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Great Graphic Designers: Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser

We review the story of Milton Glaser, the designer who creates the logo of “I Love NY” and the psychedelic album cover of Bob Dylan.

At the telling advertising agency we have a devotion to great graphic designers. Professionals who have marked the graphic design, illustration and advertising industry. In our series of great graphic designers we review the trajectory of those most influential professionals. Thus we have analyzed the life and work of Paula Scher, Paul Rand, Susan Kare, Walter Landor, Deborah Sussman or Saul Bass among others.

Today, as a tribute, we will review the history of Milton Glaser, the iconic New York designer who left us at the age of 91 because of a stroke. He also had a kidney condition, as confirmed by Shirley, his wife of more than 50 years.

Milton will go down in history for being the creator of “I Love NY”, in addition to other iconic works such as the cover of the compilation “Dylan” or the creation of New York Magazine.

Young Milton Glaser

Glaser was born on June 26, 1929 in the Bronx, New York. Son of Hungarian Jewish immigrants who opened a small dry-cleaner and tailor shop in the south of the city. As a child, a cousin drew a bird on a paper bag to make him smile. “I almost passed out when I realized that you can create life with a pencil,” she explained to Inc. magazine in 2014. “At that point I decided that this was going to be my life.”

Milton took drawing classes with artists Raphael and Moses Soyer before entering the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan.

Then he studied at the Cooper Union in New York. During that period she received a fullbright scholarship to study in Milan and Genoa. His stay in Rome served him to study and work with the painter Giorgio Morandi. His stay in Italy marked him: “When I arrived I knew nothing about art or architecture or food, but I was convinced that I knew everything about almost everything. It comes in the package of being American. So living there put me in my place: I had to learn everything again. And I want to say everything: that the big kitchen could be pasta with salt and pepper. “

The beginnings

After completing his scholarship, he graduated and together with his friends Reynold Ruffins, Seymour Chwast, Edward Sorel and Glaser founded Push Pin Studios in 1954. For twenty years he directed the studio together with Seymour Chwast and exerted a powerful influence on world graphic design. .

In 1966 Glaser would create one of his first iconic works: Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits cover. Back then, Glaser was hardly known as a graphic designer. It was John Berg, director of Columbia Records, who asked for the creation of a poster to include on Bob Dylan’s greatest hits LP that year.

Bob Dylan Cover | Milton Glaser

The design of the poster was revolutionary. She represents Dylan with the kaleidoscope and very soon she would become a “psychedelic” icon of music. Although the design closely resembled the rock posters produced at that time in San Francisco, the artist was inspired by a self-portrait by Marchel Duchamp from 1957. Although the composition was similar, elements such as curly and rainbow hair , as well as the contrast of colors was his own invention. He even created the typography to write the word “Dylan”.

The poster would become one of the most widely circulated of all time, with more than 6 million copies being distributed.

Two years later, in 1968, he founded the New York Magazine with Clay Felker, of which Glaser was president until 1977. The publication became a model to be followed by other magazine designs, creating a large number of imitations at the time.

New York magazine was a magazine dedicated to culture, politics and lifestyle in New York City. Their goal was to compete with the competition from The New Yorker. It was one of the first “Lifestyle” magazines and its format and style was copied by numerous regional publications.

Milton Glaser | New York Magazine

In 1974 Milton Glaser founded his own company (Milton Glaser Inc) before the commission that would change his life arrived.

The logo of “I Love NY”

I love New York | Milton Glaser

But without a doubt, the one that made Milton Glaser a world-class designer would be the creation of the well-known “I Love NY” logo.

The 1970s was not one of the most splendid of New York City. The city was mired in one of its biggest fiscal crises and crime grew without any kind of control. Big businesses were starting to leave the city looking for new locations. In 1977 the state department hired the Wells Rich Greene agency to develop a face-washing marketing campaign for the city. William S. Doyle, the agency’s department head, hired Glaser to work as a campaign designer.

The campaign aimed to make New Yorkers see their city as a place to enjoy and where to live despite the problems of a big city. In this way, it was sought to recover both the inhabitants of the city and the tourists who gradually stopped visiting the city.

Virginia is for lovers

Milton was inspired by the slogan of “Virgina is for Lovers” created in 1959 to promote the state, so his idea was always to use the slogan “I love New York” in two lines, with elegant typography that would attract attention. During a meeting with the creative directors of the agency, she produced a sketch that she made on many of the taxi trips she made around the city. “Back then they docked around corners and we had to stop walking to get around in a taxi.” It was a simple concept, hastily outlined, but it would lay the groundwork for creating the perfect logo.

I Love New York | Boceto Milton Glaser

With that premise, he created a logo that only contained initials. He put the letter “I” followed by the red heart and below it he placed the letters N and Y written in the patriotic typeface “American Typewriter”. The result was the logo that we all know.

Although the campaign was intended to last a couple of months, its success made it endure over time as one of the hallmarks of New York City. Even today, 50 years later, it remains one of the city’s best-selling souvenirs, and Milton Glaser hasn’t seen a penny in royalties other than $ 2,000 for the job.

Milton recommended preparing to know how to detect chance: “Art is a form of meditation for both those who create it and those who contemplate it. It helps survive by stimulating our attention.” For Milton, drawing is thinking. “Drawing something with humility allows the truth to emerge.” But he was not deceived: “Good designs don’t bother, but they don’t make you see another world. Art is something else: one never tires of seeing a good painting. It has to do with emotion.”

After success

He continued his work at Milton Glaser Inc and has done countless jobs related not only to editorial design, but also to corporate identity, interior design, and illustrations.

Em 1983 partnered with Walter Bernard to develop WBMG, a company dedicated to editorial design that has been commissioned to take the picture or redesign more than 50 magazines and newspapers around the world, including The Washington Post, La Vanguardia and Esquire .

Milton Glaser Logos

Years later he made the graphic image and decoration of the restaurants, the Permanent Exhibition of the World Trade Center and the design of the Observatory. Milton Glaser’s work is permanently exhibited at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art in New York), the Israel Museum (Jerusalem) and the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, D.C.).

Milton Glaser Mad Men

The awards that Milton Glaser has won speak for themselves: Lifetime Achievement Award from the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, for his extensive dedication to this career and for his contribution to design; and in 2009 he received from the hands of President B. Obama himself the National Medal of Arts.

Milton Glaser has not limited himself to designing, but has also spent much of his life dedicated to teaching at the School of Visual Arts in New York, as well as being a member of the Art Director’s Club Hall of Fame and the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA).


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