Read Time: 1.5 minutes
Graphic design legend and household name Milton Glaser, best known for the "I ❤ NY" logo, passed away last Friday at age 91, and leaving an impressive body of work and an important legacy, especially in his beloved city, New York.
Glaser's work needs no explanation or introduction for the SEGD community (look no further than past auction items for proof), and there's no shortage of coverage of his life or work as he was very generous with interviews, even into his final weeks. Glaser recently shared with The New York Times what he'd been thinking about and working on:
"This sense of inertia, of not being able to determine your own future, it’s very eroding. All we can do is have this sense that we are not alone. 'We’re all in this together' has been reiterated a thousand times, but you can create the symbolic equivalent of that phrase by just using the word 'together,' and then making those letters [look] as though they are all different, but all related. So if you want to use the word 'together' it evokes the entire phrase and the idea that we have something in common."
SEGD's Director of Education, Hilary Jay, interviewed Glaser 20 years ago, writing of him, "In my house growing up the name Milton Glaser ranked up there with Andy Warhol and the Beatles. That’s because I’m the daughter of a graphic designer, a man trained in the early 1950s. That’s when commercial art was elevated to an art form thanks to Glaser, and fellow designer-illustrator-typographer-educators at New York-based Pushpin Studio."
In the article, this excerpt stands out as a particularly meaningful reminder:
For fun, I asked him to give his best shot at defining what design is and is not. “Piece of cake,” he said. “Design is like planning. It is the introduction of intention into human activity, or the act of going from an existing condition to a preferred one.” Glaser gave as an example a street intersection where a lot of people have been killed. "You want to prevent more deaths. You discover the light sequence isn’t properly timed, so you design a new traffic light sequence where cars don’t start moving until people have finished crossing the street. In the most rudimentary way,” he said, “that is what design is.”
“You’ll notice, at this point, design has nothing to do with aesthetics or beauty.” You have to work out the nature of the problem before getting into looks, said Glaser. “The first things I always ask is what is it for? Who is the audience? What is the best way to do it? Only at the end of that process do you get the questions of style or beauty.”