Its an advantage and occasional aggravation for graphic designers that they furnish the backgrounds of the lives of millions, without those millions constantly understanding that they have done so. So it was for Milton Glaser, who passed away on Friday, on his 91st birthday.
It is difficult to think about any visual artist so pervasive in his influence. If youre of a certain age, you might have observed his carnivalesque covers on the Signet Classic paperback series of Shakespeare plays, or have actually owned the poster he produced Bob Dylans Greatest Hits, in which intense riotous hair bursts from the vocalists austere silhouette. With the Push Pin Studios, which he helped discovered in 1954 with fellow graduates of the Cooper Union design school, he can be stated to have produced what became the appearance of the 60s: streaming lines, rainbow colours, strong patterns.
If youre younger, you might have come throughout the swirling “B” of his Brooklyn Beer labels, or his styles for the Mad Men TV series. It will have been almost difficult for anybody, of any age, in the western world not to have stumbled upon his “I like NY” theme, invented in 1976 to assist lift the city out of despair of near-bankruptcy. Quite apart from the original version, there are numerous imitations.
Glaser produced a new variation of his famous logo design after the 9/11 attacks. Picture: Viviane Moos/Getty Images
Glaser combined a deep seriousness about his own discipline with an openness to motivation from any place it could come. He believed in the importance of mastering the skill of drawing, which at one point he studied with the great Italian artist Giorgio Morandi. His work has, in its strength of line and the clearness of its contrasts, the virtues of Bauhaus modernism.
At the exact same time, he explicitly reacted versus the puritanism of that tradition. He was promiscuous in his motivations, obtaining concepts from art nouveau, from Renaissance painting, from Islamic ornament, from pop art, from industrial culture.
For New York publication, which he co-founded in 1968, he co-wrote the “Underground Gourmet” column, on the citys low-cost ethnic dining establishments. “The world is an extremely impressive place,” he said in aging. “What I feel lucky about is that I am still astonished, that things still astonish me. The possibility for finding out never ever disappears.”
He liked to tell of his youth experience of being bedridden with rheumatic fever. “The only thing that kept me alive,” he said, was his mom bringing him a day-to-day supply of modelling clay, which he would make into “little universes”, that he would then damage and remake. The point he took into his expert life was always to create things once again, “to keep moving and not get stuck in my own past”.
“We are all born with genius,” he stated. What occurs in life is that we stop listening to our inner voices, and we no longer have access to this amazing ability to create poetry.”
Anyone who resides in New York will see it 100 times a day: fulfill Milton Glaser, the developer of the I enjoy NY logo design– video
With the Push Pin Studios, which he assisted discovered in 1954 with fellow graduates of the Cooper Union style school, he can be said to have actually created what became the appearance of the 60s: streaming lines, rainbow colours, strong patterns.
Glaser integrated a deep seriousness about his own discipline with an openness to motivation from wherever it could come. “The only thing that kept me alive,” he said, was his mom bringing him a daily supply of modelling clay, which he would make into “little universes”, that he would then ruin and remake. The point he took into his expert life was always to create things anew, “to keep moving and not get stuck in my own past”.
Milton Glaser was a stereotypical New Yorker, born in the South Bronx to immigrants from Hungary, and spent many of his life in the city.
In his work, whatever his animate. Letters handle the qualities of living beings. Characters had character. In The Alphazeds, a kidss book that he made with his partner Shirley, the alphabet ends up being a series of personalities, gradually joining a celebration in what starts as an empty room.
It is this mindset that makes the “I love NY” emblem, where type and the heart sign collaborate, so effective. It also chose a strong sense of humankind and ethics. The logo design itself he did pro bono, as he believed in the cause of restoring the city.
In his essay “12 Steps on the Graphic Designers Road to Hell” he deplored the abuse of design for such things as “a diet plan product that you know doesnt work”.
He explained art, including graphic style, as “a handing down of presents”, a method of putting something into the world that people can share, “a device to stop people eliminating each other”. The way to know if a particular job was great, he stated, was to ask whether working with the customer made you feel happy at the end of the day.
Milton Glaser was a stereotypical New Yorker, born in the South Bronx to immigrants from Hungary, and invested most of his life in the city. His love of the melting pot, of the human energy of the citys streets, shines through in his work, but his achievements spread far from there.