What Is It That Makes Milton Glaser So Damn Good At Graphic Design?
- Alexander Lendrum
If you’re familiar with… nay, even recognize his name, then give yourself a pat on the back—you’re more “well informed” in graphic design than your friends are so you may continue your smugness. If you’re not familiar with who “Milton Glaser” is, then the mere mention of the globally iconic “I ♥ NY” will surely put things in place. Glaser, who is now 87 years of age, is the man behind that design—the logo I’m sure every New Yorker now looks at with hidden grimace from over exposure. But while that fact remains his calling card for media to easily pull up, there is so much more to the man as a graphic designer that warrants appreciating and exploring further.
Prolific artist & designer Steven Harrington couldn’t agree more, which is why he put Glaser up for us to feature as one of his Curator Program picks: our section where we sit down with established creative minds to work with us on conceptualizing inspirational topics. Being well versed in the industry of graphic design and art itself—the Los Angeles-born-and-bred artist is well known for his signature surreal, pop-infused artwork—Glaser was a must-do choice, as he is revered by many within the sphere are art and design as one of the most influential, and pioneering talents of time.
Glaser is a master at graphic design, so naturally anyone well established with credential will want his creative hands gracing their brand.
Much like an auteur director, known for having their creative approach recognized through any project they contribute to, Milton Glaser’s style is recognizable no matter the client or medium. From famous beer brewery logos like Brooklyn Brewery, to artwork for AMC’s hit show Mad Men, To New York Magazine’s official title logo, to myriad publication covers for the likes of Rizzoli, Esquire, Penguin Press, United States National Students Association, Van Gogh Estate, Carnegie Hall, United Nations… there’s so damn many, and all for good reason. Glaser is a master at graphic design, so naturally anyone well established with credential will want his creative hands gracing their brand.
Far from this being a monograph on Milton Glaser’s work, we will however attempt at understanding, and therefor offering a way to appreciate his talents, especially through his approach with typography. While the man’s work, as mentioned, spans many facets of design, Glaser’s influence on popular typography can be argued as the least known outside of those devoted to the field. But like all his creations, it’s just as good, and just as worthy of attention as his other work. The I ♥ NY logo is after all a design through font. With that being said, interestingly, Glaser doesn’t fess up to being a type designer. Sorry Glaser, we’ll be the judge of that… So for the sake of sparing you from us rambling on indefinitely about the never-ending breadth of his work, here’s a look at a few of our favorite Glaser typefaces, dissected and explored (in alphabetical order).
Baby Teeth is one of the more recognizable typefaces, perhaps even to some that are unaware of its origins as a Glaser design. But for those that do know its history will know that it was one of the designer’s more earlier and more successful offerings. The font helped catapult his name even further into the respects of his peers as a type designer (again, despite his dismissal of the title), and was revered the world over from its appearance on Glaser’s renown DYLAN poster, which saw its way into the sleeves of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits back in 1967. The typeface itself is is a brilliant use of blank space that when intensely inspected, appears almost ineligible, yet very legible as a font, and very nice to look at to put it simply.
If you’re a die-hard Simon & Garfunkel fan, then you may have already seen Glaser’s work on the band’s 1967 Philharmonic Hall concert poster, which was famously claimed to have been influenced by Glaser’s own Baby Fat typeface. The name is great, the design even greater. Baby Fat perhaps stirs up memories of doodling your own letters while adding in details that helps make it all stand out. It’s a font that resonates with anyone and everyone. Basic, fun, embossed in design and very retro, yet very timeless. The typeface is also responsible for spurring on likewise fonts Buxom, Fat Shadow and Keepon Truckin NF.
Glaser Stencil is perhaps the most well known of all of Milton Glaser’s typeface designs—the font even bears his own name. The world famous stencil design was put on the map during the ’70s, and is describe quite eloquently as a “perfect summation of both Modernist proportion and New York-style solidity and self-assurance.” But to the untrained eye, it’s more of an aesthetically pleasing use of spaces that when remained separated, forms a more lively presentation of lettering—akin to the very sans serif stencils we all used in school of course. Like most of Glaser’s work, Glaser Stencil is just as simple, bold and brazen and the rest, another reason why we’re inexplicably drawn to it.
The Hologram Shadow typeface is by far the most playful of all of Milton Glaser’s typography designs. It’s as striking at first glance as it is intriguing, and unequivocally creative. Originally conceived by Glaser back in 1977, the idea for Hologram Shadow was apparently something that was swirling around in Glaser’s head for a good minute before finally finding the opportunity to premier it that year as the font used for a United Artists festival. Much like most of Glaser’s typefaces, the Hologram Shadow is simple and pure, yet full of character. Minimalistic in detail, the letters stand curved backwards, casting a shadow behind itself.
Houdini is another typeface that harks back to the Glaser’s prime period of the ’60s (not forgetting the ’70s), which saw the introduction to many of the now iconic designs that have influenced a plethora of other interpretations and imitations. Houdini itself is a design that can be seen as the more subtly detailed of the bunch in this list. At first glance, it is just as whimsical, bubbly even, but look closer and you’ll notice the work put into the shadowing that rounds out each letter. Perhaps not as bold and brazen as the others, Houdini is without doubt just as eye catching, and as such, it has (like so many of Glasers work) remained a timeless source of inspiration.