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Milton glaser essay - SlideShare
Stylistically, the book borrows both consciously and unconsciously from many sources: Ancient Egyptian friezes, unusual films such as and , the work of other illustrators such as Ralph Steadman, Milton Glaser, Gerald Scarfe and some Australian landscape painters; Arthur Streeton, Fred Williams and Brett Whiteley. The list goes on; ultimately I am influenced by anything that seems interesting to me, whether it’s a painting in a gallery or the pattern of plumbing on the wall behind my local supermarket. My own personal style of drawing, painting and thinking visually emerges from all of these, not to mention innumerable other experiences.
Milton Glaser has spent the better part of his long and illustrious design career teaching. He began 42 years ago and has seen student attitudes, styles, and tools change significantly since then. Through it all, though, Glaser's moral and ethical standards have remained unchanged. He continues to teach at the School of Visual Arts, in New York, where his keen cultural insights continue to inspire new generations of designers.
On students today:
"Earlier generations were more concerned about beauty and aesthetics, about accomplishing extraordinary things. Around twenty years ago a change occurred when the concern shifted to a vocational line. Everybody was thinking about how to make more money. Now, in the face of a struggling economy, there's been a return to beauty and excellence. But professional life doesn't seem enough for them. The prospect of building a business, making a good living, and having your work in the art director's show still leaves them with a sense of vacancy. They want to feel that what they're doing has a larger purpose. We all have to make a living, all want to be esteemed by our colleagues. But at a certain point you want it to add up to something bigger. Young people now are searching for something."
On artists and educators:
"There's a wonderful book called The Gift, where an anthropologist talks about a custom in one society where gifts are exchanged, but they cannot be kept. They have to be passed on. The idea behind it is that everyone involved in that process--either receiving the gift or passing it on--becomes engaged in a relationship. If you give something to someone, they have a relationship to you. They pass it onto someone else, and that person also has a relationship to you. For me, artists and educators perform this function in society, creating what I would call a receptiveness to community."
On the lost art of drawing:
"It seems to be coming back. Why? From a visual point of view, drawing is the most fundamental way of understanding the world in front of you. There is nothing more direct. It is the way you understand what you're looking at. I always tell students that when I look at someone and think, 'I have to draw that person,' I'm seeing them for the first time. The physiological act of drawing makes you conscious of the visual world. And in pragmatic terms, when you want to show something--How about this idea?--if you can't draw, then you're always using pre-existing material. This is a kind of built-in difficulty. You're always looking for stuff that already exists to demonstrate what it is you want to do. Clearly that's not the best way to start anything."
On "isms" and doctrines:
"In terms of beauty, I never understood why designers felt they had to believe in anything. Because one lesson of history is, even the most contradictory movements turn out to be beautiful. You can't trust style. It's only a device for encoding material in a certain form, so why develop a sense of allegiance? It's a kind of design fundamentalism. I mean, the old slogan 'Less is more' was bullshit. What does that mean? Sometimes less is more; sometimes less is less. A Persian rug is not less beautiful than a solid-color rug."
Martin Pedersen: You talked about how students today are searching for meaning, calling it "a return to beauty and excellence." That's a significant cultural shift, which touches on that constant struggle between design and business, art and business. How do you teach that mediation?
Milton Glaser: I try not to be overly ideological about teaching, but I believe that thinking about the consequences of your work-the issue of ethics-is essential. Since we're specifically involved in the transmission of cultural ideas-ideas about value-then we have to examine the meaning of what we're proposing to our students. So I try to suggest that a designer's role is one in which we have to be at least conscious of the consequences of what we transmit to others.
MP: How do you do that in a class setting?
MG:I do it by raising the question-what is ethics in design?-and then opening up the conversation. I try to keep the discussion Socratic, so everybody has to question. I did this piece for AIGA on the "12 Steps to Hell" that was an articulation of something I had been thinking about for a long time. In class I ask: Where would you draw the line? What would you be willing to do? The issue is not about telling people what they should be doing, but rather trying to make people conscious of what they're doing. There's a difference. And what you hope will happen is that a consciousness develops which relates what you do to the society around you. It's a very old-fashioned idea: what you do has an effect on the world you live in. And if you're concerned about the state of the world, there is no escape from the fact that you're participating in it.
MP: Are students receptive to that?
MG:Very much so. I'm always surprised by the degree of acceptance. On the other hand, I'm also surprised that there are some students who when you ask them if they would knowingly participate in an activity or an advertising that might cause someone's death they say, yes, they would be willing to do it. That is a shocking thing, but often professional life has this kind of outline to it, where you don't question the consequences of things. You simply do your job. And doing your job means following directions. If you have a cigarette account, you work on the cigarette account.
MP: Right, but most projects and products fall into a much grayer zone.
MG:Of course. The reason that questions of ethics are difficult to deal with is because they're often ambiguous. There's no great, clear answer to these things. So much of it is simply a matter of individual consciousness, a perception of your own role in life.
MP: How does that transmit itself to questions of form? Or are these issues separate from form?
MG:Over the last 15 or 20 years I've been collecting African art, and I'm very interested in African culture. One of the great things that the Africans observe is that although they may not have a word for art, they have a word for beauty. The word for beauty is often the word for good; the idea of the good and the idea of the beautiful are linked together by the language. And I've always believed that the idea of beauty and the idea of aesthetics are very much linked to a social benefit. That the species couldn't survive without art, because art is a kind of mediating device in human culture. People need it to survive.
MP: Why do you teach?
MG:I enjoy teaching. I love the act of being in front of a class. It makes me feel good. I have no other reason to teach. If I didn't look forward to it, I wouldn't do it anymore. But I find it gives me a lot of energy and makes me feel useful. For a large part of my life, feeling useful has been a dominate characteristic of what rewards me, whether it's teaching or making things or being socially active.
MP: Let's talk about drawing. You've always been somebody whose brain is wired to your hand. There's now been a whole generation, and even a second generation, who have been much less wedded to that. Are you sensing a return to the hand?
MG:I think so. There is no greater instrument for understanding the visual world than the hand and a pencil, because the idea of creating or recreating form produces a different neurological pattern than using a computer to find things. To understand the meaning of form-what a shape is, what an edge is, what space is-there's nothing more instructive than the act of drawing. Why has it been abandoned? Partially it's been given up because it's so difficult-and also the advent of modernism introduced a whole new set of values that were not necessarily useful (some of them were, some of them were not). But like every set of principles you had to pick your way through them. Still the physiological act of trying to represent the world through drawing is enormously instructive.
MP: Can drawing be taught?
MG:You can teach anyone to draw in a representational way. You cannot teach anyone to draw expressively. But you can set the stage for it. There are different kinds of drawing. Drawing for understanding is different than the drawing for demonstration. People also confuse drawing with illustration. Or think that the only people that have to learn to draw in this era are people who want to illustrate.
MP: If you could change one fundamental thing about the way design is taught, what would it be?
MG:I would change the perception of the purpose of design that is deeply imbedded in design education. Because it's linked to art, design is often taught as a means as expressing yourself. So you see with students, particularly young people, they come out with no idea that there is an audience. The first thing I try to teach them in class is you start with the audience. If you don't know who you're talking to, you can't talk to anybody.
MP: So how is an audience different from a client?
MG:There are usually three participants: a client, a designer, and an audience. Each of them has different needs. What you hope to achieve is an integration of all those needs. The client needs to sell more of his biscuits; the designer wants to do something fresh and original that also sells his biscuits; and the audience wants to feel that what you tell them about the biscuits is significant and will move them to action. So they're three legs of the stool. What you try to do is get a little bit for everybody. To some degree the reconciliation of ethics, beauty and purpose is just one thing. The game is how you reconcile what some may see as contradictory impulses and make that all come together in a singular response to the problem.
MP: You've talked a lot about clients and how your best work has always been with people you actually like. Is this still true for you?
MG:Yes. In continuing relationships with clients the only way that you can accomplish anything is by a sense of affection, by having a client like and trust you, and vice versa. Otherwise you beat your way up hill each time. You have to respect your client, your client has to respect you. But beyond respect, what you want to feel is that you can go out to lunch with somebody and have a nice time without thinking about your business.
MP: Is that the sort of invisible glue that holds it together even when you're not working on the project?
MG:I think it is. It's very chemical. People just like each other. I can't do good work with people I don't like. And now, increasingly, I get very unhappy if I have to work with people I don't like, even if I'm professionally interested in solving their problem. I just find I'm not working on all cylinders.
MP: How do you answer the student who says, "That's easy for you to do, you're Milton Glaser"?
MG:I've done it all my life. And it is easier for me to say. I don't know if I'd say it if I was totally desperate, out on the street, and had a child to send to school. I don't know what I would do, because that's not the life I lead. But it is pretty much what I've always done. Incidentally, even though some people feel like they don't have choices about it, designers usually have more choices about projects than they think. I think you'll find a lot of very good practitioners who live their life that way.
MP: We've all been trying to figure out where we are in graphic design now. It was clearer in the early '90s when David Carson was making all the text unreadable that we were in that moment. I don't know what moment we're in now. You see a lot of student work that copies what's out there. What are you seeing at the moment?
MG:There's a lot of stuff going on. I'm not sure there's a mainstream in design, because we have access to all of history. There is a tremendous awareness of how to do things that didn't exist in the beginning of the field. The field has become closer to-post-modern isn't the word I want to use-to the idea that you can be more eclectic. You don't have to be completely ideological.
MP: A lot of modernism was quite ideological.
MG:Very much so, but that was also a misunderstanding of modernism. The ideology was one manifestation of modernism. After all, modernism started with art nouveau. The modernist movement had nothing to do with geometry or Swiss grids or anything else. But one of the things about it was, speaking educationally, it was easy to teach. All forms that can be codified and simplified and made academic are easy to teach. So everyone picked up on that, and it was very hip for a while to be speaking this new language. But it turned out to be not always true.
MP: You're allowed a public role as a designer, but then you can still draw as an artist.
MG:I'm doing a wall for the Rubin Museum in SoHo. It has something to do with drawing, but it's far removed from drawing. It has something to do with graphic design, but it's a step away from graphic design.
MP: Students today seem drawn to that kind of multi-disciplinary approach.
MG:I think they like the idea, but one cannot overstate the difficulty involved in it. The nature of professional life is to keep you limited in what you do-for you to specialize. That's the way you develop a reputation. It's the professional path. You get to be the best within the category. You get known for something. It's very hard to switch around, because people don't like to be confused about what it is you do. The professional criteria does not encourage you to broaden your practice. So while a lot of people call themselves generalists, what they really mean is they're in marketing. So it's not easy. Also, people are not necessarily disposed to doing more than one thing. Some people do one thing, some do a lot of things. It's the old hedgehog and fox argument. The only thing you have to watch out for is that you're not a hedgehog working as a fox, or a fox working as a hedgehog.
Henride Toulousse-Lautrec and Milton Glaser Essay
The illustration used on the cover for is a particularly good example of developing imagery from reference sources. It is based on a 19th century painting of Cook’s first landing at Botany Bay, a colour reproduction of which I found in an old encyclopaedia. The arrangement of figures striding ashore from left to right is mirrored by the rabbit figures, with similar clothing, flag and gun; two Aborigines on a distant dune in the original painting have been replaced by two marsupial animals. There are similar lighting and atmospheric effects at work, although quite exaggerated, and the use of oils on canvas with thin yellow glazes emulates the technique used in paintings of the period.
There would be too many influences to list exhaustively, but some things that came to mind when working on Rabbits include Ralph Steadman's whiplash drawings for "Alice" and the political cartoons of Gerald Scarfe (of Pink Floyd's "The Wall"); Peter Max’s "Yellow Submarine", as you mentioned, which I saw only recently, the work of American designer/illustrator Milton Glaser, Michael Leunig's metaphorical soul-scapes, Reg Mombassa's strangely familiar suburbs, and Terry Gilliam's use of juxtaposed realities and anachronism. Obviously surrealists such as De Chirico and Ernst enter somewhere, as with Australian artists such as Streeton, Williams, Olsen, Whiteley, Nolan, Boyd, Smart and Drysdale, whose paintings communicate in different ways with my own experience of a landscape that's both lyrical and ambiguous, and epic in proportion.
View Milton Glaser Essay from GD 200 at DePaul
Milton Glaser does not like the computer. On some level, it's understandable for Glaser to feel this way, since he did most of his work before the digital revolution was even a science fiction fantasy.
So what if he doesn't like the computer? Why should designers care about what Milton Glaser thinks?
Because Milton Glaser's name should be as familiar to graphic designers as Norman Mailer's is to writers. The scope and breadth of Glaser's work is still very much a starting point for most modern commercial and graphic design today. As one of the founders of the famous Pushpin Studio, the man who defined a generation of graphic design with the famous 1966 Bob Dylan poster, and the inventor of "I (Heart) New York," Milton Glaser's design sense and accomplishments make him someone whom designers cannot ignore.
Glaser is known not only for his intelligent design but also for his illustration and drawing technique. His combination of graphical elements with well-informed and well-schooled illustration talents are evident in a majority of the work on display in his new book Art Is Work. An excellent 272-page overview of a large part of Milton Glaser's talent, the $70 book is comprehensive, with Glaser's own annotations on each project.
Macworld spoke with Milton Glaser recently, covering everything from his time as a Fulbright scholar studying with Bolognese painter Giorgio Morandi to his design work. But the main topic was Glaser's apparent disdain for technology. "Technophobia is deeply engrained into my personality," he says.
Glaser disapproves of the computer as a primary design tool. This stems from his view that current college curricula lack any required art history or drawing programs. "The idea of drawing as a discipline that is necessary for the practice of design has just about vanished," he says.
Glaser has taught many designers over the years. But the decade of digital dominance has changed the environment of design -- and it's changed teaching, as well.
"In teaching [today], I've found that students have absolutely no idea, or any ability of any kind to represent their ideas through drawing . . . the imperative to draw has vanished," Glaser says.
The Milton Glaser Studio is not, however, an isolated relic from the predigital past. The New York-based studio has computers. The handful of designers he currently has in the studio use Macs "because they're the standard of the industry," Glaser says.
But Glaser himself doesn't use computers. He draws, with a pen, brush, and paper. The students and designers Glaser regards highly "develop ideas before they go to the computer, and then they go to the computer at a point which the idea has been tested."
Lack of Fuzziness
"Nothing bothers me about the computer," says Glaser, who finds digital tools "a very useful part of what I do after I work through ideas."
But Glaser believes digital design suffers from what he calls a "lack of fuzziness."
"The difference between the brain and the computer has to do with the way the brain works by maintaining its fuzziness," Glaser says. "You do a sketch -- which is why, incidentally, I think that drawing is essential -- and the brain examines the sketch and modifies it. The brain then thinks of another idea. And then you do another sketch, which is still fuzzy, and there's a response on the part of the brain, and you move in a series of steps toward clarification. The maintenance of ambiguity is a central part of how the brain works."
Some designers would disagree. While it's true that digital tools allow virtually limitless repetitions and speed, the ambiguity Glaser believes has vanished is more a matter of knowing what to see and what to look at on the monitor. It's the same as when you work with pencil in hand. Some could argue that drawing is 70 percent looking and 30 percent drawing. The same applies to working on the computer; the ideas come from the same place, and the ambiguity on the screen is still there. It's just a matter of knowing the tools better.
Weak Ideas, Well-Developed
Glaser disagrees. "The problem with the computer is that when you go on the computer, everything has to be made clear too quickly," he says. "And so the essential part of the developmental dialectic disappears. The greatest liability to the computer is that a lot of weak ideas are very well developed. The computer clarifies things too quickly."
Still, Glaser concedes that this may be a generational thing -- that he doesn't understand the tools the digital generation has grown up with. After all, any time someone comes up with a new tool -- a sharper brush, a better application -- anyone entrenched in their ways will scoff. Change may be an essential part of our makeup, but it's not always welcome.
You might like to argue with Glaser, try to coerce him to pick up a Wacom tablet and explore Painter 6. Maybe teach an old dog new tricks. But if you spend time going through Art Is Work, you'll quickly realize that it would be in vain because Milton Glaser's personal feelings about technology are really an aside. His body of work sustains itself in its own truth and, in some cases, even belies his arguments. Art is Work features several examples from a competition to design the newspaper of the future. Glaser's innovative graphic layout attempted to "do the entire day's news on two sides of a single sheet of paper" -- a vision that he notes was "made irrelevant" by the Internet. But Glaser's attempts at an analog paper bear a striking resemblance to the Internet-based news sites that exist today.
What has replaced drawing "is this idea of assembling material, a collage sensibility," Glaser says. But his work is partially responsible for the collagist's popularity and domination of design. Milton Glaser's work laid the foundation for the current direction of graphic design, not to say that there is only one particular direction, because there isn't.
Designers now have an ever-widening expanse of choices and tools to help them. Sometimes there are too many choices and too many tools. Designers can get caught up in the power and speed of the software, rather than slowing down and concentrating on the particular design problem at hand.
In this way, having too many choices and tools can sometimes be positive or negative for designers. Glaser's argument seems to be that the single good, well-thought-out idea and design is worth a thousand slick but shallow ones.
Although Glaser could not foresee the vast changes that have occurred in the industry over the past decade, some of the work depicted in his book made attempts at achieving the multiplicity and multitasking that we now enjoy. Still, Glaser's not happy about it.
"Culture is defined as much by what is prohibited as [by] what is accepted. But the Internet prohibits nothing," he says.
"We're all either victims or participants in our times," he adds. Within those parameters, his disavowal of the digital design methodology may just make him a voluntary victim. But what Glaser may not realize is that in this environment of assemblage and collage, even being a victim can be participatory. What was a piece of flotsam at one time is often an intrinsic part of new and good composition later on and vice versa.
Designers are by definition both victims and participants, defining and being defined by their times. Milton Glaser reminds us that even the newest ideas must have a basis in the threads of history and sustain themselves in the continuity of truth. After all, the tools you use should only be recognized as extensions of talent and insight -- not as replacements.
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