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George Tscherny collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: CSC-0081

Scope and Contents

The George Tscherny papers are comprised of three series: Clients, Bibliographic records, and Exhibitions.

Series I. Clients

This series includes publications and promotional material. Formats include brochures, annual reports, posters, and broadsides. Major client representation includes the Museum of Modern Art, Pan American World Airways (including die cut standing displays), and School of Visual Arts. Also noteworthy are graphic design manuals for SEI and W.R. Grace. Posters include some of Tscherny's best known, such as the famed Picasso "signature" poster (Picasso: Lithograph, Drawing, Sculpture) created for Albert Landry Galleries, Homage a Toulouse Lautrec (Bip) for du Club des Partenaires du Musee Toulouse Lautrec, as well as several posters covering some 50 years for School of Visual Arts.

Series II. Bibliographic records

Bibliographic records consist of articles and books by or about Tscherny, and scrapbooks. Articles cover over 40 years of Tscherny's professional work, including those written for Gebrauchsgraphik, Print, Industrial Design, Graphik, Idea, and Graphis. Books written by Tscherny include Minimum Means, Maximum Meaning (2003) and Where Would the Button Be Without the Button Hole? (2008). Changing Faces (2005) includes the published book, as well as a proposal outlining the initial concept (with paper toys) and book dummy.

Five scrapbooks compiled by Tscherny, round out the series. Most contain clippings, advertisement tearsheets, press kits, and essays. Some contain a small amount of biographic material. The last scrapbook is digital (on CD-R) and includes images of client work.

Series III. Exhibitions

Exhibitions documents the 1992 exhibit The Masters Series: George Tscherny, held at the School of Visual Arts Museum. Records include an installation guide for the travelling exhibit, text panels, and exhibit panels consisting of mounted client work. This retrospective exhibition offers a comprehensive view of Tscherny’s professional work dating from the 1950s to 1990s.


  • Creation: circa 1950-2011


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

"Design communicates best when reduced to the essential elements."1

Designer George Tscherny was born in Budapest in 1924. After age 2, he was raised in Germany until he fled the Nazis with his brother for Holland in 1938. Three years later he immigrated to the United States where he studied design at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts and the Pratt Institute. His first professional position was as package designer for Donald Deskey which he left to work with George Nelson, eventually as head of the graphics department.

In 1955, Tscherny opened his own design office, and within a year, was teaching design at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). He originated the first design course at SVA and taught there for 8 years. Tscherny would go on to teach at Pratt and lecture as Mellon Visiting Professor at Cooper Union.

Over the next 40 years, Tscherny created identity programs and publications for numerous clients, including The Ford Foundation (his first retainer client), Monadnock Paper, SEI, General Dynamics, and Albert Landry Galleries. Tscherny is known for his use of found objects and chance discovery; one if his best known was created for Ernst and Whinney, an accounting firm that was changing its name from Ernst and Ernst.2 Tscherny rotated the "E" ninety degrees, forming a "W."

He was awarded the AIGA medal in 1988 and inducted into the Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1997. In 1992, he was invited to organize a retrospective of his work for the "Masters Series" at the Visual Arts Museum (panels from this exhibit are in this collection). Tscherny is also a prolific author, and written extensively on design, publishing articles and books. The textbook Minimum Means, Maximum Meaning (2003), covers over 5 decades of design, and Changing Faces (2005) offered a playful look at motion and optical illusion in ephemera. Where Would the Button Be Without the Button Hole? (2008) explored anonymous design and the beauty of everyday objects (many from Tscherny's personal collection), including the paperclip, wire hanger, and safety pin.

1 "George Tscherny," by Steven Heller. Retrieved from American Institute of Graphic Arts website, March 2012.


87 Linear Feet (13 manuscript boxes, 1 miniature box, 18 oversize boxes, 13 map drawers)




Collection of materials from graphic designer George Tscherny, including publications, promotional material, posters, articles, writings, scrapbooks, and exhibit panels.


Collection is arranged in 3 series: Series I. Clients; Series II. Bibliographic records; and Series III. Exhibits.

Physical Location

Graphic Design Archives, Cary Collection Annex

Other Finding Aids

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory created by George Tscherny is available for reference. For more information, please contact the Cary Graphic Arts Collection.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The George Tscherny collection was gifted to the Cary Graphic Design Archives in multiple accessions: December 2006, March and December 2008, and June 2009 by George Tscherny.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Amy Vilz, March 2012.

Finding aid encoded by Amy Vilz, April 2012.

George Tscherny collection
Cary Graphic Design Archives
Amy Vilz
26 March 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Cary Graphic Arts Collection Repository

Rochester NY 14623 US
(585) 475-2408