Design Icon (and Icon Designer) Steff Geissbühler Still Wants Your Business

For Centennial Voices, part of AIGA's Centennial celebration of the past, present and future of design, we've invited industry leaders to write short essays that spark conversations within the design community and beyond by sharing personal experiences, reflecting on design history, examining the practice today or imagining the role of designers in the years to come.

To me, it’s all about making connections. We designers connect words and images, visual ideas and concepts. We use associations and our imaginations. We create and innovate. We often make the invisible visible. To us, a letter is an image of form and counter-form. We see it as a sculpture; it has character and expression, and yet it's just one of many to form a word, a headline, a text and a message.

We make connections with symbols, colors, icons—and we invent new ones. We show the familiar in a new way. We aim our work at people and hope they see what we see. If we can teach our students, clients and audiences to see things differently, then we've made the world a better and richer place.

I love to make connections. I’m very connected to design, designers and, yes, to AIGA. Neither AIGA nor I recall exactly when I became a member, but we recently settled on 1974. To me, that means 40 years of a great support group: like-minded people, competitors and best friends, vendors, conferences, events and board meetings. I’ve judged and been judged by my peers, fairly or not. I even received a lifetime achievement AIGA Medal.

I imported myself to the United States from Switzerland with not much more to my name other than a great education, three years of experience and a will to succeed. I was given the chance to teach and work at the same time. After seven years of teaching and freelancing in Philadelphia, I moved to the Big Apple, where I've remained for the past 40 years. I’ve been employed, worked with partners and colleagues, even formed a new firm. Now I’m on my own again, just the way I started. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to hone my craft (I still see it that way), make connections and work with, and for, extraordinary people.

Some people think I’m famous because I designed the NBC peacock, the Time Warner eye/ear logo and other fairly visible icons. In fact, I was mostly lucky to have been in the right place with the right solution at the right time. I still get my biggest kicks from learning about my clients’ services, processes and know-how. I'd even venture to say that I got my professional education while doing what I like best.

I’m passionate, I love what I do and I’m proud of what I’ve done. Although, I still want to do that most amazing thing. So call me.

Steff Geissbühler

Image: Logo for NBC (National Broadcasting Network) designed by Steff Geissbühler, Chermayeff & Geismar Inc., 1979. Courtesy of Steff Geissbühler

About the Author:

Steff Geissbuhler


geissbühler:design Inc.

Steff Geissbuhler is among America’s most celebrated designers of integrated brand and corporate identity programs. His work for a broad spectrum of international and national clients includes identity systems for NBC, Merck, Time Warner Cable, Telemundo, Voice of America, Toledo Museum of Art, National Parks of New York Harbor, Crane & Co., Calamos Investments, Conrad Hotels and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Prior to forming his own firm, he was a co-founding partner at C&G Partners for over six years, and a partner at Chermayeff & Geismar Inc. for 30 years.

Steff has designed architectural graphics for the IBM building in New York City; a complete sign system for the Universities of Pennsylvania; and Connecticut; printed materials for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Mobil, Philip Morris, Cummins Engines and Union Pacific. Other commissions include graphics for the Smithsonian Institution’s Bicentennial exhibition; the “Sports Illustrated at the Olympics” exhibit; a new identity and graphics for the New York Public Library; the New Victory Theater; and a series of posters for New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs. In 2005 Mr. Geissbuhler’s work was honored with the American Institute of Graphic Arts Medal for his sustained contribution to design excellence and the development of the profession. He is also the recipient of the U.S. Federal Achievement Design Award, and several awards from the Art Director’s Clubs and the International Poster Biennales. Steff served as the U.S. president of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and has been a member of the board of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. He is past president of AIGA’s New York chapter and is presently a board member.

Steff Geissbuhler received his diploma in graphic design from the School of Art and Design, Basel, Switzerland. He has taught at the Philadelphia C