The night before I attended this sold out lecture at the beautiful Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum I read that Milton Glaser was awarded the 2009 National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama. Glaser is the first graphic designer to receive this medal, the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. Other 2009 award winners include Bob Dylan and Clint Eastwood.
Reading about Glaser’s recent recognition gave me, as I am sure others, deep hope to one day be a great designer; he truly is a design hero. I was even more thrilled to be able to attend his event. I had wanted for so long to hear Milton Glaser speak, to finally put a voice to his friendly face. March 2nd 2010 was the day I could solidly check that wish off my to-do list. Sitting in an astoundingly small room for such a magnitude of greatness, I stood all night watching his every facial expression. Chip Kidd surprisingly nervous even with his obvious preparation, played the part as interviewer and added humorous tidbits here and there – which I was hoping for.
Mr. Glaser was posed, gentle and patient. A wise man filled with experience, life, good humor and still, a strong passion for his profession. This was a heart thrilling experience for me as I stood attentive and smiling in the darkness. He was classic talking about the little things like color, playfulness and desire. He explains that art exists because we need it for survival, that this is why art is present in all cultures. He continued to say, thought is energy, and energy is transmittable and that art transmits energy because it forces us to be attentive. Art powers us to pay attention to the world around us and we can not exist without it. He points out along with work samples, that this is greater than just looking, that you have to work to “see,” to realize what is really in front of us. Work = Attentiveness = Art and that one does not exist without the other. I quote him with saying, “beauty is the cheap trick for us to discover what is real.”
The audience brings up questions I’m sure Glaser’s has heard before, a woman asking him if he minds people using his famous I (heart) NY logo. He answers, when your work is copied it is the one true way to know that it’s actually been seen. A respectable emotion to have in the world of copyright infringement. He humorously adds that he is wondering when his NY logo will finally go away.
Glaser later goes into talking about the power within all of us; an extensive knowledge we all have but don’t know we inhabit. None of us are fully aware of our own capacity and how we never know what we are able to accomplish. And lastly, he added, “opportunity is in every project you get”. A good quote to end on, inspirational and encouraging because you never know what work of yours will finally be “seen”.
With no thoughts of retirement, look for Glaser’s most recent work to appear on shelves near you; a food product line for Fairway Market. Fairway has intentions of expanding to 16 stores and to Connecticut.