite, do plainly state that it's your favorite or duty
presented first presented last is a a been gamesmanship in this at all there may be a little bit, but not not their march? And we don't usually state which one if every for showing options, but We encourage them to ask us later, and we try to also get there Take out I'm one of the first things we say actually, when we're four represent anything. Is it's never love at first sight so, if you can imagine what it might be like actual use and national We try to show when were showing designs to be marks. Would it might look I can hear various appropriate the kind of uses, so I see them chase logo on my Iphone, it works really well as an app icon. It is that a coincidence as it is something that has made it. Endure over fifty years and in in Brooks on a tiny screen, as well as a print ad and as a tie, tack and everything
Well, it is a coincidence, but it happens to have worked very much in our favour, because we have always tried to do things that are the clear, very simple, and that can be reduced to a small size. So suddenly today, it's it's a requirement, really have almost every man That has any kind of social exposure and it does work well and it just happens Maybe our approach was the right approach. We were lucky that it certainly app Google. Today, in fact, a lot of work we get today is because people have marks you can't work as a lamp resistance, and so has the approach for creating marks changed over sixty years and because of this or there are there other things that are more fundamental and that in the change in the work that you guys do You don't have actually hasn't changed that marcher least or approach to it hasn't changed that much
as I mentioned, we try to really get down to the basic thing. A basic mark that can identify whatever the institution is. That identifying in a clear way- and we have three I hear you're really, which are the basic criteria. One is that it be appropriate. You would do something for us? which team that would be quite different for something you do for a bank, for example, that it be appropriate to to the client into enter what they do. Second, one would be that it be distinctive that, you can see it can remember. If you can recognize it, maybe you can do the lid quickly. After having seen at a couple times than that, it will stand out and be recognised, then the third thing is just that it works in all kinds of sizes, different material.
Those and so on. If that's appropriate, and it often is so. Can meet those three criteria, then we're doing pretty. Well, how do you balance the concept of being appropriate towards a certain institution and it being abstract enough to? You know, be this empty vessel that people or meaning into well, it doesn't have to be an empty. That's a little. I didn't have to be abstract. Banking? We couldn't think many of them happily represents banking, but that does not always the case by any means I mean, if there is something a real, that's appropriate than you try to work? Try work, make it understandable That's a lot easier for people to understand the other thing is that once we did, the chase bank mark than that
It's all over. In fact, people over start using making abstract marks birds. Didn't necessarily make sense because they didn't have anything like the exposure that the chase had that kind of thing only works really well, if you haven't, exposure that people come to recognize it right right? That makes sense by, for example, I know that your group is responsible, Falada, aquarium logos and those are and those they have nice shapes to him in their abstracted in certain ways, but they often have waves and fish and things that you recognise as the things that that it represents an aquarium, Yes and actually all those aquariums that they will have different emphasis in terms of the concept of the building and end the exhibits and so on, and so even trying to represent that obviously fish. And water are key part of all of them, but some
about the oceans in summer about fresh water and so on. Can you talk about? You know how you decide when you arrive in the very beginning stages of working with a client whether or not you goin, to do some kind of word mark that uses the company's name or something more abstract her, coral, how do you make that decision? Well, that's always a key Katy seizures, and often we certainly make the decision we, and love. That depends, of course, on with the name is to begin with, but pluses and minuses are of those two things in and allow that depends of course, on put. The name is to begin with, but generally, if the name is is short I assured me- maybe five letters or something and is distinctive. Then we would start with the idea of making that word distinctive.
We ve been doing a lot of work for love technology companies recently, and you know what they're doing is is pretty hard to understand and certainly very hard to represent, any meaningful way. You know it's not as if their their harvesting apples, there's something you do an apple or whatever it is, it's extremely difficult to find something. That's appropriate, meaningful, but also distinctive. In this way, is there a certain thing that you listen for when some describes accompanies describes what they do? That is a key into your process of beginning to design something for them, or is it just different, every time Well, we go through the whole process of trying to interview a lot of people really we're trying to understand the culture and what they do. Obviously awe and
to understand the competition and near Hoover scene with her against and the really together pretty in depth, understanding of what the situation? There is an end in the process, of doing all that and interviewing people, often idea it's funny from funny places come up, might be just a wisecrack conversation or something. But that's where, along the ideas come from so in nineteen sixty one You can introduce an octagon and have a pretty simple, be bold and be associated Chase, because chases so big. Oh, you know the it's closed off. You can't put an on going out there as an abstract mark for a company. Is it harder to have a bold graphic that simple today, just because of the number of shapes urges limited in well, it is hard. Yes, there. There are so many and now with little icon,
answer mode, cheese and whatever it is so much so much around. So yes, it is it is. It is difficult what we do now Before we show anything to our clients, we have done a. A preliminary legal search. So we try I not to show any thing to a client that has at least pass the initial what they call a knockout, sir, because we don't want them to fall in love with something and then find out. You know the can't use it have you ever love or something and found out. You can use it. Oh sure. We just don't sure, though yes, I am very much in one way or another, occasions is, of course, think things are registered as marks, with the Indus ordinary area of business example I'm one example we give is that gives the Red STAR, so it I mean obviously represents China, but is also Macy's
the San Pellegrino Heineken. It's it's many different things and they're all doing it legally. They all have the right to use it. Are another, so there are know it's quite so simple. You might have something you come up with. It may be similar to something in a very different field and you have the wrong just the mark in particular, every area of business, Europe so then nurse that decision do you going add presuming it's gonna. Be ok, because there's not going to be confusion because you're in a completely different world or not men, has this method of introducing things to the public. That's really changed in and temporary. Would you been working out? How do you approach that now in and what do you think of the sort of blood sport of introducing logos and reactions on line and that gun
Well, our usual recommendation is don't say a word it just do it. I think look at more broadly, I think people are much more visually aware today, we I was looking at their phone or looking at I kind of looking at Hap's there. Looking at all these things and- and so is much more part of the culture. So I think the desire to do something. Good witch marble interviews or near positive thing is part of that. The idea! critic is another part of it, but overall it is great that people are much more. Anxious and aware and critical of of these things, tom, guys, Mars, the co founder of triumph and guys more and heavy. As I mentioned,
at the beginning to show Tom's on Time partner Ivan term. I have died in December of twenty seventeen. They work together for sixty years, an expanded text version in will be included in a new book about the firm it will be published by standards Manual in May, twenty eighteen, but a link on the ship coming up and extend a preview of a brand new radio Tokyo Shout and the producers of criminal criminal by the independent. When they ask me, is my personal favorite punk ass. I can not praise it.
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other just about immediately lays another set of eggs and, and these are of what are known as trophic eggs. These are eggs that are never going to hatch and they will serve as food for the spiral lings. This is doctor best shot, professor of biology on Long Island, university and research associate in residence at the American Museum of natural history. He's telling us about the black lace, weavers spider, its common in the United States. You ve, probably seen one before you probably have one somewhere in your yard right now their hard to describe because they look like a spider there about half an inch brownish black and color. No unusual markings, no beautiful webs, so well
spiralling touched. They they immediately set about eating the the eggs, the trophic eggs that their mother has laid now spiders and a lot of other arthropods animals that have an outer covering they had their skeletons and they are at the outside of their bodies like shrimp bore lobster were scorpions or or insects. It's the only whether they can grow in size is to shed their outer. That is the most there there there, this cuticle so after their first mould, the pretty much out of food, so they gone through the trophic. That their mother has produced an that's when they Something really kind of strange
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do sing the young to come to her and start feeding on. Her is absolutely intentional. She inviting them she's asking them to do this, and this is her sacrificed for her youngsters. This happens every day. These quiet selfless acts all around us and we have no idea. We ve been making for more than three years and when began. We set our talks, our stories about crime that went places. You might not have seen coming, and so we thought we try hand at something new US as enormous and varied and arguably overexposed as crime love criminal isn't going anywhere, but We are also going to bring you this new thing a show about people, not spiders dealing with
inescapable, nature of love and how a simple act of love isn't always pretty Grand and doesn't always make things better, but can In the course of it all were incredibly excited about these stories, and we hope your lesson. I'm Phoebe Judge, and this is love, you can subscribe and apple podcast or wherever your part, gas and their more at this is love cast dot com.
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.