Chermayeff & Geismar (Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff)
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Chermayeff & Geismar (Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff)


Chermayeff & Geismar: Pioneers of Graphic Design

Chermayeff & Geismar (Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff)

Graphic design is an essential element of our visual culture, shaping the way we perceive and interact with the world around us. One name that stands out in the field of graphic design is Chermayeff & Geismar. Founded by Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff, this iconic design firm has left an indelible mark on the industry. In this article, we will explore the history, contributions, and impact of Chermayeff & Geismar, highlighting their innovative approach to design and their lasting legacy.

The Beginnings of Chermayeff & Geismar

Chermayeff & Geismar was founded in 1957 by Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, two talented designers who shared a passion for creating visually compelling and effective designs. The firm quickly gained recognition for its unique approach to graphic design, combining simplicity, clarity, and innovation.

Both Chermayeff and Geismar brought their individual strengths and experiences to the partnership. Ivan Chermayeff, born in London in 1932, was the son of the renowned architect Serge Chermayeff. He studied at Harvard University and the Yale School of Art and Architecture, where he honed his skills in painting and graphic design. Tom Geismar, born in New Jersey in 1931, studied at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Yale School of Art and Architecture. He had a keen eye for typography and a deep understanding of visual communication.

Together, Chermayeff and Geismar formed a formidable team, combining their talents to create designs that were not only visually striking but also highly effective in conveying messages and capturing the essence of brands.

Notable Works and Contributions

Chermayeff & Geismar’s portfolio is filled with iconic designs that have become an integral part of our visual landscape. Their work spans various industries, including corporate branding, museum exhibitions, and environmental graphics. Let’s explore some of their most notable works and contributions:

1. The Chase Logo

One of Chermayeff & Geismar’s most recognizable designs is the logo for Chase Bank. Created in 1961, the logo features a simple, bold, and timeless design: a blue octagon with a white stylized representation of a winged creature. This logo has remained virtually unchanged for over five decades, a testament to its enduring appeal and effectiveness in representing the bank’s brand identity.

2. The NBC Peacock

Another iconic design by Chermayeff & Geismar is the NBC peacock logo. Created in 1956, this colorful and vibrant logo features a stylized peacock with its feathers spread out. Each feather represents one of the six divisions of NBC at the time. The logo has undergone several modifications over the years, but its essence and recognition have remained intact.

3. The Smithsonian Institution Logo

Chermayeff & Geismar’s work extends beyond corporate branding. They have also made significant contributions to the world of museum exhibition design. One notable example is their logo for the Smithsonian Institution, created in 1999. The logo features a bold, stylized “S” that represents the diversity and interconnectedness of the institution’s various museums and research centers.

4. Environmental Graphics

Chermayeff & Geismar’s expertise in environmental graphics is evident in their work for various public spaces. They have created signage and wayfinding systems for airports, museums, and urban environments, seamlessly blending functionality with aesthetics. Their designs guide and inform visitors while enhancing the overall experience of the space.

Innovation and Design Philosophy

What sets Chermayeff & Geismar apart from other design firms is their innovative approach and design philosophy. They believe in the power of simplicity and clarity, distilling complex ideas into visually compelling designs that resonate with audiences.

Their designs often feature bold, geometric shapes, vibrant colors, and strong typography. They understand the importance of creating designs that are memorable and easily recognizable, ensuring that brands stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Chermayeff & Geismar also prioritize functionality and usability in their designs. They carefully consider the context in which their designs will be experienced, whether it’s a logo on a small screen or a signage system in a large public space. Their designs seamlessly integrate with the environment, enhancing the user experience and facilitating clear communication.

Legacy and Influence

The impact of Chermayeff & Geismar’s work extends far beyond their individual designs. Their innovative approach and commitment to excellence have influenced generations of designers and shaped the field of graphic design.

Many of their designs have become timeless classics, standing the test of time and remaining relevant in an ever-changing visual landscape. Their work has set a high standard for effective and visually appealing design, inspiring countless designers to push the boundaries of creativity and innovation.

Chermayeff & Geismar’s legacy can be seen in the work of numerous design firms and individual designers who have been influenced by their approach. Their emphasis on simplicity, clarity, and functionality continues to be a guiding principle in the field of graphic design.


Chermayeff & Geismar, founded by Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff, has made an indelible mark on the field of graphic design. Their innovative approach, commitment to simplicity and clarity, and iconic designs have left a lasting legacy. From the Chase logo to the NBC peacock, their work has become an integral part of our visual culture. Their influence can be seen in the work of countless designers who continue to be inspired by their groundbreaking designs. Chermayeff & Geismar’s contributions to the field of graphic design will continue to shape and inspire the industry for years to come.

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