I was saddened by the news that Ivan Chermayeff passed away on December 2nd, 2017 at the age of 85. While we never had the pleasure of meeting in person, he and his colleagues Tom Geismar and Sagi Haviv were gracious enough to share their thoughts and advice with me in my much shorter time as a graphic designer.
In the words of his design partner Tom Geismar, “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.”
About Ivan Chermayeff
Born in 1932, Ivan Chermayeff was a distinguished graphic designer, author, illustrator, and collagist. In a career spanning over six decades, his work has been exhibited throughout the world, inspiring generations of design students.
In a partnership with Tom Geismar that spanned 60 years, Ivan produced memorable work in a wide range of mediums. He created more than 100 posters announcing television shows, museum exhibitions, and other cultural events, all conceived with an unerring sense of colour, form, typography, and visual connections.
From its inception, the design firm — now named Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv — has worked closely with architects on large-scale projects. Ivan’s design for the massive steel red 9 that sits on West 57th Street has become a New York landmark, and his “fractured flag” design was a highly visible feature in the US Pavilion at Expo’67 in Montreal. After the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, Ivan and the firm worked closely with the Kennedy family and the architect I M Pei over many years to develop the design for the exhibition at the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.
Harper Collins logo, 1990.
Showtime Networks logo, 1997.
Smithsonian Institution logo, 1999.
The firm has long specialised in the design of graphic identities for a wide range of companies, government institutions and cultural organisations. Ivan’s designs for the Smithsonian Institution, Showtime Networks, and Pan Am are considered iconic.
Over the years Ivan designed a range of children’s books that feature bold illustrations and sparse texts. His “Sun Moon Star,” with text by Kurt Vonnegut, has been reprinted in many languages.
Apart from his professional work, collage was one of Ivan’s favourite means of personal expression. Bright, colourful, and highly graphic, each collage was made from mailing envelopes, scraps of packaging, ticket stubs, bits of type, etc. The artwork has been featured in more than 40 one-man exhibitions throughout the US, Europe, and Japan. Nearly all the collages are variations on the theme of the human face, each made with a style and visual wit characteristic of Ivan’s work.
In the wake of Ivan’s death, Mike Dempsey republished a great read and recorded interview from 2009 — Ivan the great.
Sincere condolences to Ivan’s family and friends.