Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

“Identity design is not about what one likes or dislikes. It’s about what works.”

In Identify, designers Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff, and partner Sagi Haviv, open-up their studio for the first time in the firm’s 55-year history. This excellent book reveals the creative process that led to some of the world’s most iconic visual identities.

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

There’s a preface from Isaac Mizrahi and a foreword from Steven Heller before the book gets down to business with a few pages describing the firm’s overall identity design process.

“Sketching by hand gives a designer an immediacy of artistic expression and intuitive extension of creative impulses that as of now using the computer lacks. We are looking for the most direct connection between an idea and the creation of a form. In the early conceptual phase, the computer’s preprogrammed functions often just get in the way.”

The remainder of the book is filled with almost 100 case studies detailing the design decisions behind trademarks we’ve all come to know, regardless of our knowledge of the design profession.

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar
Library of Congress

“The solution that we came up with was a combination of an allusion to a library and a representation of the American nation: an open book and the American flag.”

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar
National Broadcasting Company (NBC)

“It wasn’t until 1986, six long years after NBC first hired us, that the network took the number-one slot and the new peacock was released into the world.”

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar
Chase Manhattan Bank

“The blue octagonal mark is abstract but not without meaning. It suggests a Chinese coin or, with the square enclosed in an octagon, a bank vault and by extension the notion of security and trust.”

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar
National Geographic

“Beyond the basic signature and guidelines for usage, recommendations were made for the extensive use of the color yellow, especially for product packaging; the use wherever possible of appropriate and striking photography; a standard way to incorporate a message about the society and its purpose; and how, without restrictions on layout and design, the use of strong, clean contemporary design can help update perceptions of National Geographic.”

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

“This remarkable book testifies to the benefits of collaboration and sets a very high standard for the entire field to emulate.”

Identify: Basic Principles of Identity Design in the Iconic Trademarks of Chermayeff & Geismar — a landmark publication showcasing the worldwide visual influence of Chermayeff & Geismar.

Identify by Chermayeff & Geismar

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  1. That book looks amazing! Excuse me while I go buy it…

  2. Hardcover books are always very nice. Seems to be a very interesting one. It’s amazing how much we get used to characters. We see a red M and we already know what it means.

  3. 55 years, now that is quite an achievement!

    An interesting post David, kind of opens your eyes to the unseen areas of design (an area clients do not see).

  4. Well you sold me on this book David, and it’s going on my wish list along with my macbook for this xmas. I love Chermayeff & Geismars style of work and I would enjoy delving into their case studies. A nice read would actually be perfect for my winter break.

    As always, thank you for taking the time to write your review for everyone.

  5. Reading up on Chermayeff & Geismar, ‘Identify’ showed up and a quick search brought me to your blog, which I’ve been reading for a long time now.

    I found what I was looking for, a trustworth, concise opinion & a glimpse into the book.


  6. “Identity design is not about what one likes or dislikes. It’s about what works.”

    I agree. What works is a measure of effectiveness. Or, in other words and in application to everything, the measure of the value of any thing is its capacity to enable intervention…


  7. Yes, that one is going straight on my shelf:D

  8. Just purchased from Amazon. The minute it arrives at my doorstep, I will stop everything I am doing and take notes and read.

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