An Advertising Innovator

Thomas H. Geismar is an American graphic designer who explored visual corporate identity by designing abstract and highly symbolic logos. Geismar was part of Chermayeff & Geismar Associates, a design firm originally named Brownjohn, Chermayeff, and Geismar (renamed after Brownjohn left.) Megg’s quotes Geismar on the topic of visual identity:

‘Tom Geismar observed that a symbol must be memorable and have “some barb to it that will make it stick in your mind.” At the same time it must be “attractive, pleasant, and appropriate. The challenge is to combine all those things into something simple.”’


Above: Logos by Chermayeff & Geismar. 

Since 1958, Chermayeff & Geismar (& Haviv, currently) have created “many of the world’s most recognizable trademarks.” In 2014, they received the the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement. Geismar’s work is excellent, but he also put forth a unique way of thinking about design that’s still relevant today: “Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv is known for a collaborative, problem-solving approach to design, with personal involvement by all three principals in every project and continuous attention to the details and nuances of projects as they evolve.”

Quoted from their website

A Psychesydelic Hero

During the 1960’s, the psychedelic poster gained momentum in America, fuelled by (according to Megg’s History of Graphic Design) current social liberation movements, drug culture, antiestablishment sentiments, rock music, and other “fringe” cultures, such as the hippie movement.

Wes Wilson, who designed posters for the Grateful Dead and the Association, among many others, contributed to developing the psychedelic style, which borrows the flowing, organic lines of art nouveau, the cultural references of pop art, and vibrant colours often used in op-art.


Wilson used saturated colours, warped text, and mesmerizing lines to create compelling, but disorienting, posters.

Although the psychedelic poster is associated with the 60’s, typography from this movement, and the general style, is used by businesses today. For example, I believe Budgie’s Burritos (Vancouver) employed elements of this style in decorating the restaurant – perhaps the owners were even inspired by Wilson’s art.


Image source.


From what I understand, supergraphics are large (billboard sized or bigger) graphics. They’re usually simple, bright, and abstract. Supergraphics can alter how we feel about the size and shape of a space, or be purely decorative. Supergraphics are usually painted on walls, floors, and ceilings, but you could apply them to any large surface.

Sol Lewitt’s Wall Drawings are a good example.

In this piece, I find the bright, contrasting colors, the composition, and the juxtaposition between diagonal and horizontal lines visually pleasing.

I think it goes to show – and of course, this isn’t the only example – that minimalistic art can be as magnetic as something complex. I often gravitate towards elaborate designs and layouts, but lately, I’ve been trying to keep thoughtful minimalism in mind. Walking the line between “less is more” and “too little” is difficult but worth every moment of consideration. Here’s some more of Sol’s art:


Color and Light

This is a 6 x 9 inch gouache painting on illustration board. We were asked to depict a romantic scene in a 1950’s American illustration style. Color and light were two factors I tried to take into account, so rather than using my go-to night palette (blue) I started with an orange underpainting. I also used touches of reds, yellows, and violets throughout, even in the blue of the night sky. I tried to consider reflection and transparency when I painted the umbrella. Learning about color has been fascinating, and it makes me realize that what I’ve done here has fallen short. The more I learn, the more I see things to improve. Creating an illustration involves limitless considerations, and so much of what we feel is unsayable – depicting something romantic was especially difficult. I don’t know how to do it justice. But seeing what can be improved gives me hope that if I keep studying and learning, one day I’ll be able to.

love - final version

Expressive Typography

What is expressive typography? It’s something I’d seen before, but I never realized it until I began the latest project for my design class. Expressive typography – as I understand it – is treating text like an illustration. The text becomes the focus of the piece, and often, any illustrative qualities are related to the meaning of the word or words.


Left: For example, rather than making the text look parched, famous designer Chip Kidd created a “visual oxymoron” in his design for the cover of Dry. The result is pleasant and surprising, but if he’d chosen to make the text look like an arid desert, it would still be expressive typography!

Below: For my assignment I chose to create a cover for The Castle by Kafka. This piece is a 5.5 x 8.5 inch gouache painting on bristol.