By Nicole Torres
It’s a design student’s dream class— where the final projects end up in the hands of corporate clients, the classroom is inside a legendary design studio you would kill to work for, and the professors are two icons and a logo prodigy.
Lucky for SVA undergrads, this class, Chermayeff & Geismar’s Visual Identity and Multimedia class, is on the course list. This past year, some highly talented SVA juniors had the opportunity to study with the firm’s partners, Sagi Haviv, Ivan Chermayeff, and Tom Geismar, and create an array of projects, from developing corporate logos to re-interpreting classic movie posters to designing conceptual “Opposites” posters.
“All of the assignments really pushed for clarity of concept before starting to design. As we were told in class, without proper research and clear understanding, one can run into traps during the designing process,” said Mikhail Abramov, one of Chermayeff & Geismar’s students.
For three hours every Monday, the students in the spring semester class worked in the Chermayeff & Geismar studio developing and designing logos for M&T Bank, a client that the partners selected, while concurrently balancing smaller side projects, like the “Opposites” poster assignment. For “Opposites,” they had to choose two opposing issues, objects, or concepts, and then represent their relationship in a memorable 11” by 17” poster. The posters challenged students to be conceptual thinkers, to simplify, and to consider visual impact— the skills required for the especially conceptual task of developing a corporate identity.
“The ‘Opposites’ poster project combines two important parameters: a strong conceptual aspect on the one hand, and on the other, a formal need to reduce ideas to their essences to achieve visual impact,” said Haviv. “These are two of the primary considerations when it comes to trademark design.”
The “Opposites” posters were critiqued, changed, and altered under the partners’ direction throughout the semester. The students had to prepare other short assignments, like stamps and bumper stickers, to hone the skills needed for the corporate identity challenge.
“To help the students practice simplification, we assign them projects that give them very little space in which to work,” said Haviv. “As stamps and bumper stickers are both very small, the students have to focus to narrow down what exactly is essential to their design concepts.”
After its first year, Visual Identity and Multimedia has (unsurprisingly) become one of the most popular classes among advertising and graphic design majors, and it’s super competitive. Registration is invite-only to Henry Wolf scholarship winners from the year before, and it fills up pretty quickly on a first-come, first-served basis; but that doesn’t keep students from begging via email to be taken in. And even if students don’t end up with a job at Chermayeff & Geismar, it’s definitely one strong portfolio piece.
“This class was one of the very few classes at SVA that actually prepared me for the ‘real world.’ Having an opportunity to design for an actual client under the guidance of Sagi, Ivan and Tom helped me gain a certain level of confidence that design students often lack,” said Maya Kaplun, a student in the spring semester class. “I learned to strip my ideas down to a bare concept and then build the visuals from that, and most importantly, I learned to combine ‘corporate’ and ‘creative’ which, in my opinion, is an essential skill for a successful designer.”