Some designers intuitively worked in harmony with the core principles described in this book. Their logos, consequently, have stood the test of time. They can teach us much. Even the few times when they missed the mark can show us that these principles cannot be ignored.
Herb Lubalin, 1918-1981
Herb Lubalin was educated at Cooper Union. During his career he had an affinity for hand rendered typographic identities, which made him an ideal creator of magazine mastheads. Notable examples were the identities for three magazines co-published with Ralph Ginzburg: Eros, Fact and Avant Garde, where Lubalin also did the art direction, often using full-page typographic titles. He created several notable type fonts, including Avant Garde, modeled after the magazine identity of the same name.
He founded International Typographic Corporation (ITC) and left a lasting mark on the world of font design. A memorable publicity tool of ITC’s was the free publication U&lc (Upper and Lower Case), where he spent the last ten years of his life. It was a showcase of eclectic typographic experimentation. Lubalin’s work as a custom typographer often incorporated swashes and ligatures and has been a lasting example of exquisite wordmarks at their best, embracing both simplicity and clarity.
Paul Rand, 1914-1996
Paul Rand was educated at Pratt Institute, Parsons, The New School for Design and the Art Students League but said he was mostly a self-taught designer. He built his early career on the strength of his page layouts, including his ability to crop photos for maximum impact. During his lifetime he was recognized for painting, lecturing and industrial design, but he is remembered today chiefly for his world-famous logo designs most of which still look fresh.
As long as a half-century later, many of those brand designs are still in use and remain essentially unchanged. He continued to be commissioned for high-level identity design into his eighties. More than any other individual of his era, Rand helped big business understand the value of design and of taking graphic design beyond the mere creation of a logo – in fact, toward a holistic design philosophy.
Some criticized his designs as simplistic, but his insight has been proven correct: to have a long life, a good design needs to be simple and restrained. Perhaps Rand’s most famous logo is the IBM monogram, originally designed in 1957 and modified by him ten years later and again in 1972. It is interesting that each successive improvement corrected negative issues referred to later in this book. Even the few Rand logos that did not stand the test of time serve to underscore the core principles and how violating them does damage to the utility of a logo.
No matter how famous you are, an identity that doesn’t conform to the core principles will be less than effective and is more likely to be replaced.
Saul Bass, 1920-1996
Saul Bass was another graphic designer whose identities have lasted decades without ever looking out-of-date or passé. His design credo was “symbolize and summarize,” advice that is still valid today.
After his education at the Art Students League (on a scholarship) and evening classes with György Kepes at Brooklyn College, Bass moved to Hollywood to work on print ads. He produced dozens of film titles for directors like Preminger, Hitchcock, Scorsese and Kubrick, and dozens of movie posters. He also did many book covers and made several small films, winning an Academy Award in 1968 for his film Why Man Creates.
Concurrent with his work in film, Bass distinguished himself in corporate design. Many of his logos remain virtually unchanged today, save for modest variations and treatment alterations. The few logos that were abandoned were mostly victims of corporate mergers or cessations. When Bass’s original designs were replaced, the new ones were almost always weaker and full of shortcomings that will surely mean a shorter lifespan than that of their predecessors. When it comes to companies’ retaining logos over time, Saul Bass has a better track record than Paul Rand. This should not be surprising because Bass’s logos consistently adhere to the core principles that we’ll discuss later.
Chermayeff, Geismar and Haviv
L to R: Ivan Chermayeff, 1932-2017, Tom Geismar, born 1931, Sagi Haviv, born 1974
Before joining forces, Chermayeff and Geismar were well educated in graphic design. They met at Yale, where Chermayeff earned a bachelor of fine arts and Geismar his master’s degree. Originally their firm was a threesome – Brownjohn, Chermayeff and Geismar. Robert Brownjohn left after two years. Since then, the firm has been responsible for more than one hundred identities for companies all over the world and has won virtually every award in the industry. Sagi Haviv joined the firm in 2003 and became a partner in 2006.
Ivan Chermayeff said of the first edition of this book, Logo Theory, “…at last somebody understands what identity design is all about and how it is accomplished.” Ivan was still an active partner in the firm when he passed away in 2017.
Chemayeff and Geismar (and Haviv after becoming a partner) always worked jointly on all their logo designs. While not all of their logo designs conform to the core principles, the most long-lived ones do. Note that although their logos are reproduced fairly small here, they are clear and solid; and even though they sometimes contain more than one color, each one would work in a single color.
What does reviewing these famous designers’ work teach us?
All of them created great identities. When they did missed the mark, the typically short life of those identities serves to reinforce the danger of deviating from core principles of branding design.
Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works