“I’m never happier than when I’m making things or thinking about making things. I have not lost the passion or satisfaction of working.” - Milton Glaser in the introduction to Art is Work (Thames and Hudson, 2000).
We lost a great one. Milton Glaser, citizen of New York and reason this archive exists, passed away on Friday, June 26, 2020, his 91st birthday.
It's hard to put into words all the ways in which his intelligence, wit, and humanism made their way into the visual culture. He made things that we see and interact with every day, things that improve our daily experience through their clarity and beauty and humor. I have yet to meet another designer who has so thoroughly interrogated why they do what they do, and was able to articulate it in such a relatable and compelling manner.
Last year, in honor of Milton's 90th birthday, we posted 90 of our favorites pieces on Instagram tagged #90byMilton. It's a good place to see a tiny sliver of the incredible breadth of his work. You might notice some recurring ideas and motifs as you browse the images there and elsewhere.
There's of course his psychedelic style, which Milton came to dislike and distance himself from, but there's no denying this work is beautiful and arresting and had a tremendous impact on art and design.
There are gentle and dreamy watercolors.
Reimagined Art Deco.
The vast scope of projects like Grand Union supermarket and Sesame Place.
Mini art history lessons.
Playful use of the grid.
The visual annotation of his layered illustrations.
Low contrast patterns.
Exploration of the real estate beyond the boundaries of the page.
Visual deconstruction and reconstruction.
Milton was a teacher, a raconteur, an artist of the highest order. He was an intellectual, a student of history, a person who made New York City better - our subway stations, our restaurants, our supermarkets, our magazines, our theater and music productions, our cultural institutions, our beer bottles, all were transformed by his vision.
He told me once that his hope was to leave the world in a better state than the one in which he found it. Milton lived and worked for 91 years. Despite the moment of tragedy and turmoil we find ourselves in now, I don't think there's any question he accomplished what he set out to do.