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Design Hero Milton Glaser dies at 91


You cannot separate New York City and Milton Glaser. Inhale, I Love New York logo, exhale Aretha Franklin illustration for Eye Magazine.
Design Hero Milton Glaser dies at 91

by Alona Elkayam

A month ago


“There are three responses to a piece of design—yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”
-Milton Glaser


You cannot separate New York City and Milton Glaser. His contribution, along with Massimo Vignelli, Michael Beirut, and Paula Scher, is part of the air we breathe. Inhale, I Love New York logo, exhale Aretha Franklin illustration for Eye Magazine. Breathe in New York Magazine (he founded in 1968 with Clay Felken), breathe out Simon and Garfunkel Poster. I Imagine walking through New York in the 60’s and 70’s–seeing his posters everywhere. His best medium was the poster. By that I mean that everything he created was, in effect, an event, whether or not it was an actual event.

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I encountered the study of graphic design at American University while jockeying to become a broadcast journalist. After my first typography class, there was no turning back and I changed my major. It was there in the McKinley building that I’d discovered Milton Glaser and his Marcel Duchamp inspired design for Bob Dylan’s 1967 album cover, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.

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After college, I quickly moved to New York and while working full-time at an advertising agency, began freelancing, like Mr. Glaser, for DC comics. We both share the influence of comic book artistry in our work. Being in New York as a young designer meant tapping into your surroundings to drive your design instincts. The architecture, noise, and movement of New York. It also meant, I had access. Mr. Glaser taught at School of Visual Arts and I enrolled in his Design Theory class. In six short months, I learned something that continues to change my life. We wrote our food intake of the past week on a piece of paper, and placed it in a hat. We were instructed to picked one of these anonymous regimens from the hat and draw, from intuition, the portrait of this person. The lesson? We’ve enough information at our disposal to solve the design problem, we need only to excavate the human truths. Eighteen years later, and in a world of big data, can this still be true? The answer will always be yes. Especially in this time of cultural shift, tapping into your instinct and not just data, will be your savior.

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Caption: My portrait from Milton Glaser's Design Theory class at School of Visual Arts.

Before he was my teacher, I’d met him once before at a Graphis Design conference. He was standing with Massimo Vignelli and B Martin Pedersen by the bar in the back of the auditorium. Arriving late, I stood in the back by the bar and started schmoozing three well-dressed men. Seeing I was a young designer, Mr. Pedersen whispered, "You are standing among giants–on your right is Milton Glaser. Your left? Massiomo Vignelli."

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Thank you, Milton Glaser for your craft, for your discipline. For teaching the youth, generously, that the business of design is as integral to the art as the grid.

Milton Glaser died this past Saturday at aged 91. He was my design hero.

What is the best moment of the day? when the new idea emerges from deep of the back of my brain!

-Milton Glaser

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