Don’t think there’s a graphic designer alive who hasn’t heard of Milton Glaser. Or know about his work. If you’re one of the few, his Wiki biography page will bring you up to speed. Bottom line, Milton Glaser, born in 1929, is only one of the most famous graphic designers in the history of ever, best known for the I Love New York logo, his Bob Dylan poster and the old DC Comics “bullet” logo. He also founded New York Magazine in 1968, the revolutionary Push Pin Studios and is, in the art world, a very big deal. Anyhoo, last Thursday, Glaser was awarded a National Medal of Arts, presented by Barack Obama in the East Room of The White House. The National Medal of Arts is a yearly White House initiative that’s managed by the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and is considered the USA’s highest honor for “artistic excellence“. Glaser’s selection is notable as it represents the first time a graphic designer has been selected. As well as being a prolific graphic designer and illustrator, Glaser has also penned several design books including Graphic Design, Art is Work, and Drawing is Thinking. Here’s some more of his work:
Said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman
“These individuals and organizations show us how many ways art works every day. They represent the breadth and depth of American architecture, design, film, music, performance, theatre, and visual art. This lifetime honor recognizes their exceptional contributions, and I join the President and the country in saluting them.”
While this is Glaser’s first medal in this award program, he’s no stranger to being feted for his work. Among many others, he also received a lifetime achievement award by the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum back in 2004 for being an “influential master of communication and a humanistic force for social change“.
Also up for an award was rock legend Bob Dylan, the subject of Glaser’s famous poster art of the singer (alas, Bob couldn’t attend). Which is a really nice segue into our next bit. Speaking of Obama, Dylan and Glaser, seems Milton wasn’t terribly cool with having his Dylan poster (left) compared to Shepard Fairey‘s now famous Hope poster (right), especially when it came to the use of an Associated Press photo of Barack Obama as the reference. In an interview with Print magazine Glaser had this to say “I find the relationship between Fairey’s work and his sources discomforting. Nothing substantial has been added. In my own case, when I did the Dylan poster, I acknowledged using Duchamp’s profile as an influence. I think unless you’re modifying it and making it your own, you’re on very tenuous ground. It’s a dangerous example for students, if they see that appropriating people’s work is the path to success. Simply reproducing the work of others robs you of your imagination and form-making abilities. You’re not developing the muscularity you need to invent your own ideas.”