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Milton Glaser, was born in 1929 in New York, he attended the High School of Music & Art. Known for his influential dynamic design, three of his most famous works include the “I love New York” logo, Bob Dylan poster and “DC bullet” logo, designed for DC Comics. Glaser has worked for a variety of agencies, designers, illustrators and co-founded Push Pin Studios in 1954.
In 1977, Milton Glaser designed the ‘I heart New York’ poster, unbeknown to him that it is this piece of design that would define his life. As a very simple piece of design to the eye, it holds a very clever message, Glaser explains how the design is to be translated to be fully understood, he says that, ‘to understand the design you have to translate it. First of all you have to figure out that the ‘I’ is a complete word, then you have to figure out that the heart is a symbol for an experience, then you have to figure out that ‘NY’ are the initials for a place’ he then goes onto say that ‘the issue in all communication is moving the brain, and puzzles move the brain, this then makes people feel good because they have solved the problem, just like this logo.’ The logo was designed to promote tourism in New York City and then became the ‘trademark’ of the New York State. Glaser did the work pro bono as he only expected the campaign for more tourism to last a few months; never did he think it would have gone global, as this was not his original intention. However, the logo was a major success and has become so iconic worldwide and has been and still continues to be sold for years. The logo, then became furthermore prominent during the aftermath of the 911 terror attacks, as Glaser added a black smudge to the bottom corner of the heart symbolising a ‘wound’ and ‘a wounded heart is important to attain healing, and to acknowledge pain, despite this though the Department of Commerce were sceptic to adopt the creation which is why Glaser sent the new logo to New York Daily News, circulation close to a million copies around the city and the added the extra words ‘more than ever’, it helped create a sense of unity between the population and an awareness of support from visitors.
Glaser has always craved being, new, original and inventive using a variety of historical and visual references, he stated “my sense is not to be allergic to style or mores in time,” he says. “I see it as a continuous conversation. My resources run deep from African art to Japanese watercolor to Modernism to Dada”. The best example of this from Glaser is probably the album insert designed for Bob Dylan in 1967, the use of jarring historical references allows a sense of inventiveness.
Designing, something new, fresh and different is definitely aspiring. Being versatile and flexible with media and styles is a must; I absolutely admire experimentation, as well as delving into various visual styles and media. The use of technology in design is great, yet the more conventional and traditional styles are truly something to treasure, these are a big passion of mine. Combining traditional media and technology together really does enable a stronger connection and context with the audience, as much as I appreciate how the usage of technology has greatly helped the development of design tremendously, it seems as though conventional design is a sign of the past, this needs reviving!
It is stated by Glaser that whether simple or complex design is integrated into a piece, communicating a clear opinion, message or view to the prospective audience. “To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master”, design should do what it is designed to do, whether that’s inform, shock or persuade people as an example . However, design is definitely beyond reading; colour, layout and shape recognition all have a selective purpose, for example road signs are very legible yet out of date in relation to current generations and social conditions and therefore should be changed, yet humans are very reluctant to change and prefer to stay conformed to conventional design. This then idea of being conformed is because people are scared of change, yet when that change becomes conventional overtime it is then a norm. Glaser felt that whilst working for Push Pin studios, that he “became imprisoned by its reputation, and I wanted to try and invent a new ambiguous reputation”, leaving the agency to build up his own strong reputation. Glaser is a very ambitious individual, this is definitely something to idolize, not being scared or worried about other people’s views on what he produces or the context that surrounds it.
“Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking”, what a great statement! Design is an art whether a piece takes hours, days, months, weeks or even years, it is very precious. As a simple analogy, a microwave is an electrical appliance that uses technology to reheat and cook food; computers as technology lower the standard, classic knowledge as well as the craft of design. The definition of a designer seems to have become more blurred. The accessibility of technology now means that anyone with a computer and the correct software can become a ‘designer’. This has both negative and positive effects; on one hand, poorly considered, non-disciplined design is now being allowed to flow through the public consciousness. On the other hand, we are seeing new, forward thing, unrestricted creative thinking from those who are not restrained by traditional formalities.
Craft allows technology to be exploited effectively. Therefore the continuation of taught craft in academic institutions is essential to sustaining graphic design as a profession. The use of technology has vastly helped revolutionise design, I do not disagree there and to run a design office, computers are necessary along with traditional skills.
Having amazing artistic abilities and a range of experience is in most cases what is clarified as a ‘designer’, yet I do not believe this is how a ‘designer’ should be classified, I understand that various skill sets are required to be clarified as a graphic designer.
I believe in using a variety of styles, dependent upon which area of design I’m working on and what purpose the design has. My styles seem to have become more varied in the last couple of years, which is great, becoming too rounded on a particular style is good, if wanting to familiarize people to easily recognise a defined style and the designer, but then having that comfort of working in one style I feel makes people become conformed to that one and only style, not allowing any room for change, just how us humans work in general, we don’t like change, having a variety of rounded styles is great and something I definitely believe in. When I work on HTML and websites, I really do prefer to be minimalistic, ordered and very structured enabling a good usability for browsers, yet this may be seen more for purpose than design as I do not like over complex websites that confuse the browser. However, when designing a piece of work purely around fine art, my thought is exactly the opposite, I adore being slightly abstract and bright, bold colours. I do this as I find art truly is a form of expression and communication, just how Glaser states that communication is all about moving the brain, which is done through puzzles, so when someone can identify what a piece of work is and they feel good they have done this, it shows there is effective communication and expression in a piece of work.
Typography is not really one of my strong suits, but I really do have to acknowledge the importance of its use amongst design. It is typically questioned whether there are currently too many fonts, as there are hundreds and possibly thousands of websites that offer free fonts for download. I disagree with the statement that there are too many fonts, as it really is the understanding of the fonts that is lacked these days. Having this knowledge can really define the difference between a ‘good’ and ‘excellent’ designer I feel. Understanding and knowing the main fonts, font families and the use of line height, kerning and tracking is very important in any area of design, if a designer is not aware of any of these aspects of typography, knowing when and how to use them may become ineffective, as the art of typography is to communicate efficiently and therefore has be clean, legible and well designed, knowing the basics is essential.
I really aspire to travel wherever design takes me, and experience a bit of everything. I have my strong suits and my weak suits, but there is so much I want to learn. I am very good at fine art practice and thoroughly enjoy this; this is because it is a very way for me to communicate with people without using words. As well as this, the amount of historical and current influences that inspire my work is vast, I enjoy combining influences to create a mixed piece of design, this may be seen as unconventional and ‘wrong’ but the possibilities within design are endless, as Glaser states “my sense is not to be allergic to style or mores in time”, just my thoughts exactly, I really enjoy combining styles and references.
There are other areas of design which I’m not that keen on, as for example, web design, web design really does interest me, yet frustrates me at the same time because of the careful consideration of code that is needed, despite this though, I understand that the web is booming and will continue to do so, the need for online advertising is currently enormous in any market, I know this and this is an area which I am currently extending my practices on, as web design is very important and influential in the current twenty first century. Web design isn’t the only practice that I feel will continue to grow hugely, the need of branding is getting ever more so diverse along with the use of complex applications for smart phones, smartphones are certainly taking off and such big developments in design have been made in the past five years, the current rate of change in design is rapid, and becoming even more complex each year.
The need of experienced designers who adapt quickly to change and new technologies is extremely important; keeping up with change is definitely a must in the current era. I know that Graphic Design is a very tough business, but being consistent and persistent to work very hard will get me where I want to be.
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