The EPA Graphic Standards System

Before 1970, the United States was in a radically different place.
Our environment, our cities, our people: abused, dirty, and sick after years of neglect.
President Nixon decided to change that. In 1970, the United States Environmental Protection Agency was enacted to protect the environment and the American people.

One of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 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 non-standardized 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 Associates (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.

Enter design firm Chermayeff & Geismar Associates and partner Steff Geissbühler

Partners Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar, and Steff Geissbühler set about tackling this problem.

The result was the 1977 US EPA Graphic Standards System.

Designed in 1977 by Ivan Chermayeff, Tom Geismar, and Steff Geissbuhler, the manual details a customized system created to unify the federal program’s communications across hundreds of offices. This manual beautifully encapsulates the role design has played in advancing federal programs for public good.

This facsimile reprint will include every page of the original EPA Graphic Standards System, as well as a foreword by designer Tom Geismar, a historical essay by Christopher Bonanos, and 48 photographs from the EPA-commissioned Documerica project. Each copy will be protected in a custom made slipcase, built from recycled board and blind embossed with the EPA logo.