Tom Geismar is inextricably linked with his long-time professional partner Ivan Chermayeff, and the firm they founded in 1957 is regarded as one of the most influential and productive design agencies of the 20th century. Their logographic designs for clients such as Chase Manhattan Bank, NBC, Mobil, and PBS are recognized worldwide. Together and individually, the two have been recognized by every organization devoted to art and design, and the list of their awards is deeply impressive. Most recently, the firm has produced designs for the Obama campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the US Capitol Visitor Center.
Born in Glenn Ridge, New Jersey, Tom Geismar attended the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University, later receiving an MFA in graphic design from Yale's School of Art and Architecture. His career began in Washington, DC, designing exhibits for the Army; though his tenure there lasted only two years, he never lost his love or flair for exhibit design and he found many later opportunities to curate and design compelling installations. In 1957, Geismar joined college friend Ivan Chermayeff and Robert Brownjohn in a partnership in New York where a pantheon of formidable designers, including Will Burtin, Alvin Lustig, Paul Rand, Lester Beall, and Saul Bass, had created a climate of strong appreciation for clean, modern design.
By the 1960s, the studio of Chermayeff and Geismar (Brownjohn left in 1959) had established a wildly popular trend for corporate logos based on abstract designs, and over the course of the next 50 years produced memorable identity symbols for over 100 different prominent clients. Geismar was personally responsible for the famous Mobil logo, one of the most enduring brand identities of the 20th century and continued throughout his career to keep the design fresh and relevant. Known for both his multi-solution approach and his ability to resolve the inevitable conflicts that permeate the corporate brand creation process, Geismar helped his firm earn the loyalty and trust of many Fortune 500 American companies.
He also continued to find opportunities for exhibit design, developing installations for the Ellis Island Museum, the Statue of Liberty Museum, the Thomas Jefferson and Sigmund Freud displays at the Library of Congress, and the Hall of the Sun at New York's Hayden Planetarium.