Born in London in 1932, the son of an architect, Ivan Chermayeff and his family emigrated to America during WWII when he was 8 years old. The artist studied at Harvard until 1952, the Institute of Design (New Bauhaus) until 1954 and finished with a BFA from the Yale School of Arts and Architecture in 1995. The same year of graduating, Chermayeff participated in a short apprenticeship with Alvin Lustig—a pioneer of American graphic design—and then moved on to CBS to become the Assistant Art Director in record cover design. Chermayeff later received a honorary doctorate in law from the Portland School of Art in 1981, and two honorary doctorates in fine arts from the Philadelphia University Arts and the Corcoran Museum of Art, Washington in 1991.
In 1956, Chermayeff co-founded Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar Associate (now Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv) with Robert Brownjohn and his former Yale schoolmate, Tom Geismar. The firm has produced some of the most recognizable logos today including those of NBC, National Geographic, NYU, and Chase Bank. Chermayeff’s very own designs for the firm have notably been those of Showtime, HarperCollins, the MoMA, and the Smithsonian Institute.
Chermayeff is also an illustration artist and collagist. Many graphic pieces he made show a balance of configurations of his imagination, featuring both abstract geometric shapes and figurative images. The artist’s pioneering of using bold primary colors and abstraction as a means of conveying corporate identity has established Chermayeff as one most reputable graphic designers of his era. The artist was awarded numerous prizes including the Industrial Art Medal from AIA (American Institute Architects) in 1967; The Philadelphia College of Art Gold Medal in 1971; AIGA Gold Medal (American Institute of Graphic Arts) in 1979; the President’s Fellow Award from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1981; the First International Design Award from Japan Design Foundation in 1983; the Yale Arts Medal in 1985; the Distinguished Service Award from the New School University in 1999; the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal in 2002; the Tokyo Type Directors Club Award in 2004; and the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2014.
Chermayeff and Geismar published many articles and books, including the experimental Watching Words Move (Typographica, 1962); TM (Lars Müller Publishers, 2000); Designing (Graphics, 2003); Identify (Print Publishing, 2011).
His work can be found in the Kellen Archives at the New School in New York, and in the archives of the Harvard Art Museum. His work has also been exhibited at the Pera Museum in Istanbul, the Garrison Art Center and the Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York, the El Paso Museum of Art, and his father’s De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on Sea. His works have also been published in children’s books, namely; Sun, Moon, Star, and Feathery Facts, Furry Facts, and Scaly Facts.
Chermayeff worked until his recent death at age 85 in December of 2017.