Ivan Chermayeff, Well-Known & Famous Graphic Designer

A well-known famous designer, Chermayeff

Celebrating 50 years of working with partner Tom Geismar, Chermayeff noted that in the early days, when people would ask him what he did at parties he used to tell them he was a commercial artist: “they didn’t know what that was but they left you alone, which was good.” Now he says he’s a graphic designer “and they say ‘Oh, my niece is studying graphic design’. But they still don’t know what it means and they still leave you alone. Which is also good.” (Creative Review 28/2/2008)

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History of Ivan Chermayeff, Graphic Design Expert

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Born in 1932 in London, England, Chermayeff is the son of a Chechen architect called Serge Ivan Chermayeff. In 1940 he moved to the United States with his family where he has lived ever since. His father had influenced him by encouraging the artistic side of his and his brother’s talents. He later studied at Harvard and the Institute of Design in Chicago, and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Yale. When he was at Yale he met Tom Geismar where both designers discovered their shared passion for typography whilst doing their research for their Masters, he had been highly influenced by Paul Rand, Miro, Patisse and Picasso. After graduating from college, Chermayeff worked for Alvin Lustig and CBS in NewYork whilst Geismar went into the army. In 1957 Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff formed with Brownjohn the graphic design company Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar with friend and former student of Ivan’s father Robert Brownjohn.

Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar became Famous Designers

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They became extremely well known in the late 1950s and early 1960s in the middle of the graphics revolution in America. New York was an exciting place, sparked with creativity, all different types of art creating new ideas within each other’s realm. In architecture, the United Nation’s building and Lever House had just been built, and the first building by Mies Van der Rohe in the late 1950s. In the arts, Abstract Expressionism was overtaken by pop culture. In the theatre ‘West Side Story’ was highly successful. The jazz world mourned Charley Parker whilst lauding the tones of Ornette Coleman, Erick Dolphy and John Coltrane.

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Renowned for its hard working yet informal atmosphere, Brownjohn, Chermayeff and Geismar began by designing book covers, album covers and corporate identities and soon won more substantial commissions, including the U.S. pavilion at the 1959 Brussels world’s fair. In 1959 Brownjohn left the studio and Chermayeff and Geismar continued to work together. By 1960 the duo had started a craze for abstract corporate symbols with designs for the Chase Manhattan Bank NBC and others. During their many years of collaboration the pair have produced over 100 corporate symbols. Chermyeff’s trademarks, posters, publications and art installations have received nearly every award bestowed by the profession, including gold medals from the American Institue of Graphic Artists (AIGA), the Society of Illustrators, the Yale Arts Medal, the President’s Fellow award from the Rhode Island school of design, and the Industrial art medal from the American Institute of Architects. A former president of the AIGA and elected to the art directors club hall of fame, he also served for two decades as a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2007 an exhibition at the Pera Museum, Istanbul showcased 50 years of the graphic design work by Chermayeff & Geismar.

Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, Pictures, Portfolio

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