Home & Design

Jan 1, 2018

FAREWELL TO THE GENIUS

The graphic designer Ivan Chermayeff, creator of some of the most recognized logos in the world, passed away on December 2, at 85 years, leaving a unique legacy of graphic and industrial pieces.

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By SARA LOUP

Born in London, in 1932, Ivan Chermayeff was a prestigious designer, Illustrator and a prolific artist. His name is inextricably linked to iconic logos such as the US television station NBC, National Geographic Channel, the American airline PanAm, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and XEROX. The vast collection of marks signed conferred him the title of "Genius of Logos".

The education and creativity of Chermayeff had the influence of his father, Serge Chermayeff (1900-1996), a known modernist architect, academic and author of several books on Design and communication and, also, co-creator of De La Warr (Bexhill, UK) where, years later, Ivan, would expose his collections.

At age eight, he moved to America together with his family, where he made his life and career. He studied in various educational institutions going through Harvard, by the Institute of Design in Chicago, eventually graduating in the school of art and architecture, Yale University.

Chermayeff began his professional career with Alvin Lustig, moving later to CBS. After these experiences, he founded the Chermayeff & Geismar with Tom Geismar, colleague and friend from College, and Robert Brownjohn. The agency pioneered the modern movement of graphic design conceiving new ideas, exhibitions, print graphics, 'motion graphics' and art in architecture. Michael Bierut, (1957), creator of the Hillary Clinton campaign logo, in 2016, contends that the C&G's "defined the American graphic design".

The first customers were friends, photographers and small business professionals, which were gradually increasing until they start working brands such as Craft Horizons Magazine or the Randall's Island Jazz Festival. This would be the beginning of a long career of Chermayeff and Geismar which, in 1960, due to the departure of Brownjohn, founded Chermayeff & Geismar Associates. In 2006, Sagi Haviv joined the company, and the named changed to Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.

"For more than 60 years, Ivan and I enjoyed a partnership, to which each brought complementary talents, in an alliance cemented by shared values and mutual respect. Ivan's contribution to the design field will remain unsurpassed", said Tom Geismar after the death of the partner. And added "Ivan was a brilliant designer and Illustrator, with a vibrant personal style that reflected joy, intelligence and dexterity".

The vast portfolio of company has customers worldwide known as: Mobil, Dictaphone, The Chase Manhattan Bank, Owens-Illinois, New York University, Harvard University Press, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Revolution Bicentennial.

The design of the C&G's extends to parts of industrial art, such as sculpture 9 on 57th street, West of New York City; others are at the St. Louis Zoo; at the aquarium in Osaka, Japan; and in the Lisbon Oceanarium in Portugal.

More recently they worked on the design of the Barack Obama campaign, for the Southern Poverty Law and to the US Capitol Visitor Centre.

C&G's success was due not only to the work developed by Chermayeff, but also to the way in which, at the time, the design was conceived: inspired by abstract designs and simple logos, sharp and instantly understandable. For Ivan, "design is directly connected to human beings. To do design is to solve human problems by identifying and executing the best solutions". Thus, the focus of the company was always directed to the lack of their customers history, their problems and how to fix them, through the creation of a representative identity with which customers could live in the future.

Chermayeff was awarded with a vast number of prizes, among them, Yale Arts medals, the American Institute of graphic arts, the society of illustrators and Industrial Art of the American Institute of architects. As result of his work, Ivan received the Honoris Causa by the Corcoran Museum of Art of Whashington DC.

His work influenced generations of new designers and set new trends of logos and creative process of corporate identity, changing the history of the world's design.

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