CROTON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Whether you’re pumping gas, withdrawing money at the bank or simply watching television, you can see world-renowned designer Ivan Chermayeff’s work all over the world.
The New York City resident, who owns a weekend home in Cortlandt, has helped design trademarks and logos for about 400 companies since starting Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, 57 years ago. They include the logos for Showtime, Pan Am Airlines, Harper Collins, the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian Institution.
Chermayeff is also a collage artist and has an exhibit at the Garrison Art Center in Putnam County through Feb. 9.
Flipping through the channels, you can also see his firm’s logos for the National Geographic Channel and NBC - yes, the NBC peacock was their idea.
“It’s nice to see your work,” said Chermayeff, who previously owned a weekend home in North Salem for 20 years.
After graduating from Yale University, the father of three would trade his designs to pay bills. He said he once designed his child’s doctor’s letter head to cover the medical expenses.
Chase Bank and Mobil Gas were two of their early clients, which continue to use their logos to this day.
“That flying Red ‘O’ is very memorable,” he said, referring to the Mobil Gas sign his firm designed. “It’s not very commercial looking. It’s a simple direct idea, which is what good design is all about.”
Like his designs, Chermayeff’s work in collage, which he began as a teen, is simple, direct, and always profound, said Carinda Swann, executive director of the Garrison Art Center. Chermayeff has 50 collages on display there for the gallery’s 50th anniversary.
“They’re whimsical and they’re witty,” Swann said. “Some of them are formal and elegant… His collages, they do have a graphic quality to them.”
Chermayeff “collects garbage like crazy” for his collage work, which he described as spontaneous. Many are done quickly and many get thrown out when he isn’t happy with it.
He said he once made 40 collages in one week and that he has a suitcase full of circus poster pieces that he peeled off walls in Mexico, drawers full of old envelopes and postage stamps, and gloves people drop and leave behind.
“It’s the arbitrary placement of them that sometimes makes them interesting,” Chermayeff said. “What I’m playing with is making new visual connections. That’s what my collages are all about.”
Chermayeff has received many medals, including one for his illustrations. He has done illustrations for several books. He also served for two decades as a trustee of the Museum of Modern Art.
In addition to Yale’s School of Architecture and the Institute of Design in Chicago, he graduated from Harvard University, for which he has also designed a logo.
“It’s an interesting profession because we learn something all the time,” he said. “It’s nice to learn about what people are up to without paying tuition.”
The Garrison Art Center is at 23 Garrison's Landing, Garrison.