Friday, December 02, 2011

Milton Glaser at Parsons The New School for Design

“The act of making things that move the mind is our deepest aspiration regarding miracles.”

--Milton Glaser

Yesterday evening, legendary graphic designer Milton Glaser spoke to a sold out audience at Parsons The New School for Design’s 450-seat Tishman auditorium. The event was coordinated by AIGIA NY. He was introduced by Steve Doyle of Doyle Partners design studio as a mentor, colleague, and friend.

Glaser took the stage amid thunderous applause to present a slideshow of images taken from his upcoming book, IN SEARCH OF THE MIRACULOUS OR ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER that Overlook will release in February 2012.

Glaser’s book presents examples of his work produced over the last five years—in concept and execution—demonstrating the connectivity of ideas during the design process. One example he displayed is a rug design which he simplified and repurposed for metal panels on a theater bar (image below). Always intrigued by the concept of light and dark, Glaser marveled at the contrast of artificial light suggested by the yellow dot pattern with the areas of reflected light caused by the sloping angles of the bar’s metal panels. This juxtaposition could not exist had the design been translated for textiles as originally intended.

Throughout the evening, Glaser infused his lecture with invaluable advice to current and aspiring design professionals: Be adventurous and fearless enough to abandon ideas and start anew; Give up what you know, pursue ambiguity, embrace failure in order to grow as both an artist and a designer; Always ask, What can I learn tomorrow? rather than focusing on what you accomplished yesterday.

A Q & A session followed the lecture in which Glaser enraptured and amused the crowd with his good humor, insightful answers, and occasional, emphatic one-word answers. A few highlights of the discussion:

Q: What happens when you get stuck on a project? Where do you turn for inspiration?

MG: There is no such thing as getting stuck! It is only the fear and anxiety of starting. Just do work! Begin!

Q: How has your opinion of computers and design changed over the last five years?

MG: The computer is an instrument of the devil. It makes you do what it wants you to do. Computers generalize art. They dominate your consciousness. It can be a useful tool, but I am suspicious of its intentions.

Q: Have you read any good books lately?

MG: [laughing] I haven't read any books lately.

Milton Glaser is an icon in the design world, celebrated worldwide as a mentor, a teacher, a visionary. At 82-years-old, he has an enviable body of work, and is a continual source of inspiration to others. He has had countless awards and honors bestowed upon him. And yet Glaser still regards himself as a humble student, eternally in search of the miraculous.


Milton Glaser has had one-man shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Goerges Pomidou Center. In 2004 he was selected for the lifetime achievement award of the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. His books include Graphic Design, Art is Work, and Drawing is Thinking, all published by Overlook.

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