08 Jul 14
THE REBUS GENIUS
There are few designers that evoke as much praise from their peers than that of the eminent Milton Glaser.
Over several decades, he has been one of the most internationally renowned and highly influential figures in design. Extremely prolific, his proficiency as a practitioner spans many disciplines that include graphics, exhibitions, interiors, furniture and products.
To many, Milton Glaser is the embodiment of American graphic design during the latter half of this century. His presence and influence on the profession internationally is formidable. Intensely creative and articulate, he is a modern renaissance man—one of a rare breed of intellectual designer-illustrators, who brings a depth of understanding and conceptual thinking, combined with a diverse richness of visual language, to his highly inventive and individualistic work.
My introduction to Glaser was through his book ‘Milton Glaser Graphic Design’. We had two books on design and illustration whilst I was at school. The other book in the library was by Roger Dean titled ‘Views’. I coveted these with my life – in fact in my final days, I actually stole them both and to this day continue to thumb their well-worn pages.
Amongst Mr.Glaser’s multitudinous graphic works, I want to celebrate his most famous 1975 assignment: to create a new ad campaign that would rehabilitate the image of New York City, which at the time was falling apart.
Mr. Glaser began by experimenting with fonts, laying out the tourist slogan in a variety of friendly typefaces. After a few weeks of work, he settled on a charming design, with “I Love New York” effortlessly set against a plain white background. His proposal was quickly approved. “Everybody liked it,” Mr. Glaser recounts. “And if I were a normal person, I’d stop thinking about the project. But I can’t. Something about it just doesn’t feel right.”
So Mr. Glaser continued to ruminate on the design, devoting hours to a project that was supposedly finished. And then, after another few days of work, he was sitting in a taxi, stuck in midtown traffic. “I often carry spare pieces of paper in my pocket, and so I get the paper out and I start to draw,” he remembers. “And I’m thinking and drawing and then I get it. I see the whole design in my head. I see the typeface and the big round red heart smack dab in the middle. I know that this is how it should go.”
The logo that Mr. Glaser imagined in traffic has since become one of the most widely imitated works of graphic art in the world. And he only discovered the design because he refused to stop thinking about it.
In my humble opinion dear reader, the “I Love New York” logo is the smartest graphic rebus ever created. Other world-renowned designers such as Paul Rand, Alan Fletcher and Saul Bass have all created logos of great longevity and impact, but for sheer brevity, wit and visual ‘wallop’ it’s yet to be equalled.
Engraved into the New York building stone above Milton Glaser’s studio door resides the slogan “Art is Work”.
A fitting inscription from a man who taught a world of would-be designers to see!
Thank you Sir.
8th July 2014