Milton Glaser

Our new Master is no stranger to the world of graphic design; everyone from our team has fallen in love with at least one of his designs and we are honoured to be able to share his wisdom with you.

Milton Glaser (b.1929) is one of the most celebrated graphic designers in the United States. He has had the distinction of one-man-shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Georges Pompidou Center. He was selected for the lifetime achievement award of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum (2004) and the Fulbright Association (2011), and in 2009 he was the first graphic designer to receive the National Medal of the Arts award. As a Fulbright scholar, Glaser studied with the painter, Giorgio Morandi in Bologna, and is an articulate spokesman for the ethical practice of design. In 1974 he founded Milton Glaser, Inc., where he continues to produce a prolific amount of work in many fields of design to this day.

Glaser’s Answers

We asked Milton our “Poster Poster Questions” and this is what he had to say: Well hello everybody whoever you are. I am instructed to answer a series of questions about posters.

1. What does the poster mean to you and why do you design posters?
I usually design posters when I am assigned a poster by an agency or by institution to convey information about an event or an attitude. What it means to me is a little more complex discerned, it means an opportunity to work on a large surface because one of the benefits of working on a poster is that is significantly larger than most of the things you are ever asked to work on in the Graphic Arts field, so it gives you an area to work on that is more like a painting and such, and allows a little more graphic exploration very often.

2. What would you say makes a good poster?
Kind of a general question; I would say memorability, which means you can remember it; clarity and -curiously- mystery at the same time; clarity, ambiguity, mystery all of some kind of relationship to one another. If things are too clear they become uninteresting. If they are too obscure they become unread so you have to somehow in all Graphic Arts problems reconcile the issue of clarity and complication and contradiction. I would say in this case what makes a good poster is your ability to become interested in it.

3. What do you think is the role of the poster on the world today?
The third question is what is the importance of the poster in the world today or it’s role in the world today and I really don’t know. I would suspect that it is to some extent marginal, other methods of communication have become more significant and more powerful. Certainly the electronic world has become more influential than any poster that is posted anywhere. Nevertheless every once in a while a image is created that can only be done on a flat surface simply and graphically that seems to enter into peoples consciousness as well. But to evaluate it’s role in the world today is far beyond my capacity.

4. What is your typical design process for making a poster?
What is my typical design process for making a poster? People are always asking me what is my design process and I do not know what to answer to that. Usually I just go and do it. I mean the way you do your work is by beginning. So you will pick a sheet of paper out and you begin to draw. There is no great mystery to that except before you come to that your mind is already inadvertently or independently has begun to consider what the problem is going to be. So when you begin to actually work on paper or scribble something the mind has already being dealing with the issue before you are even conscious of starting. There is a profound issue there that is not easily reduced to words, so the way I begin…it’s to begin.

5. If you could chose a poster in history as your favourite, which one would it be and why?
You know I don’t know. I don’t have favourite things. I don’t like fishcakes anymore than I like corn. I don’t like things isolated from their context. I don’t have any ideal visual of anything so when people ask me for my favourite there are too many things to love in this world to isolate your interest in a single one of them. So I am afraid I cannot answer that question. There are thousands of posters I adore, certainly to different degrees of adoration, but I cannot isolate one for you.

6. What advice would you give to new designers who might want to become poster designers?
Well consider what you want to become. Why parochalize yourself to become a poster designer. Design is a big almost endless activity and to choose a particular piece of it seems small minded. You should do posters because they are part of a entire universe of options that you have as a designer and one of the more interesting ones because of the scale and their relationship to the world of Graphic material and the world of Art; but to isolate your activity to the world of posters, well I don’t think I would do that, and I wouldn’t advise a student to do that. Sorry for that answer.

Thanks for being here with me.