Interview with design legend Milton Glaser

Written by on October 3rd, 2011 // Filed under ART, Design

My meeting with Milton Glaser, one of the most famous graphic designers in the world, best known for the I Love New York logo, started shall we say not exactly how I would have expected…

My first question to the legendary 82 year old was what did he think the differences were between Creatives in New York and Creatives in London? Not the most mind-blowing question but also not the most offensive or so I thought…. With a huge weary sigh he lifted his hand and rubbed his face and with the experienced voice of 50 years of teaching said ‘I do hope not all of your questions are going to be so generic, how can I answer what 10,000 people think of another 10,000.’ I gulped and tried to save myself by saying… I mean, have you worked with Creatives in London, he again sighed and I was now beginning to look for the nearest exit… he continued, ‘the word Creatives used as a noun is an abomination. Who has the right to say someone is a Creative, what does that mean, what about people posing to be a Creative, I refuse to use this word as a noun!’ I promptly and vehemently nod my head, promising never to use that word again and rapidly move on to my next (hopefully not too generic) question.

How has Milton adjusted to technology? With a twinkle in his eye he tells me he has a cell phone and in the past two years has received 5 messages on it all from his wife. Does that answer my question, he asks.

One cannot go anywhere in New York without being bombarded by Milton’s I love NY logo, I begin my next question by saying that I will not be asking anything about his famous logo, which he thanks me for, but I say… being the King of Hearts, how would he describe love? He pauses then quotes Irish-born British author and philosopher, Iris Murdoch, ‘Love is the difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.’ We both sit in silence paying homage to the insightful Miss Murdoch, Milton tells me this quote is also on her tombstone.

He goes on to tell me more about his latest book; In Search of the Miraculous Or One Thing Leads to Another: http://www.overlookpress.com/in-search-of-the-miraculous.html featuring work done over the last 5 years. He tells me he will be lecturing in depth on the subject later on that night in Parson’s School of Design. I found out about Milton’s lecture quite by accident, tickets were of course sold out and I quickly emailed Scarlett, Milton’s wonderful Studio manager asking for a ticket in exchange for my mother if needs be.

After cuing for an hour I get the shock of my life as the woman who hands me my ticket, (put aside for me by Scarlett) wishes me good luck… written by my ticket are the words, guest speaker, for a second my life flashes before me then I laugh out loud and inform her that I am a guest OF THE speaker NOT a guest speaker. I think Mr Glaser would have had the shock of his life if I had gotten up on stage with him.

Milton’s lecture that night was as inspiring as expected, after speaking in depth and showing us slides of work created in the past 5 years he explains how each project has touched the next. From the gold wall panel designed for the lobby in the Rubin Museum of Art to his beautiful array of carpets (he is particularly proud of and noticeably excited by) he invites the audience to ask him questions. I was relieved, as some of the questions were even more generic than mine; one in particular had me chuckling in silence as I knew what was coming… He let of another of his huge sighs and rubs his hand to his face informing the audience that this would be the second time he would be answering that question today.

My last question to Milton was how to deal with creative blocks, he was as eloquent and even a tougher on the audience than he was with me. ‘To have a block’, he slowly and firmly says, ‘you must first of all believe there is a mental concept of a block. If you believe, all there is is work to do, you keep working… what other answer could there be?

Blocking means an unwillingness to begin and once you have begun it’s over!’

There is 5-second silence then the auditorium is filled with cheering and clapping. Milton’s answers are beautifully simple and beautifully spoken.

Being one of the greatest and most celebrated graphic designers in the world, there can be no arguing with Milton’s wealth of experience, knowledge and inspiring message.