The Impact of Milton Glaser
Photo by Catalina Kulczar
Do what you love, love what you do.
I sat down to write a bit about Milton Glaser, to talk about how he made a significant portion of my introduction and inspiration to graphic design but got sideswiped by news of more icons from my youth passing. With the increased impressionability that comes with nostalgic introspection, I could feel the impact each of them made in defining the way I would approach projects throughout my career.
Ian Holm inspired the joy of craft in me. Everyone should wish for a career that brings as much personal pleasure as acting did for Ian. Johnny Mandel’s musical genius was relatively unknown to me when I was young though I was surrounded by it. We watched the movie and the TV show M*A*S*H religiously and hearing the seemingly simple tune of its theme song “Suicide is painless,” its level of perfection often struck me for its pairing with the story. I continue to strive to find the perfect balance of flourishes to simplicity in my work and to find the ideal tone for the story we are trying to tell.
Carl Reiner’s work was also hugely inspiring to me. He made me laugh and taught me about inserting humor into the story as a way to communicate serious subjects in new ways. I learned that we could laugh at and speak our minds about anything despite the importance of the subject matter. The intelligence of his humor spoke to me.
All of these insanely talented people shared commonalities in their careers with Milton Glaser and the truths I gleaned from them define the path I take in my career.
While Milton wasn’t a comedian, an actor, or musician, as far as I know, he taught similar lessons. He was insanely prolific and active until his passing, motivated by the love of craft and his city. Milton famously gave away the I [Heart] NYC logo at no cost. Most recently, he was working on a new piece, “Together,” illustrating that despite our differences during the separation of the pandemic, we still have something in common.
His career wasn’t just business to him; it was as integral to life as the air he breathed. Milton had a knack in distilling ranging concepts into single images, finding the perfect balance of simplicity and story. His ability to communicate emotion through design was remarkable, whether the “Dylan,” “Aretha” or the post 911 “I [Heart] NY More Than Ever” posters, Milton was able to convey all the feels. He was the embodiment of the phrase: “Do what you love, love what you do.”
I remember being struck by the story and simplicity of the message in his “1984 XIV Olympic Winter Games Sarajevo” poster despite being young at that time and relatively ignorant. It was the beginning of my awareness of graphic design and still serves as a bar to judge my work.
In the end, Milton Glaser profoundly affected both my graphic design philosophy as well as my approach and mindset toward the relationship between work and life. While Graphic Design may be the simple utilization of shape and form to communicate ideas or concepts, it is our method, process, and love that makes all the difference.