Ivan Chermayeff (1932 - ) is inextricably linked with his long-time professional partner Tom Geismar, 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.
Ivan Chermayeff was born in London in 1932, the son of the celebrated author and Modernist architect Serge Chermayeff (1900 - 1996). His education included stints at Harvard, the Institute of Design in Chicago (founded by Moholy-Nagy and later headed by Chermayeff's father), and Yale. After graduation from Yale, he apprenticed with Alvin Lustig, and then moved on to CBS to design record covers. A desire to open an independent design studio was realized in 1957 when college friend and fellow type enthusiast Tom Geismar joined him 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.
In a 2008 interview with the online MetropolisMag.com, Chermayeff commented on C & G's creative process in designing new corporate logos: "Our attitude is that we need to know enough about a company's past in order to begin, but almost more important than where the company has been is where it's going. You would be surprised how many people come to us and really are talking about their past and not focusing on where they're going... We rarely show a client one solution. There is no such thing as one solution to a problem. There are many... Our idea is never to show anything to anybody that we can't live with."
The Chermayeff and Geismar firm downsized in 2005, but still continues to produce outstanding work. Ivan Chermayeff's achievements have been recognized through a number of prestigious awards, including the AIGA gold medal, the Society of Illustrators gold medal, and the Yale Art Medal. -- DP
Elizabeth A. Evitts, "A Half Century of Solutions," Metropolis Magazine. January 25, 2008. www.metropolismag.com/story/20080125/a-half-century-of-solutions.
Chermayeff & Geismar. www.cgstudionyc.com/.
"Interview with one half of the graphic design duo Chermayeff & Geismar - Ivan Chermayeff." Designboom. May 18, 2007. http://www.designboom.com/eng/interview/chermayeff.html.