One of the 20th Century’s most influential designers, from ‘I Love New York’ to work with Dylan and Obama, his talents have helped define graphic design today
It’s not common for a designer to see not one, not two, but three of their designs go viral but Milton Glaser (New York, 1929) has experienced just that. The influence of his work, which stretches from editorial design to branding, passing through interior design, is impossible to calculate.
The New York Magazine, the ‘I Love New York’ logo, and the iconic posters of the Barack Obama presidential campaign are just a few of his creations. We sat down with him in his New York studio to discuss just some of the many hits of his career.
A whole life designing
Glaser tells us that, one night, at just five years old, his cousin came over to his house to babysit. "Do you want to see a horse?" he asked. The designer thought his cousin was going to pull a horse out of a bag but all he did was take out a pencil and draw one. "That was a sort of divine sign: to discover that, with just a few tools, it was possible to make something that didn’t exist, but just lived in your mind. It was such a big moment that, up to this day, I haven’t forgotten it.”
In 1954, after graduating Cooper Union, New York, Glaser would found Push Pin Studios with some fellow students. There, and for years, he would work to redefine and expand the role of the designer and illustrator in a visual culture that would change drastically over the following decades.
In 1966, Glaser would design one of the most popular music posters ever, a poster that came with the album Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits.
I Love New York: creating an unforgettable logo
After totally reinventing the concept of editorial design with Walter Bernard, with their work at New York Magazine, Glaser designed one of the most famous logos of all time: ‘I Love New York’.
"Having been born here, I loved the city and I was worried about her, like everybody.” Branching from his love of New York, Glaser proposed a “simple and obvious” solution to the state: make a publicity campaign that would lift the spirits and hopes of a population fed up with urban decay. The result was a logo that travelled the globe and that, decades after its creation in 1977, continues to inspire new generations of designers.
The importance of teamwork
Over more than 50 years, as Walter Bernard and Milton Glaser revolutionised editorial design and created a new way of understanding how magazines should look, they also revitalised the art of visual narration. Their work, together and apart, on publications such as New York Magazine, Time and The Washington Post is already part of design history.
When talking about this stage of his life, Glaser emphasizes the importance of working with people, of the "community of participants" who helped find the best solutions. "There isn’t anything better than working in a group", he says. "The best thing about magazines is their frequency: that allows you to see how your images and texts influence people in real time". For Glaser, knowing his work had affected the lives of people around him was invigorating: "we all like to feel like our lives have a purpose… and that means it can have a purpose for others.”