Interview with Milton Glaser
Intro: Today, I have the pleasure to chat with a famous American graphic designer, Milton Glaser. He designed plenty of posters that were published on New York magazine and newspapers. Now let’s welcome Mr. Glaser. (cheers)
Q: Hello, Mr. Glaser. My name is Wing Lin, and today I am going to interview you about your working experience and the inspiration behind your art pieces. Nice to meet you. You look good in your black suit today!
A: Nice to meet you too, and thanks for your praising.
Q: Alright, how about we start with your personal experience of drawing. How old did you start to paint? And what kinds of motivation that leads you to become a graphic designer?
A: When I was a child, I liked drawing very much. In New York, my mother would spend a lot of time with me on drawing. I think that’s where I started my art career. In my high school, I decided to continue my interest so that I could improve my painting skills. I graduated from Cooper Union school where I realized that I loved painting and I wanted it to be my major throughout my entire life. Therefore, I went to Italy to study printmaking and graphic design from 1952 to 1953. The motivation is only my immortal passion of art, which gives me great spiritual support.
Q: I know there is always a reason behind when you kept doing something and you did a good job at it. So what happened while you are studying in Italy? Did that experience effect your art career or what did you learn during that period?
A: I did learn a lot. Especially I had been influenced by one of my friends that I met in Italy. His name is Giorgio Morandi, and he is an Italian painter. Most of his works are very simple and constructive. He usually paints the still life as subject matters, such as boxes and bottles. So now you can see that my style is slightly similar to his works, because I was influence by him and developed my own style.
Q: Yes, I can tell that the feature in your work is simplification. According to one of your graphic poster called “Bob Dylan,” it becomes so popular in today’s society with its exotic and iconic style. Can you tell us the story behind that art piece? How did you come up this unique style?
A: Sure. When I received the commission from the record company, which is asking me to design the cover of Bob Dylan’s newest album called Greatest Hits, I felt excited and nervous. Bob Dylan is a successful songwriter. It is my pleasure to be his album designer. However, since Bob Dylan was badly injured in a motorcycle accident, everyone would unconsciously feel depressed when Bob Dylan was mentioned. Therefore, I hope my design can avoid the viewers feel sad or depressed about Bob Dylan. Those negative expression is not what I want to indicate in the album design. Then I came up the ideas of using a mass of saturated colours to evoke visual vibration. Also, it is effective to catch the viewers’ attention when they look at the cover, because it is not only saturated colors on the portrait’s hair, but also a great contrast between the black face and white background.
Q: But how did you come up the idea of depicting Bob Dylan’s profile instead of illustrating him in realistic representation?
A: I don’t know whether you heard about Marcel Duchamp or not. His self-portrait is only a simple shadow of his side face, outlining the shapes of nose and mouth. I was influenced by him, so that I only use black and white to outline Bob Dylan’s profile. I don’t want to depict him in details, because it might cause a wrong attention. I want this graphic poster to capture the essence feeling of Bob Dylan himself and his music. An abstract profile of Bob Dylan can represent him and also give some spaces to the viewers to imagine. I think it is effective to convey the feeling of how people think about Bob Dylan and his music. What do you think?
Q: Of course, I agree that it is better to depict it in this way rather than illustrating him in a descriptive and complicated way. Thanks for your time today and I hope we can meet next time. See you.
Glaser, Milton. “Milton Glaser. Dylan. 1966 | MoMA.” The Museum of Modern Art, 2016, www.moma.org/collection/works/8108.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Milton Glaser.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 27 May 2016, www.britannica.com/biography/Milton-Glaser.
Eskilson, Stephen J. Graphic Design: a New History. Yale University Press, 2012.