Something I’ve learned from watching each of these documentaries, especially To Inform and Delight is that vision—brilliant vision—from the greatest designers in the world originates from brutal simplicity. It’s something that is hard to describe yet, so obvious once you see it. Take, for instance, the “I <3 NY” logo. Whenever I see it, I never think of it as something that was created and designed, rather, something that just exists because it makes so much sense. To consider this iconic symbol of New York as something that was created is such a foreign concept. This is Glaser’s goal: to design as if the concept exists beyond the realm of design—so perfectly aligned with the design’s purpose that it seems no other possible execution could exist.
I respect Milton Glaser’s understanding of semiotics: he knows how important the immediacy of meaning is. Like my own field in creative advertising, the immediate communication of a message is imperative to the success or failure of a concept. People don’t have the time, or frankly the patience, to critically dissect an image for semiotic meaning—except of course the advertisers and graphic designers who spend their lives creating such communications. Glaser is one of few designers who perfectly understands this delicate relationship between audience and design.
It is amazing how one man can comprehend the motivations and social location of his audiences—that were so diverse throughout his career based on each project. Take the Bob Dylan poster for instance, that became an icon of the generation and graphically represented the mood and artistic feeling of the era. The silhouette and colorful free-form graphic style has been mimicked time and time again, evidence of its success.
Finally, I appreciated the emphasis that design is more than software. Some of Glaser’s most beautiful designs were constructed from photographs or images of physical pieces and only then transposed to the software. Many of Glaser’s designs were fairly simple and easily executed, but the genius is in the simplicity. Once gain we are informed and delighted that design is more vision than technical skill: a notion that I can’t help but find comforting.