Ivan Chermayeff and Kurt Vonnegut made beautiful music when they teamed up in 1980 to make a children’s book about creation. Seven Stories Press has just republished the book, and it’s as fresh as it was 37 years ago. I asked Chermayeff to talk about the creation’s creation.
How did the project with Vonnegut come about?
Sun Moon Star came about with all the pages and the interplay of suns, moons and stars, some just color, with only my title. Kurt Vonnegut and I had a mutual friend in Frank Platt (a classmate of mine at Harvard). He put us together. We were neighbors around the corner from each other in New York City at the time. So I sent over my pages, and a few weeks later about when I thought he must have given up on it, he came around to my office and handed me what he had written. I was amazed at the birth of Christ, as it was not even a thought of mine. I don’t remember whether I wept out loud or not.
What was the most satisfying aspect of this collaboration?
What transpired was that neither of us even tweaked the other.
You had illustrated other children’s books?
Other books for children were Fishy Facts and Furry Facts, which were conceived by my eldest daughter, Catherine Chermayeff (they were both published by Gulliver Books, a part of Harcourt, Brace & Co., printed in Singapore). First Words I did with my wife Jane, which was published by Abrams. Jane died a few years ago. We wrote it with our son Sam, in Paris. I only have one copy left.
There is a timeless quality about Sun Moon Star. How do you feel about its current re-release?
I was of course quite pleased that Seven Stories Press bought the rights to reprint Sun Moon Star from Northrup, who published it first (and also had it printed in Japanese). I have just one copy here.
Just out of curiosity, what is your most “satisfying” children’s book?
Considering its long life, Sun Moon Star is very satisfying.
The experts who write for PRINT magazine cover the why of design—why the world of design looks the way it does, how it has evolved, and why the way it looks matters. Subscribe to PRINT today, and get in on the conversation of what the brightest minds in the field are talking about right now—essential insight that every designer should know to get ahead.
Treat yourself and your team to a year of PRINT for $40—which includes the massive Regional Design Awards issue ($30 on newsstands).