Creating great logos: Ivan Chermayeff

Creating great logos and brand identities requires more than learning Illustrator or taking Creative Cloud classes. Many of the most iconic logos and brand identities were created long before digital design tools were available, with many created by the graphic designer Ivan Chermayeff.

While the public may not know Mr. Chermayeff, the logos he designed are seen daily by hundreds of millions. He designed the logos for television networks Showtime, PBS, Univision, and the peacock logo for NBC which is now used by Comcast. His work extended to the sun used by the Smithsonian institute, the yellow rectangle of National Geographic, and the Chase bank octagon that looks like a cross between a stop-sign and camera shutter. His logo design skills also brought us the iconic PanAm airline logo, with the sleek looking globe showcasing lines of longitude and latitude.

Especially in New York, his designs are everywhere you look, including the enormous red number 9 that sits at the entrance to 9 west 57th street. Mr. Chermayeff died over this past weekend, and he leaves behind a legacy of great work and many contributions to the graphic arts and design community.

The famed logo designer founded his identity design firm in 1957 which is now known as Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv. He also served as a torch-bearer for all designers in his role as the president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. He described his logo design philosophy to the AIGA a few years ago, stating that a completed logo should look simple, but it generally takes much longer to complete. He said, “It is usually a two-month process to get to that point, but it should look like it took five minutes.”

Most interestingly, as he designed logos, Illustrator, Creative Cloud, and computer were not part of his tools. “I don’t touch computers” he said. The next time a designer is working on a logo, they may find this advice useful – starting with sketchbook and pencil. Mr. Chermayeff attended high school nearby our Boston area headquarters in the home town of our founders, worked across midtown from our New York City training center, graced our world with beautiful designs, and gave back to the design community at large.


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