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Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection: USIA “Graphic Trends” portfolio: Robert Weaver, 1962. (Full photo)
March 25, 2014

Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out

By: bethkleber

The United States Information Agency (USIA) was created by Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 to oversee all government information programs that were previously the domain of the State Department. In 1956, they distributed the first uncensored American general interest publication targeted at the average citizen of the USSR – America Illustrated magazine (in return, the U.S allowed the distribution of a similar Soviet magazine in America). USIA participated in their first international exposition at the 1958 Brussels Universal Exposition, where the dueling U.S. and Soviet pavilions were located directly across from each other at the fair site; Brownjohn, Chermayeff & Geismar designed “American Streetscape” (below) for the U.S. pavilion.

Color photograph of a street scene, showing the large typography on signs; Three suited people, two men and a woman, are visible in the foreground.

 
“American Streetscape” for U.S. pavilion at 1958 Brussels Universal Exposition. Photo from Robert Brownjohn: Sex and Typography by Emily King (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005).

Beginning in 1959, USIA organized a series of traveling exhibitions with Russian-speaking American guides to showcase American media and culture.

Chermayeff & Geismar were commissioned by AIGA and USIA in 1962 to design and mount an exhibition of the best graphic design and illustration being produced by American artists. “Graphic Trends” featured the work of design and illustration luminaries like Saul Steinberg, Saul Bass, and Milton Glaser among many others. The portfolio produced for the exhibition includes a pamphlet of photographs by Jay Maisel showing some the participants hard at work in their studios.

Dark, black and white photo of a man working at a desk covered in paper. The shot is from above, with the chandelier in the foreground.

 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection: USIA “Graphic Trends” portfolio: Jules Feiffer, 1962.

Black and white photo of an office of graphic designers at their elevated tables. Two men in the foreground are standing up and looking at the camera

 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection: USIA “Graphic Trends” portfolio: Raymond Loewy and William Snaith, 1962.

Black and white photo of two men sitting at their desks in a messy office with scattered paper all over.

 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection: USIA “Graphic Trends” portfolio: Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser, 1962.

Black and white photo of a man sitting in his studio; many tools, such as lights and rulers are visible

 
Chermayeff & Geismar Collection: USIA “Graphic Trends” portfolio: Ben Shahn, 1962.

See the Flickr set for all the artist portraits.

Art from the exhibition to come…