Mervyn Kurlansky was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1936. He studied in London at the Central School of Arts and Crafts (now known as Central St. Martins). He then spent three years in freelance practice followed by five years as graphics director of Planning Unit, the design consultancy service of Knoll International. In 1969 he joined Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes and in 1972 co-founded Pentagram from which he resigned in 1993 to live and work in Denmark.

He is equally at home designing brand identity programmes, sign systems, annual reports, news papers, magazines, brochures, catalogues, books, book jackets, posters and packaging. His clients have included; the Architects Association, the Aga Kahn, Barclays Bank, Boosey and Hawkes, the British Library, British Telecom, the Copenhagen Post, Danmarks Designskole, Dartington Hall Trust, Dow Corning, Eureka (the Museum for Children), Export Promotion Copenhagen, the Glass Museum, Golden Days in Copenhagen Festival, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, IBM, ICI, Image Bank, Inchcape, Kenwood, the Latin American Arts Association, Lee Cooper, Longman Video, L'Oréal, Lyons Tetley, Mazda, the Museum of Modern Art Oxford, Novo Nordisk, Olivetti, Penguin Books, Polaroid, Rank Xerox, Reuters, Roche, Rotring, Ruskin College Oxford, Sappi fine papers Europe, Solaglas, Shiseido, STC, Toyota, the Queen´s 60th Birthday Committee, Wilkinson Sword and the World Health Organisation. He is currently design consultant to Eclipse Entertainment, Caribbean Enterprises, ROR (Ringo Star and Robin Cruickshank's design firm), Zealand Pharma, and the Cass Sculpture Foundation of which he is a trustee.

He has won a number of important awards, including a bronze medal from the Brno Biennale of Graphic Design, a gold award from the Package Designers Council, silver awards from the Designers and Art Directors Association, London, a silver award from the New York Art Directors Club, a gold award from Japan's Minister of Trade and Industry, the Gustav Klimt prize, Austria, 1995 and the Danish IG design prize 1996. In 2006 he was inducted into the South African Design Hall of Fame and in 2011 he received the International Council of Communication Design President's award for his outstanding contribution to Design.

His work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and has been featured in several publications and exhibitions in Austria, China, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Israel, Iran, Japan, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, UK, and USA. He conceived, designed and edited the book Watching My Name Go By, the first documentation of New York's extraordinary graffiti, with text by Norman Mailer and photographs by Jon Naar. He was also a co-author of four books about Pentagram: Pentagram, Living by Design, Ideas on Design and The Compendium. His latest book Masters of the 20th Century - The Icograda Design Hall of Fame, celebrates the work of the 110 speakers of the Icograda London Design Seminars, 1974 to 1999, of which he was chairman for the three years leading up to its 25th anniversary.

Mervyn Kurlansky is active in design education. He lectures extensively and serves on design juries for both educational, cultural and professional organisations, world-wide. He is co-founder of ICIS (the International Center for Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability). He is a former President of Icograda (the International Council of Communication Design) and co-founder of IDA (the International Design Alliance, a partnership between Icograda, Icsid and Ifi). He is a Fellow of CSD (Chartered Society of Designers), ISTD (International Society of Typographic Designers, and RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce). He is a member of AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale), and DD (the Association of Danish Designers).