American graphic designer Ivan Chermayeff, creator of some of the world’s best known logos, has died aged 85. During his prolific career, Chermayeff was part of the team behind iconic symbols for National Geographic, PanAm, PBS, MoMA and Xerox, as well as the NBC peacock.
Chermayeff was born in London in 1932, the son of modernist architect Serge Chermayeff – creator of the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill – and moved to the US aged eight. He studied at Harvard, the Institute of Design in Chicago and Yale School of Art and Architecture, taught by Paul Rand, before apprenticing for American graphic designer Alvin Lustig and designing record covers at CBS. In 1956 he founded a studio in New York with Tom Geismar and Robert Brownjohn, though Brownjohn left three years later. Chermayeff & Geismar (later Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv) went on to design over 100 well-known corporate logos, from HarperCollins to Hearst, Mobil, Armani Exchange, CBRE and Chase Bank; and identities for institutions from the Smithsonian Institute to the Kennedy Center Honors.
He was also an accomplished illustrator. Amid his firm’s vast portfolio are posters for the Guggenheim, the Big Apple Circus and TV series War and Peace, and magazine covers for Bloomberg Businessweek and The New York Times 9/11 editorial. The studio also produced public art, such as the 9 sculpture on New York’s West 57th Street, and others for St. Louis Children’s Zoo and Osaka Aquarium. Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv also worked on designs for the Obama campaign.
Chermayeff served as president of the AIGA, and was awarded the AIGA gold medal in 1979, the Yale Art Medal, the Society of Illustrators gold medal and the Industrial Art Medal from the American Institute of Architects. He was also elected to the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame, and served for over 20 years as a trustee of the MoMA. In 2014, when Chermayeff exhibited his collages and prints at the De La Warr pavilion – with exhibition design by his son Sam – he told The Guardian “The goal is always to make something simple and memorable”.
Michael Bierut commented on Ivan’s death on Twitter, saying his firm “defined American graphic design”.
Tom Geismar said: “Ivan was a brilliant designer and illustrator, with a vibrant personal style that reflected joy, intelligence and wit. He loved surprise, large-scale objects, and the colour red. For over 60 years, Ivan and I have enjoyed a partnership, to which we each brought complementary talents, in an alliance cemented by shared values and mutual respect. Ivan’s contribution to the field of design will remain unsurpassed.”
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