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Milton Glaser: Rejecting Style, Creating Range in Body of Work

In the documentary “To Inform and Delight,” we are introduced to Milton Glaser, one of the most influential graphic designers in the United States. Prior to viewing this film, I had never heard of Glaser, though unbeknownst to me, I was familiar with his work. Much of the world is familiar with Glaser’s iconic “I <3 NY” design and his Bob Dylan poster. Despite our familiarity with these items, most of us, especially outside of the design world, are unfamiliar with Glaser. Part of this unfamiliarity can be attributed to the anonymity that comes with Glaser’s design as a result of not sticking to a certain style. In the film, Glaser discussed leaving Push Pin Studios, which he had started with college friends, because it had become too reliant on the same style and was no longer  innovative. Glaser stressed the importance of not falling into a rut of sorts and relying on the same tactics and style. The message that was sent is that it is better to have your body of work recognized for its artistic integrity rather than to have your name recognized for an iconic or, in some cases, overused style. A designer may have a voice without losing his innovative spirit.

This idea of innovation and not becoming reliant on style is something that can easily be applied to this class. When I first began designing my poster, I was using a color palette very similar to the one I had used in a revised version of my resume. I realized the similarities and knew that I needed to do something different with my poster, so I changed the color palette entirely and ended up being much happier with the different colors. Though this is an example of Glaser’s idea on the most basic of levels, it is an idea that can be applied to every design, no matter the level.

Another aspect of the film that I found very interesting was the range in the type of work Glaser does. He has designed iconic posters, magazine covers, school logos, supermarkets and restaurants. This range illustrated that commercial art is nevertheless art. Glaser’s commercial work is interesting because it has a story behind it. I found the story behind the logo he did for his old high school, LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts, to be one of the most interesting stories shared in the film. Glaser’s work is not art for the purpose of art; it is art with a purpose. Glaser is able to connect with the masses on a basic level, but at the same time, connect with artists or fellow designers on a more complex level, which is a mark of good commercial design. Though the average person may not be able to identify the principles of the design, they can relate in that the design is one that speaks to them.

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