Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff met as students at Yale in the mid-1950s, bonded over a shared obsession with typeface design, founded what would become the legendary design firm Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv and turned the concept of brand identity on its ear—while raising the industry standard along the way. As this year’s SVA Masters Series honoree, graphic design pioneer Geismar joins the pantheon of visual communicators—among them his old Yale classmate—who are celebrated for a lifetime of influential work. A major retrospective of his work will be on view from August 25 through October 18 at the SVA Chelsea Gallery.
Geismar has designed more than 100 graphic identity programs over the past five decades. His logos for Mobil, Chase Manhattan Bank, National Geographic, PBS, Rockefeller Center, Univision, NYU, Xerox and dozens of others are part of the American landscape. He also played a leading role in many major exhibition designs, from the museums at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to the United States pavilion at Expo ’70 in Japan to the permanent installation of the Jefferson Library at the Library of Congress.
After a half-century of designing icons, Geismar still has plenty of momentum. He continues his work at the helm of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv and also co-teaches a popular SVA class with his partners (Sagi Haviv became a partner in 2005). In Visual Identity and Multimedia, which takes place in the firm’s East 25th Street headquarters, the masters lead BFA Advertising and BFA Design students in the creation of a powerful identity for an actual organization, from start to finish. And for fans of the firm’s work who don’t have the chance to study at SVA, there’s the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, which is housed at SVA.Open to the public by appointment, it holds some 325 posters, 340 letterhead samples and more than 1,000 printed samples.
The annual Masters Series program was created in 1988 by SVA founder and chairman Silas Rhodes to give exposure to groundbreaking visual artists who are lauded by their colleagues and who influence many, yet whose names often go unrecognized by the general public. For more information about the 26th annual Masters Series Award and Exhibition, click here.