AIGA, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, and Standards Manual to release reissue of 1977 EPA Graphic Standards System
By AIGA April 24, 2017
AIGA, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, and Standards Manual to release reissue of 1977 EPA Graphic Standards System
By AIGA April 24, 2017
AIGA, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv, and Standards Manual to release reissue of 1977 EPA Graphic Standards System
By AIGA April 24, 2017

NEW YORK—April 24, 2017. In 1970, President Richard Nixon created the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to confront environmental pollution and protect the health of the American people. In his State of the Union address he powerfully stated: “Restoring nature to its natural state is a cause beyond party and beyond factions. It has become a common cause of all the people of this country.”

One of the EPA’s top priorities was consolidating numerous state offices––research activities, monitoring, standard-setting, and enforcement activities––to more efficiently carry out its goal of “working for a cleaner, healthier environment for the American people.”

But there was one area in which the EPA—like many government agencies of the time—was terribly inefficient: their graphic design and communications department. Millions of dollars were being wasted annually due to nonstandardized formats, inefficient processes, and almost everything being designed from scratch.

In 1977 the EPA began working with the legendary New York design firm Chermayeff & Geismar (now Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv), responsible for some of the most recognizable visual identities in the world, such as Chase Bank, PBS, National Geographic, the Smithsonian Institution, Mobil Oil, and NBC.

Partners Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar, and designer Steff Geissbuhler, set about tackling this problem. The result was the 1977 US Environmental Protection Agency Graphic Standards System.

“There was a feeling that they could standardize these things and get them to be at a level that was appropriate to what the program was—to have a series of levels, categories, expenditures and so on—that was a big part of what this was about.”
—Tom Geismar, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

Forty years later, Jesse Reed and Hamish Smyth—creators of the NYCTA and NASA Graphics Standards Manual reissues, and now co-founders of publishing imprint Standards Manual—have partnered with Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv and AIGA, the U.S.’s oldest and largest professional organization for design, to reissue this graphics standards manual as a hardcover book.

“It is extraordinary for me—as someone from a different generation—to see this comprehensive and well-designed graphic system for a government agency, especially in a time when the role and competence of government in general is called into question. This document is a time capsule”
—Sagi Haviv, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

Like the NASA manual, the EPA manual was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) “Federal Graphics Improvement Program” and beautifully encapsulates how design can be used to advance federal programs for public good. Still, the manual is relatively unknown in the design world; it hasn’t received the praise it deserves since most designers simply haven’t seen it.

“AIGA is thrilled to receive the iconic 1977 EPA Graphic Standards System for our AIGA Design Archive. It’s a gift on many levels––we get to partner with Standards Manual and Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv to preserve a critical part of the nation’s environmental history in an exquisite book, and a portion of the proceeds will allow us to do more of this kind of work.”
—Julie Anixter, AIGA executive director

In addition to AIGA, a portion of every book sold will also go to Earthjustice, the nation’s largest nonprofit environmental law organization that wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to preserve the wild, fight for healthy communities, and advance clean energy to promote a healthy climate.

“From a nerdy design point of view, perhaps the most impressive part of this manual is the flexible design system Chermayeff & Geismar introduced to represent various EPA departments. A system of color, pattern, illustration, and photography can be mixed, resulting in endless visual outcomes. Flexible systems are a common weapon in the arsenal of today’s computer powered designers today, but this holistic thinking was very modern at the time.”
—Hamish Smyth & Jesse Reed, Standards Manual

The reissue will be printed using high quality scans of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv’s and Steff Geissbuhler’s personal copy, which was gifted to the AIGA Design Archives––serving to identify, preserve, and make design collections of enduring value available to the public. This program dovetails with Standards Manual’s goal “to archive and preserve lost artifacts of design history and make them available to future generations.”

Every page will be printed at the same size as the original and will use the same vibrant Pantone inks with a total of 14 colors (10 Pantone spots + CMYK). The book will also feature a foreword by designer Tom Geismar, an essay by Christopher Bonanos (New York Magazine), plus 48 pages of photographs from the EPA-commissioned Documerica project (1970–1977).

The Kickstarter campaign will run for 33 days from April 24 – May 26, 2017.

See other press coverage for the reissue of the EPA Graphic Standards Manual:

Book specifications
Same size as the original manual
9.5 × 11.5” / 241 × 292mm
284 pages
10 gatefolds
10 Pantone® spot colors + CMYK
2 paper stocks
Hardcover binding
Silkscreen cover
Recycled board slipcase with blind deboss
Printed in Italy

Additional features
Foreword by Tom Geismar, Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv 
Essay by Christopher Bonanos (New York Magazine)
48 pages of photographs from the EPA-commissioned Documerica project (1970–1977)

About AIGA

AIGA, the professional association for design, advances design as a professional craft, strategic advantage and vital cultural force. As the largest community of design advocates, we bring together practitioners, enthusiasts and patrons to amplify the voice of design and create the vision for a collective future. We define global standards and ethical practices, guide design education, inspire designers and the public, enhance professional development, and make powerful tools and resources accessible to all. Learn more at

Alex Daly, publicist
305 608 9150

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