Some logos are built to last. How did they make the transition from the analogue world to take on completely new digital lives, lit up in LEDs, living in our pocket phones, and dancing in animation?
Tom Geismar, my business partner of many years, has had the pleasure of watching some of the logos he designed celebrate their 40th, 50th, and even 60th anniversaries, such as the Chase Bank octagon, Mobil’s red O, the National Geographic yellow frame. They are recognised by millions. Early on when I started at the firm as an intern, I hoped to learn Tom’s secrets for creating logos that endure like that.
Every time I walked into Tom’s office and saw him sketching, I noticed he was using a Pentel Sign black pen to draw his ideas in tiny size on a notepad next to his keyboard. I realised that the most effective way to forge a symbol is not just drawing by hand, but more importantly, in black and white. The silhouette is what the eye perceives and the brain remembers. Think of it as the skeleton, undergirding the surface aspects of colour and treatments like three-dimensionality, motion, lighting, or behaviour.