December 6, 2017

Ivan Chermayeff, rest in peace

As one of America’s most celebrated graphic designers, Ivan Chermayeff helped to define the creation of modern day corporate identity.

Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff

Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff.

I was sad to hear that Ivan Chermayeff passed away on December 2nd, 2017 at the age of 85. While we never had the pleasure of meeting in person, Ivan and his colleagues Tom Geismar and Sagi Haviv have been 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.”

Ivan Chermayeff posters

About Ivan Chermayeff

Born in 1932, Ivan Chermayeff’s career spanned more than six decades. He was a distinguished graphic designer, author, illustrator, and collagist, producing memorable work in a wide range of mediums. He created more than 100 posters announcing television shows, museum exhibitions, and other cultural events, all crafted with a fantastic sense of colour, form, typography, and visual connections.

9 New York Ivan Chermayeff

Steel sculpture for Mobil, at 9 West 57th Street, New York, 1972.

From its inception, the design firm that he founded with Tom Geismar — 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 is 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.

The firm has long specialised in the design of graphic identities for a wide range of companies, government institutions, and cultural organisations. Ivan’s logos include those for HarperCollins, Showtime Networks, the Smithsonian Institution, and many more.

Harper Collins logoHarper Collins logo, 1990.

Showtime Networks logoShowtime Networks logo, 1997.

Smithsonian Institution logoSmithsonian Institution logo, 1999.

A past president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Ivan Chermayeff was the recipient of gold medals from the institute and from the Society of Illustrators. He was named to the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1981.

Over the years Ivan designed a range of children’s books with bold illustrations and sparse text. His “Sun Moon Star,” with words by Kurt Vonnegut, has been reprinted in many languages.

Sun Moon Star

Sun Moon Star, by Kurt Vonnegut and Ivan Chermayeff.

Apart from his professional work, one of Ivan’s favourite means of personal expression was collage. Bright, colourful, and graphic, each collage was made from mailing envelopes, scraps of packaging, ticket stubs, bits of type, etc.

Ivan Chermayeff collages

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.

Ivan Chermayeff

Ivan Chermayeff, 1932-2017.

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.

August 23, 2017

Milton Glaser in conversation with Debbie Millman

“The Hippocratic oath is equally useful applied to designers as it is to doctors. Why should a designer have any more leeway than a doctor?”

A great conversation between two of my favourite designers, Milton Glaser and Debbie Millman.

The piece at the end rings particularly true at this stage of my life, getting to watch the joy and excitement of kids while they play the simplest of games, and thinking about how all of us were like that.

June 28, 2017

The posters of Abram Games

Abram Games was one of the 20th century’s great graphic designers, and the only person in army history to be given the title of Official War Poster Artist.

Abram Games No Smoking posterAnti-smoking poster, unpublished, 1970.

In a career spanning more than 60 years, Abram produced some of Britain’s most memorable images and designs, for a client list that included the United Nations, London Transport, British Airways, Shell, the Financial Times, and Guinness. He designed stamps for Britain, Jersey, and Israel, book jackets for Penguin, and emblems for the Festival of Britain and the Queen’s Award for Industry.

Abram Games London Underground posterLondon Transport: A Train Every 90 Seconds, 1937.

By the time he was called up for army service in 1940, 24 of his posters had been published, and after a year in the infantry he was posted to Whitehall to work in an attic studio, producing maps, book covers, insignias, and more than 100 posters. In 1942, upon promotion to Captain, he was appointed Official War Poster Artist.

Abram Games ATS posterJoin the ATS, 1941.

Abram Games Use Spades Not Ships posterUse Spades, Not Ships, 1942.

Demobilised in 1946, Abram resumed his freelance career, working in a studio entirely alone and taking responsibility for every aspect of his designs from conception to print.

Abram Games See Britain by Train posterSee Britain by Train, 1951.

Abram Games Freedom from Hunger posterUnited Nations: Freedom from Hunger, 1962.

His influence crossed over to TV when he created the BBC’s first on-screen ident, also known as the “bat’s wings” (below, with original music by the late harpist Sidonie Goossens).

Abram Games

Abram Games was awarded the OBE in 1958 and appointed a Royal Designer for Industry in 1959.

High quality poster reproductions are available from King & McGaw and

Designing the 20th Century, Jewish Museum
On Wikipedia

March 2, 2017

Paula Scher on pro bono

“That’s why pro bono work is great. You choose to do it, and if you’re choosing to do it to grow your own work, your deal is essentially that you’re not going to collaborate. You’re going to do the job the way you think the job is gonna be done.”

Paula ScherPaula Scher, photo by John Madere

I agree. Pro bono’s a swap. You give up your fee, and the client gives up the ability to ask for changes. It’s good for both sides. The client gets free use of work that you want in your portfolio — work that persuades others to pay you.

Paula Scher on why and when it’s worth working for free.

Here’s a good example of when pro bono design pays off (in the archives).

And The Great Discontent interview with Paula Scher is an interesting read.

January 19, 2017

Saul Bass — Style is Substance

15 minutes well-spent watching a couple of commentaries about the title sequences of Saul Bass.

Read more

June 13, 2016

For services to typography and road safety

Graphic designer Margaret Calvert has been awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire).

Read more

April 20, 2016

All For a Few Good Waves

All For a Few Good Waves is an interesting short documentary that gives a raw glimpse into the life and work of graphic designer David Carson.

Read more

August 20, 2015

It’s All Our Blood, by Harry Pearce

On August 6th, 1945, twin atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing between 300,000 and 900,000 people.

Read more

December 7, 2013

Graphic Icons: Jan Tschichold

Excerpted from Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design, the new book from John Clifford.

Read more

November 11, 2011

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

The first book to be dedicated to one of the greatest American designers of the twentieth century, produced by Jennifer Bass (Saul's daughter) and Pat Kirkham.

Read more

David Airey
Brand identity design

Independent since 2005
Website hosted by Fused

13 Gransha Park, Bangor
Northern Ireland
BT20 4XT