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All about Chermayeff & Geismar

Chermayeff & Geismar

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.

Hundreds of trademarks have been created by Chermayeff & Geismar Inc. Their logos and identity programs for high-profile corporations such as Mobil, Time Warner, Viacom, and Xerox (before their recent re-brand), and for institutions such as the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Museum of Modern Art, are instantly recognisable hallmarks of design.

In 2008, designer Sagi Haviv became the third principal partner at the firm, and the youngest in its history. Some of the most recent identity projects from the firm include new logos for Armani Exchange and the Library of Congress.

Ivan Chermayeff Tom Geismar Sagi HavivFrom left to right: Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar, Sagi Haviv

The following video by Sagi Haviv, 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

NBC logo designNBC

Designed in 1986, the six-feathered peacock (representing NBC’s six divisions) has become one of the world’s best-known birds.

Barneys New York logo designBarneys

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.

Chase logo designChase

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).

Mobil logo designMobil

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.

Bond Market Association logo designBond Market Association

Designed in 1997, this trade association for brokers and dealers uses a logo that appeals to those with an eye for upwardly-moving charts.

Steff Geissbuhler

The Chermayeff & Geismar design firm can’t be featured without mentioning Swiss designer, Steff Geissbuhler. He was a key part of Chermayeff & Geismar’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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