The Logos of Legendary Designer Ivan Chermayeff

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The Logos of Legendary Designer Ivan Chermayeff

Branding can be a competitive field, with hundreds of agencies competing to make their ideas and companies the most visible and well-recognized. In this industry, it can be easy for a designer to become part of the sea of talent that churns out new logos, ads, designs, and campaigns. However, every once in a while, an individual can have such a deep impact on the field that they become instant household names.

Ivan Chermayeff was one such luminary. A well known and highly esteemed designer, Chermayeff was recognized for having created some of the world’s most famous logos. Today, design students and experts alike still look to his work for inspiration and knowledge. In memory of his life, here are some of our favorite examples of Ivan Chermayeff’s work and what they can teach us about logo design!

Ivan Chermayeff

Chase Manhattan Bank – Breaking the Mold

Chermayeff and his partner Tom Geismar were tasked with creating a new image for Chase Manhattan, one of the US’ largest financial institutions, and part of an industry notoriously resistant to change. In the 60s, when the logo was originally commissioned, corporations preferred to keep things traditional. Logos had a straightforward design with a clearly written corporate name. No company in their right minds would have chosen an abstract image to represent them, or so they thought.

Instead, Chermayeff and Geismar presented Chase with an image that was first met with hesitance. The design was simple, and completely abstract—four identical shapes organized into an octagon. After some resistance, the bank accepted the logo, and today, Chase’s design (pictured below) is one of the best-known brands in America.

The lesson?

Never be afraid to go against established norms. While they exist for a reason, they can also limit your creativity and lead to poor designs.

ShowTime – Don’t Be Afraid of Minimalism

ShowTime has emerged to become one of the most popular networks for original TV and movies. Their logo is also easy to spot, especially its smaller version with the SHO letters in white against a red circle.

Minimalist logo is a work of art and simplicity. Instead of overcrowding the design and adding too many elements, Chermayeff went for a stripped-down approach, and focused on using a monochrome palette for a high-contrast finish that is instantly iconic and eye-catching.

Many times, in design, it’s tempting to add more to make logos multi-colored and dazzling. However, it’s important to find a balance between flash and substance.

In some cases, using a monochrome can be a terrific way to remove unnecessary elements and return focus to the most important aspect—the brand itself.

The Library of Congress – Work With What You Have

Chermayeff and his firm didn’t work exclusively for corporate America. The famous firm also created the look for several governmental offices and departments, including the Library of Congress’ current look.

For inspiration, Chermayeff went for a visual approach that used symbols to clearly communicate what the image represented. The final design is straightforward, but more than meets the eye.

The genius here is the use of lines to represent more than one thing in a single design.

On one hand, the logo is a simple book, open and ready to read. On the other, the book’s curved lines turn it into the stripes of the American flag, a beautiful use of existing lines to make something new.

When creating logos, you don’t have to sacrifice simplicity to tell a clear story. Instead of adding more elements and cluttering your logo, look at what you have, and see how you can make it work for you.

Pan Am – Create Logos That Outlive Their Brands

Pan Am airlines is best known as a failed enterprise today, but at one time was seated amongst the world’s largest companies. More importantly, it was one of the world’s most recognizable brands, with the company’s logo on everything from airplanes to kids’ toys.

For this design, Chermayeff kept to the monochrome he’s so well known for, and instead focused on the logo that accompanies the name. A simple globe with latitude lines in deep blue and a logotype that has since become a standard for airlines. The globe seems to indicate adventure and exploration, while the blue tones speak to the color of the skies.​

People have mostly forgotten about flying with Pan Am, but show the logo to most people, and they’ll instantly remember the shiny silver planes with the blue logo soaring through the sky.

Logos are meant to represent your company, but the best ones are so recognizable and iconic that they can outlive you. Shoot for logos that are timeless, instead of mirroring a passing fad.

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