designboom book report: identify by chermayeff & geismar
original content
oct 28, 2011
designboom book report: identify by chermayeff & geismar

title: identify (basic principles of identity design in the iconic trademarks of chermayeff & geismar)
authors: ivan chermayeff, tom geismar and sagi haviv
publisher: print publishing
language: english
year: 2011 (released october 31)
size: 11 x 8.5", 250 pages
ISBN: 13 978-1-4403-1032-4

print publishing


designboom rating:

this month print will release its first book under the newly established print publications line.
‘identify: basic principles of identity design in the iconic trademarks of chermayeff & geismar’

looks back at the last half century of work by the new york studio, chermayeff & geismar.

NBC (national broadcasting company) identity, 1986


‘identify’ starts with a preface by isaac mizrahi and a foreword by steven heller, who both explain
why the work of chermayeff & geismar has transcended periodical styles and has had such a
significant impact on the field of communication design.

this is followed by a succinct yet revealing introduction from the authors that details how the studio
tackles identity projects and describes their collaborative design process from receiving a brief
through to arriving at the final design.

‘identity design is not about what one likes or dislikes. it’s about what works.’

chermayeff & geismar, (‘indentify’ introduction)

after these texts the reader is left to browse a significant compilation of work
from the studio’s fifty-five year history.  some projects are self explanatory and covered with
just one or two images, others are featured in more detail including aspects of the design brief,
along with anecdotes about the clients and how the logo was received by the public.

we particularly enjoyed the instances when examples of the logos chermayeff & geismar
asked to redesign are provided. and it’s also interesting to see preliminary sketches
or alternate
versions of iconic designs shown alongside the well known final outcomes,
such as with the NBC logo.

a few early sketches for the NBC peacock design

NBC (national broadcasting company) identity, 1986

early design sketches for the univision symbol

logo for spanish-language television giant univision, 1991
‘the univision symbol combines the notion of a capital letter U and a colorful bird’

is it for me?
in a time where many designers work across several platforms and genres the book highlights the
value of specializing and excelling within a single field.

after surveying the 100 or so projects in the book it’s clear that a lot of hard work and revision
into the simple iconic marks that the studio is famous for creating, often achieving
just the right balance of expression and representation. the book will certainly motivate anyone
appreciates how hard identity design can be.

combined with the many examples of idea-based solutions the the two and a half page
introduction, ‘indentify’ will provide younger readers with plenty of valuable no-nonsense advice;

‘while the world has changed, our basic approach to trademark design has not.
in identify, we demonstrate our problem-solving approach to identity design.
while it is an essentially creative process, we do not follow any personal artistic agenda or style.
instead, we work in the service of clients and address the challenges and parameters they bring
to us in their search for a visual identity. we call these parameters ‘the design problem.”

chermayeff & geismar, (‘indentify’ introduction)

for the experienced designer the book serves as a valuable resource,
even if you’re familiar
90% of the work featured it’s nice to have it all in one place
in what is a well produced book.

identity for the ‘the solow building’ at 9 west 57th street, new york, 1979

shinsegae identity, 1999 (korean department store)

graphics for the 1970 white house conference on children

american revolution bicentennial identity, 1976

over many years, as part of an extensive public-affairs effort, mobil sponsored numerous cultural events and television shows.
chermayeff and geismar created posters for a great many of these. the churchill poster is one example of the hundreds shown
in the book ‘posters made possible by a grant from mobil. the cover we designed, shown on the facing page, features the corners
of stacked posters from the book.

left to right: ivan chermayeff, tom geismar, sagi haviv


designboom ratings:

……………………. interesting
………………. good read, worth a look
…………. very good
……. excellent, recommended
. must have

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chermayeff and geismar (7 articles)

nov 12, 2013
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