Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar met as students at Yale in the mid 1950s. They were doing research for papers on typeface design. In the spring of 1957 they teamed up with Robert Brownjohn to form Brownjohn Chermayeff Geismar. Three years later, Brownjohn left the partnership, and the era of Chermayeff & Geismar began.
Hundreds of trademarks have been created by the design firm. Their logos for high-profile corporations are instantly recognisable, including marks for Mobil, Time Warner, Viacom, and Xerox (before their recent re-brand), and for institutions such as the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian, and the Museum of Modern Art.
In 2008, designer Sagi Haviv became the third principal partner at the firm, and the youngest in its history. Some of their most recent projects include new logos for Armani Exchange and the Library of Congress.
The following video by Sagi Haviv, titled LogoMotion, features an animated showcase of various Chermayeff & Geismar logos.
Not a “crescent swish” or 3D reflection in sight.
Celebrating 50 years of working with partner Tom Geismar, Ivan Chermayeff (at the recent Design Indaba conference) 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.”
Chermayeff & Geismar logos
Designed in 1986, the six-feathered peacock (representing NBC’s six divisions) has become one of the world’s best-known birds.
Designed in 1981, the type manages to be both contemporary and classic, emphasising the proud New York heritage by placing the ‘N’ and ‘Y’ in the centre.
Designed in 1961, when few American corporations were identified by abstract symbols, the Chase octagon has survived a series of mergers (quoted from Logo by Michael Evamy).
Designed in 1964, the Mobil logotype has become instantly recognisable across the globe. With this design reliant on colour, the black only version makes use of two concentric circles (for the letter ‘o’) suggesting motion and mobility.
Designed in 1997, this trade association for brokers and dealers uses a logo that appeals to those with an eye for upwardly-moving charts.
Chermayeff & Geismar can’t be featured without mentioning renowned Swiss designer, Steff Geissbuhler, who was a key part of the design firm’s success.
In 2005, Chermayeff & Geismar Inc was dissolved following the departure of Geissbuhler and several senior colleagues, who established their own successful design firm, C&G Partners. Ivan and Tom, along with Sagi, now trade as Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv.
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