Milton Glaser is regarded as one of the prominent figures in the history of graphic design; many of his works still enjoy commercial and critical success. This paper is aimed at analyzing his contribution to the development of design practices. Moreover, it is necessary to discuss the cultural, social, and historical significance of his works. Overall, Milton Glaser is a designer who can alternate different styles and media to communicate his message.
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Most importantly, he can express his ideas with enormous clarity; this is one of the reasons his style appealed to many designers. This designer demonstrated that graphical elements can convey verbal communications and even substitute textual messages. Additionally, Glaser’s posters and logos touch upon many social, political, and cultural issues that are of great importance to the modern community. To illustrate this thesis, we should discuss four of his works, including his famous I Love New York. These works exemplify some essential features of Glaser’s style and the theme which he explores.
Milton Glaser’s contribution to the development of design practices
Milton Glaser made several important contributions to the evolution of modern design practices. First of all, he demonstrated that graphic design should convey easily understandable and recognizable messages which can emotionally appeal to viewers (Lewis & Lewis, 2008, p. 203). To better illustrate this idea we can look at his famous logo I Love New York. This is probably the most well-known work created by this designer. This is one of the most popular New York logos, yet many people forget that it was designed by Milton Glaser.
There are several innovative features of this logotype. First of all, it can be regarded as a rebus because its verbal message is rendered by using the famous heart symbol which is recognized in people of different cultures and linguistic backgrounds. Glaser was able to show that various elements of design, for example, symbols can not only supplement text but also substitute it (Gomez-Palacia & Vit, 2009, p. 244). Admittedly, this technique existed long before Glaser, but he popularized it, and later it was adopted by many other designers. His poster I Love New York has been replicated for many times of different types of media. The success of this logotype prompted other designers to use internationally-recognized symbols instead of textual messages. At the time when Glaser designed this logotype, the use of such symbols was not as widespread as it is now.
This designer also demonstrated that various graphic elements can better characterize a certain subject or a person, even if we are speaking about the inner world of an individual. To illustrate this point, one can refer to Glaser’s famous poster of Bob Dylan. While working on this image, Glaser tried to pay more attention to the emotional life of this famous musician.
(Glaser as cited in Landa 2010, p. 167)
By using a variety of colors, Milton Glaser was able to emphasize the diversity of Bob Dylan’s talents, interests, and contributions. Moreover, he was able to demonstrate the complexity of his music and lyrics. Again, one has to stress the idea that text and verbal communication are practically non-present in this poster. Evocative images that this designer creates produce long-lasting impressions on viewers and they reduce the need for words. In his works, Milton Glaser always tries to take into account the way in which people perceive visual images. This is why they are so memorable.
The achievements and contributions of Milton Glaser can be better appreciated if we discuss the context in which the designer began to practice. At that time, there were a variety of artistic movements such as abstract expressionism, art deco, cubism, symbolism, and so forth. Many designers attempted to remain within the boundaries of these styles. Milton Glaser managed to show that these styles can be merged (Lupton & Cooper-Hewlitt, 1996, p. 41). Moreover, Milton Glaser is credited for the creation of the famous Push Pin movement which can be characterized by strong outlines, bright colors, and slightly exaggerated forms (Lupton & Cooper-Hewlitt, 1996, p. 41). The main peculiarity of this style is the use of memorable and evocative images that can hardly be forgotten viewers.
The influences of Milton Glaser cannot be properly understood if we do not mention his use of different media, for example, album covers, posters, magazine illustrations, book jackets, labels, and so forth. Apart from that, his images are applicable to different media. For instance, his famous logo I Love New York can be seen on flyers, T-shirts, posters, cups, and so forth. Very few, designers can produce images that are applicable to different types of media.
He demonstrated that a successful designer must be able to work in different areas and use a variety of media. His success had profound implications for the training of future designers and commercial use of artistic images (Lupton & Cooper-Hewlitt, 1996, p. 44). Thus, one can argue that Milton Glaser raised professional standards set for designers. Overall, he significantly contributed to the evolution of designers’ practices and their education. The second aspect of his influence is probably more important.
The historical, social, cultural, and political significance of Glaser’s works
Milton Glaser’s work reflects the political, social, cultural, and historic environment in which he lives. He has always tried to touch upon those problems which modern society has to resolve. His works do not always influence public opinion; more likely, they explore the feelings, opinions, and needs of the society. For example, we can discuss his poster called The Nation Initiative Buttons.
This work reflects a variety of issues that are extremely relevant to modern society, for instance, unauthorized surveillance of citizens, numerous corporate scandals, military conflicts, and lack of transparency. This work can be of great interest to sociologists because it summarizes the sentiments of many people in the United States. Milton Glaser does not remain indifferent to these problems. This image refers to many historical events such as the September 11 attacks and the adoption of many laws that limit the rights of individuals. Again, we need to say that these images can be easily reproduced with the help of different media such as flyers, posters, and even mugs.
Furthermore, Glaser’s posters can be relevant to political tensions in the world, and one of them is the threat of nuclear war. The poster which he designed for Lawyer’s Committee on Nuclear Policy demonstrates that he is deeply concerned about this problem.
This poster eloquently demonstrates the enormous threat posed by these weapons. Milton Glaser expressed the concerns of many people who often feel insecure. This poster depicts shows that the Earth is exposed to a myriad of nuclear threats, and this description only increases the feeling of insecurity. Therefore, one can argue that his works can tell us much about the political situation in the world.
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On the whole, political and social issues play an important role in his work. Certainly, one cannot say that his posters made a significant shift in public opinion; nonetheless, he gave expression to the opinions of many individuals. Therefore, social responsibility is an important component of Milton Glaser’s creativity which can hardly be overlooked.
At this point, it is too early to estimate the cultural significance of his designs. Probably, in the future, they will become a part of our visual history.
This discussion indicates that Milton Glaser’s influence is extremely diverse. His works demonstrate the ability of graphical elements to render various types of messages and ideas. By combining different styles, he was able to produce extremely powerful images. Secondly, his skilled use of various media has significant implications for professional designers who try to adjust their images applicable to posters, books, T-shirts, and so forth. Moreover, Glaser explored a variety of social and political issues that have yet to be resolved by society. Although Glaser does not offer solutions to these problems, he makes people more aware of them and gives voice to their sentiments. These are the reasons why Milton Glaser is a pre-eminent figure in the history of design.
Glaser, M., Ilic, M., & Kushner, T. (2006). The Design of Dissent: Socially and Politically Driven Graphics. New Jersey: Rockport Publishers.
Gomer-Palacia B. & Vit, A. (2009). Graphic design, referenced: a visual guide to the language, applications, and history of graphic design. New Jersey: Rockport Publishers.
Landa, R. (2010). Graphic Design Solutions. NY: Cengage Learning.
Lewis, R. & Lewis, S. (2008). The Power of Art. NY: Cengage Learning.
Lupton, E. & Cooper-Hewlitt M. (1996). Mixing messages: graphic design in contemporary culture. Princeton. Princeton Architectural Press.