Posts Tagged ‘World Trade Center

Who The Hell Is Milton Glaser?

- July 20th, 2012

 

Milton-Glaser-self-portrait

Self-portrait of Milton Glaser.

 

I’m glad you asked because the same thought was running through my head just the other day.

 

Turns out Milton Glaser is probably the world’s greatest living graphic designer.

 

That’s not my opinion — that’s the opinion of most of the world’s other great graphic designers, all of whom have been influenced by and owe a huge inspirational debt to this little old artistic genius.

 

You know Milton Glaser, too. You just didn’t know his name before reading this.

 

Watch. I’ll prove it.

iHeartNy

 

Yep, Milton Glaser designed that most iconic of graphic love notes, which has been turned and twisted in a thousand different permutations but always keeps its simple, gracefully cuddly power. (The typeface is American Typewriter if you’re creating your own variation, although Glaser modified AT for the real  ”I ♥ NY”.) Only Harvey Ball’s Smiley Face is as omnipresent in modern graphic culture as “I ♥ (whatever).”

 

Milton Glaser has done so much more than that but before we get to other aspects of his work, I’m going to tell you a little bit about “I ♥ NY” and how it came to be.

 

First of all, even though everyone associates “I ♥ NY” with New York City, it was actually commissioned as part of an advertising campaign for New York State in 1977. The overall marketing campaign was handled by NYC ad agency Wells Rich Greene, but Milton Glaser — then at the absolute pinnacle of his game and an ardent New Yorker — was asked to design a logo that embodied the ad campaign’s “I Love New York” theme.

milton-glaser-1970s

Milton Glaser in the 1970s.

One thing you have to understand is that New York in the mid-1970s was a far different place than the New York City we know today.

 

The city then was a disaster zone plagued by soaring crime, drug use, prostitution, homelessness, hopelessness, a collapsing infrastructure and subway system, abandoned buildings, a corrupt police force, a middle class fleeing to the suburbs and a city government teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

 

Then-mayor Abraham Beame was within hours of declaring New York City bankrupt in 1975 when the teachers union finally, reluctantly agreed to pump $150 million of its pension fund into New York City security bonds, thus keeping the civic administration solvent.

 

Then the city was jackhammered by the power blackout of July 13-14, 1977 (caused by lightning strikes and faulty equipment) which led to widespread looting, rioting and panic.

 

Later that year, tough-talking and fiscally conservative Ed Koch was elected mayor. Along with help from the federal and state governments, Koch got the city on the road to recovery, but it was a long, hard decade. In 1977 any ode to New York City was based more on romantic nostalgia or cockeyed optimism than on any pragmatic assessment of the city as it existed at that time.

 

As I said before, the ad campaign was a state-wide venture but, of course, NYC — the Big Apple — has to figure prominently in any panoramic view of the state of New York. And Milton Glaser was an ardent and committed New York City-ite. (He had founded New York magazine in 1968 with partner Clay Felker from the ashes of the Sunday magazine supplement of the defunct New York Herald Tribune.)

New-York-cover-Dec-1968

So even though the promotional campaign was a state affair, Glaser, in his own heart, was saying “I ♥ NY (City).” So it’s really not a distortion to associate “I ♥ NY” as much with the city — or moreso — as with the state.

I-heart-NY-square

There is a Canadian twist to all this, by the way. Glaser has said he got the idea for “I ♥ NY” from an ad campaign run by Montreal radio station CJAD (now a talk/news format but back then an all-purpose pop AM format) around the time of the 1976 Olympics: “Montreal, the city with a ♥.”

 

CJAD never got any money for its contribution, but then neither did Glaser.

 

Why?

 

Because Glaser did it for free — mostly out a sense of public service and pure-hearted love for the city of his birth and nurturing. And also because he really thought at the time the ad campaign would run for a few months and then be forgotten.

It didn’t and it wasn’t. Thirty-five years later, New York (both city and state) are still recycling “I ♥ NY.” (And New York State now pulls in millions every year from licensing deals, even though it didn’t get around to copyrighting the logo until the late ’80s.)

I-love-NY-all

 

And Glaser’s original sketch and presentation boards are now part of the permanent collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

 

After the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Milton Glaser created a new version of his iconic logo.

 

Milton Glaser opy

 

The black spot on the heart is approximately where the World Trade Center was located on Manhattan Island.

 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ (that’s one heart for each of Milton Glaser’s decades so far)

 

Now on to a random tour of some other aspects of Milton Glaser’s life and art.

 

Milton Glaser was a significant presence on the the New York design scene from the mid-1950s on, creating everything from magazine and newspaper illustrations and layouts to book jackets to restaurant menus to company logos to advertising campaigns.

 

Here are a few of his print creations.

Paperback-cover-50-cents

An early book cover, above, and a couple of later ones below.

hesse-book-cover

The-Cook

 

Sports-Illustrated-1961

A 1961 illustration for Sports Illustrated, above, and a Time magazine cover in 2010, below.

Time-cover-2010

March-1971-NY-cover

A 1971 New York magazine cover, above, and a poster for the 1970s Broadway production of The Wiz, below.

The-Wiz-poster

 

And here are a few — just a few — of the many record album covers he created (primarily during the 1960s and 1970s).

the-london-chuck-berry-sessions

Rhymin-Simon-cover

Van-Zandt-album-cover

Doc-Watson-cover-1972

nina-simone-cover

 

Lightnin-Hopkins-album-cover

 

And some logos for record companies.

asylum

Phantom-Records-label

And even the occasional movie poster.

zabriskie_point_antonioni_glaser_ar

 

And, of course, he’s done corporate logos — but only for companies he likes, such as DC Comics and Brooklyn Brewery.

DCcomics

 

brooklyn

Milton Glaser - Brooklyn-Brewery

 

The 1960s was the period in which I became acquainted with Glaser — although I didn’t know his name then.

 

The most striking Glazer creation of the time was a poster he designed for inclusion in 1967′s Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. It’s often known as the “psychedelic poster” and seems almost cliched now — but that’s only after 45 years of overexposure. At the time I opened up that cardboard album sleeve and found the four-fold poster, I was blown away.

 

miltonglaser_dylan

 

And, like I said, I had no idea who created it. I didn’t really even think about it. My recollection is that I assumed it was done by Peter Max — who was very big in the psychedelic pop art world at the time — or was just a knockoff commissioned by Columbia Records.

max_peter_love

PeterMax

Some Peter Max artwork from around the same time. The one below was actually done after the Dylan poster and probably owes a small debt of inspiration to Milton Glaser.

 Peter-Max- Poster-1969

But the Dylan poster was a great piece of art — an iconic piece — and I wish I still had it. (Of course, I wish even more that I still had the small signed sketch A.Y. Jackson did for me a year or two later in Kleinburg — but a life lived without terrible regrets is a paltry, flippant thing.)

Marcel-Duchamp-1957-Self-Portrait_in_Profile

Glaser has always given credit where credit is due, and he says the Dylan poster was inspired by a 1957 self-portrait by French graphic artist Marcel Duchamp (above). That’s nice of Glaser, but I think the poster also reflects Rowland Scherman’s 1965 profile photo of Dylan on the cover of the Greatest Hits album.

greatest-hits-1967

And Glaser may be either consciously or subconsciously referencing himself in this 1976 New York magazine cover, below.

New-York-May-1976-cover

Moving on to a seemingly more mundane area, Glaser created plenty of restaurant menus — but they were for the best, the chicest, the funkiest, the most foodie-beloved restaurants of their day. And he often created the entire look of the restaurant, as well, from interior design to specialty china.

Russian-Tea-Room-menu

Menus for New York City’s Russian Tea Room, above, and, below, Rudi’s Country Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant in Woodstock, New York, run by adherents of the Rudrananda Ashram.

Rudis-menu

 

Since we’re on restaurants, here’s another connection between Milton Glaser and the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center.

 

Glaser designed — not once, but twice — the WTC’s signature series of restaurants and bars called Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower. (Initial design work was done by Warren Platner, but restaurateur Joe Baum later put responsibility for the coordinated look of the whole project in the hands of his friend Milton Glaser.)

WOTW-WTC-menu

The first Windows on the World menu cover, above, and, below, views of the main restaurant in 1976 and 1996.

1976WOTW

1996WOTWdinningroom

1996-WOTW-china

One of the china plates designed by Milton Glaser for the 1996 incarnation of WOTW.

The first go-round was in 1976 for the grand opening. The second was in 1996, with every seat in the restaurant getting a view of the New York skyline. The complex had the main Windows on the World restaurant, a second resto called Wild Blue, the appropriately named Greatest Bar on Earth (with a view to match) and a series of smaller rooms with revolving names for private functions. For a time, around the turn of the millennium, it was the highest-grossing restaurant complex in the United States. The restaurant was in full operation for breakfast the morning American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower. No one in the restaurant at the time survived.

 

(This is completely off-topic, but Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was supposed to be on that AA Flight 11 from Boston to L.A. However, MacFarlane’s travel agent gave him the wrong departure time and MacFarlane got to Logan Airport a few minutes after boarding was closed off. MacFarlane missed his flight — and lived.)

 

iHeartNy

 

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get on a downer tangent, but Milton Glaser is synonymous with New York City and New York will forever be intertwined with the tragedy of 9/11.

 

At 83, Milton Glaser is still active and vibrant and an inspiration to others. He has some sharp opinions (for example, “Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking.”) But he is mostly a man of great humanity, humility, graciousness and generosity.

Milton_glaser2

And he still works non-stop. As Glaser says, “The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without these things vanishes and even modest talent with those characteristics grows.”

 

He’s done everything from a 200-metre mural on a federal government building in Indianapolis and an underground mural in NYC’s Astor Place subway station to recent magazine covers to high-profile ads to pro-bono work for non-profit organizations.

 

He’s redesigned newspapers (like The Washington Post) and consulted on others (like Canada’s National Post — although I don’t really see Glaser’s fingerprints there) and for 15 years he oversaw every design aspect — from architecture to packaging — of The Grand Union Company supermarket chain in the U.S. And of course he does his own straight-up art.

 

Here’s a sampling of some of Milton Glaser’s recent work. Go to the Internet to find more examples of his incredible creations. The more you look, the more you’ll be dazzled.

I ♥ MG.

 

Venezia-carnevale-2009

 

milton-glaser-big-yellow-nudes

September-2010

AIDSposter

Darfur

 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥