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Desk set
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 18 Folder 22: General Fireproofing Annual Report, 1969.
August 12, 2013

Desk set

By: bethkleber

Chermayeff & Geismar have long subscribed to the modernist principle that graphic design is a problem-solving discipline. This sampling of their promotional work for General Fireproofing’s steel office furniture neatly represents how they adapted their dominant styles to suit the needs of their corporate clients.


GF’s annual report of 1969 (above) features a repetition of the company logo, one that is characteristic of the sort of abstract corporate and institutional symbol that C&G pioneered in the 1950s and 60s.


Below, Ivan Chermayeff’s playful illustrations contrast with GF’s all-business, space-agey “Product System Alpha” – everything you need to “systematize and co-ordinate your office furnishings.” (See also C&G’s design for Dictaphone’s System 1 – the future as interpreted by office furniture). Chermayeff applied similar whimsy to Crafton’s mystical Prang.


Drawing of a folded blue button down shirt with red polka dots against a white background


 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 18 Folder 22: General Fireproofing promotion, undated.

Spread of a blue pair of socks and blue handkerchief, both with red dots against a white background. Header text reads "If you want to put it all together..."


 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 18 Folder 22: General Fireproofing promotion, undated.

Drawing of a folded up blue tie with red dots against a white background


 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 18 Folder 22: General Fireproofing promotion, undated.

Finally, GF’s hi-tech answer to the vexing wobbly table conundrum, “Unipoint”, required detail-focused photography – a literal representation of the problem-solution approach. (C&G employed a similar idea for Herman Miller a decade later.)


Color photo of a red matchbook under a table leg. Small column of white text reads "Have you ever been any place where one leg on your table was too short or the floor wasn't level?"


 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 18 Folder 22: General Fireproofing Unipoint brochure, undated.

Spread; left page is white with the text "GF has introduced Unipoint and eliminated matchbooks forever" in black; right page is a color photo of a metal beam with a handle sticking out of it upward


 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection Box 18 Folder 22: General Fireproofing Unipoint brochure, undated.

Some twenty years later, General Fireproofing went bankrupt, though the resale of their office furniture thrives on the vintage market. The Youngstown, Ohio headquarters did not fare as well; a local photographer captured its decay here.