Resolution Color: A Little Help From Milton Glaser

In an attempt to add more color to my life, I finally took the time to frame and hang a poster that I received one year ago. It is Milton Glaser’s iconic poster for Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, 1975. It is colorful, psychodelic and was signed by Milton Glaser himself after I attended his Summer Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

For the non-designers out there, Milton Glaser is a design icon. He is best known for co-founding New York Magazine and for creating the sustainable “I Love NY” logo.

Unrolling his poster one year later allowed me to look back and reflect upon my time with him with fresh eyes. Everything Mr. Glaser said throughout the week was insightful, thought-provoking and inspiring.

Unfortunately, I never passed along the lessons that I learned. How selfish of me! Luckily, I have a blog now. A means to share his insight with you all.

So, here they are. The Top 7 Things I learned from Milton Glaser:

7. “Only work for people you like.” Enough said.

6. “Design is not about appearance. It is about effectiveness.” First and foremost, design has purpose. Good design puts order and clarity above looking pretty.

5. “What you think is accomplishable determines what you will accomplish.” One of our assignments (which I will keep a secret, as requested by Mr. Glaser) seemed too large to bear. However, Milton assured us that in years past, no one had ever failed. After we finished, exhausted from staying up all night, Mr. Glaser told the group, “When I told you yesterday that no one had ever failed, that may not have been true. But the reason you could do it was because I convinced you you could. I changed your perception of what you thought was possible.” A great lesson for everyone: If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t.

4. “You develop personally by stumbling into things you don’t know how to do.” If you only do things you already know how to do, you won’t grow. Profession does not encourage development.

3. “Passivity doesn’t get you anywhere.” In a hypothetical conversation about where I want to be in five years, I mentioned “my Creative Director”. Mr. Glaser stated, “You could be the boss. You don’t have to position yourself as working for someone.” Woah. Then he said, “You have the right to aspire to a life.” It was in that moment that I realized maybe my dreams were too small. I learned to dream bigger, and to write my dreams down. Because writing them down is a commitment, and as Milton told us, “Once you commit to your future, invariably you will move towards that.”

2. “Every person is either toxic or nourishing to you.” Milton Glaser first heard this theory from Fritz Perls, a gestalt therapist. Milton Glaser recommended testing this theory by spending an hour with someone. Then, by deciding if you are more or less energized. If you are tired or less energized, that person is toxic to you. Don’t waste your time with toxic people. Spend time with people who nourish and invigorate your life.

And my favorite of them all:

1. “As soon as you pay attention to anything, it becomes astonishing.” This world is full of incredible things. Pay attention to them. Enjoy them. Don’t be unconscious. We live in the most amazing universe possible.

As you can see, Milton Glaser is an incredibly insightful man. I feel lucky to have been in his presence.

At the end of the program, he stated, “I hope this class makes you feel more powerful”. It did.

I hope this blog post can do something similar for you.

If this post has intrigued you, I highly recommend checking out the documentary, “Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight”

So tell me, which lesson is your favorite?

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6 Comments on “Resolution Color: A Little Help From Milton Glaser”

  1. Bryan Mendez says:

    Susan, what delight to have read this and see what you took from the workshop. It truly was and is an experience that I will never forget, and your blog post just teleported me back there. Thank you!
    -Bryan Mendez

    Always remember…”Do good work”.

  2. Bob Stocki says:

    I too appreciate how you summarized your (our) experience at the Glaser workshop. What’s interesting to me is comparing your reactions to mine, as I am nearing the end of my career and you are near the beginning. For me, the experience was affirming while still inspiring. I hope all of you keep these inspirations close to your heart throughout the years. If anything, we should have a 5-year reunion to see how close we are to the predictions we made on the last day.

    + Bob Stocki, Milwaukee

  3. Hi Susan, it was a very memorable experience for me. And something I took from it more than anything was – only work for people you like.


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