Graphic Designer | 1922-2008

Swiss Graphic Designer and Graphic Artst based in New York

Emil O. Biemann (uncle of video artist Ursula Biemann), a native of Zurich and a US citizen, was one of the leading graphic designers in the United States. Schooled in Zurich, Brussels and Paris, he became the creative force behind some of the most familiar trademarks on the international scene. US Steel, Bendix, American Express, Sony, Samsung and Eaton are just a few of his many designs. Biemann introduced the notion of corporate identity to US advertising agencies. Considered New York’s best type specialist in the 1950s-1970s, he has won three graphic awards and has participated in many design exhibitions. Besides his award-winning type and graphic design, he pursued sculpture, printmaking, and in his later years, painting.


Emil O. Biemann gave “graphic” a new meaning, New York, 1990
by Peggy Rao
Swiss American Review, February 7, 1990

You’d recognize his work anywhere. In fact, if you heed American Express, you don’t leave home without his blue and white square. At the airport, his yellow and black graphics lead you to Hertz. On the road, his soaring red and blue insignia announces Chevron ahead.

Emil O. Biemann’s deft contributions to the logos of American Express, Hertz, Chevron and scores of other companies have changed the look of corporate America over the last three decades. He has played an instrumental role in designing corporate type faces and image programs for some of the world’s largest organizations – Bendix, Chembank, Coca Cola, Corning Glass, Citgo, Exxon, Eaton, Hormel, Merrill Lynch, RCA, Sony Samsung, U.S. Trust – even the New York State and Federal Government’s.

And thanks to Emil Biemann, for the last 30 years, graphic designers have had a proper means of identifying their profession. Biemann coined the term “graphic designer” soon after arriving in New York.
It came in part, Biemann explains, from his own intensive training in Switzerland. When he started out, “Graphiker” was the German title used to describe an all-round designer whose competence would encompass the many aspects of design: lettering, typography, packaging, display, exhibits, advertising, promotion. Even after completing a four-year apprenticeship, a newcomer wasn’t supposed to call himself a “Graphiker” until he had several more years experience.

After 12 years’s work in the field in Zurich, Brussels and Paris, Biemann, by then a full-fledged “Graphiker” decided to come to Manhattan to broaden his horizons. But job agencies just looked at him in confusion. The word “graphic” was then used mainly in the field of fine arts for etching and engraving. You mean “commercial artist? they would say. Heavens, no, he replied. Advertising designer?... Promotion or package designer? These were only parts of the job he wanted to do. After weeks of communication problems, Biemann decided to coin the term “graphic designer.” It took much convincing, but slowly the employment agencies realized there was indeed an all-encompassing deisgn field and there were artists who could wear several hats. “Corporate identity programs were actually being done in Europe before the U.S.” Biemann explains. “My first job in Paris was with the eminent Charles Loupot, a one-time partner of A. Cassandre and a pioneer in the field of corporate identity. We covered all aspects of CI from letterheads, posters and billboards to murals, vehicles, even a blimp.”

When Biemann finally landed a job in Manhatten with Lippincott and Margulies, he was assigned to the package design department (A graphic design department didn’t exists.) He was asked to do a new package for a food mix. But the company logo was so bad that Biemann recommended a strong new logo and sweeping changes in all the company’s product lines. The client agreed and the door opened to a new way of thinking in corporate America. Lippincott and Margulies soon became the grand masters of corporate imagery.

These tightly planned programs became possible through the use of a grid system, a technique Biemann acquired in Paris while designing for the Marshall Plan, then eaded by Averell Harriman. There, working with architects on the creation of different display panels for tent, train and ship exhibitions. Biemann’s team found the hardest part was to combine them harmoniously. Then Ernst Scheidegger, a protégé of Max Bill and the Bauhaus, arrived on the scene. In the afew hours with the grid system, he achieved a graceful integration of disparate design pieces, a task that would have taken days. For Biemann, Einstein’s insightful comment on Le Corbusier’s Modular Grid System applies: “It’s a scale of proportions which makes the bad difficult and the good easy.”

For the past several years, Biemann has worked independently in Manhattan, designing for a wide range of clients. He rises early and often does a full day’s work in his Upper East Side studio before lunch. And on an occasional sunny afternoon, he delights in his elder statesman status by indulging in a round of golf in the country…” an uplift for body and soul.”