Ivan Chermayeff, Eminent Designer of Familiar Logos, Dies at 85

Installed in 1974, Mr. Chermayeff’s 9 has been beloved of passers-by and pigeons ever since.

Mr. Chermayeff, whose work garnered a string of laurels, also designed posters, created museum and gallery displays and illustrated children’s books.

Away from the office he was known for making collages in which he cheerfully married strange bedfellows (buttons and boot jacks, work gloves and pebbles, airline luggage tags and canceled stamps) as if to counter the cool minimalism of his 9-to-5 life. His art in a variety of mediums has been exhibited around the world.

Mr. Chermayeff’s philosophy of corporate design was as simple as the design itself: A logo, he often said, should be clean, crisp and instantly comprehensible.

“It is usually a two-month process to get to that point,” he explained in a 2015 interview, “but it should look like it took five minutes.”

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Mr. Chermayeff designed the sidewalk sculpture that marks the entrance to 9 West 57th Street in Manhattan.

Credit
Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

For Mr. Chermayeff, the results included the Showtime logo, with “Sho” in white on a red circle; HarperCollins’s stylized red flame atop a stylized blue sea; the Smithsonian’s vivid yellow sun, encircled by blue; and the cool blue globe of Pan Am, with its slender lines of latitude and longitude, which replaced an earlier, more rococo globe.

He loved lettering in all its myriad forms, and one of his most arresting graphic works is one in which he tore a letter asunder. For its Sept. 16, 2001, issue, The New York Times commissioned an illustration from Mr. Chermayeff to accompany an Op-Ed article about the Sept. 11 attacks.

The design he created is as simple as an illustration can get: just two letters, “U.S.,” in bold black type. But in the finished image, Mr. Chermayeff has wrenched the “U” from its moorings, leaving two jagged stumps where the letter once was. The result is wrenching to see.

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The illustration commissioned from Mr. Chermayeff for the op-ed page of The New York Times on Sept. 16, 2001.

Credit
Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

To the end of his career, Mr. Chermayeff worked at the drawing board, shunning the siren call of electronic design.

“I don’t touch computers,” he said in 2015….

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