Sun Moon Star
Back in my art school days in Manhattan, I was fortunate to fall under the spell of some truly great artists and designers. While many of those early inspirers have fallen off my personal radar, Ivan Chermayeff, who passed away earlier this month week at the age of 85, is one who continues to inspire and inform my design sensibilities to this day.
Chermayeff was an innovator and a risk taker. I remember walking into the Strand Bookstore on Broadway and stumbling into “Sun Moon Star,” his inspired children’s book, a collaboration with author Kurt Vonnegut. That oversized, artfully presented volume still has a special place on my office shelf, and as I paged through it this week, I reflected on Chermayeff’s work and his wide-ranging influence.
You’re probably familiar with the logos of Showtime, The Smithsonian, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, just a few of Chermayeff’s iconic marks. Or maybe you’ve walked by that giant red number “9” at 9 57th Street, Chermayeff’s playful answer to the building’s elegantly sloping façade. Bold, beautifully simple, and tons of fun.
Along with Tom Geismar, Chermayeff co-founded the design studio now known as Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv over 60 years ago. They became known for incorporating a modernist approach based on simplicity and the use of bold colors. I loved his use of flat colors and simple shapes, and I’m still inspired by his willingness to let surprises happen and to explore them when they appeared. To quote the recent New York Times obituary, “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.” That just about says it all.