Milton Glaser: Pop

By Peggy Roalf   Friday March 31, 2023


It would be hard to dispute that the second half of 20th century America was defined by the 1960s and ‘70s. There was a counter-culture within every sector of society—it was not just about hippies and flower power. While the post-war American Dream was promoted by the Mad Men in the ‘50s, through the new medium of TV commercials, it was the anything goes zeitgeist of the 60s, into the early 70s, that informed the kind of advertising that made people want more—largely by being shown how big, fun and shiny most consumer products can be. 

Milton Glaser, whose most famous works are the I Heart New York logo, and the 1966 Bob Dylan poster, was at the helm of a seismic shift about conceptualizing and designing print ads when he and fellow Cooper Union classmates Seymour Chwast and Ed Sorel founded Push Pin Studios. In Milton Glaser: Pop, a new book by Steven Heller, Mirko Ilic and Beth Kleber, the first 20 years of Glaser’s career are the subject, and the rapidly changing ideas about living in America—particularly about living in New York, can be viewed through the lens of his work.


The artists of Push Pin created a look so new and distinctive that it became what could be called a universal style. As stated in the Monacelli press release, “Across thousands of works across all print media, [Glaser] invented a graphic language of bright, flat color in drawings and collages, imbued with his customary wit. In steering away from the sentimentally realistic clichés of the Saturday Evening Post era, and instead creating visual forms that appealed to a new, highly aware audience of mass-media and product consumers, he shaped a popular visual vocabulary to represent a generation, and for culture at large to emulate and liberally sample from.”

In his in-depth review of the book for the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik writes, “There are very few moments in the history of design that have such firm ownership and such overarching influence at the same time. The only comparisons that come to mind are Gerrit Rietveld’s red-yellow-and-blue designs for the Dutch movement De Stijl—which paralleled his friend Piet Mondrian’s experiments in abstraction—and the London Underground posters produced in the nineteen-twenties under the supervision of Frank Pick, many by the American E. McKnight Kauffer, which recast London mass transit as a jaunty, well-ordered socialist utopia. Glaser’s manner was so distinctive that, paradoxically, it could be widely shared: the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” film, from 1968, is often associated with Glaser—wrongly, inasmuch as he was not directly involved; correctly, inasmuch as it was his style that animated the animation. Exactly because that style was so eclectic, it could be almost imitated.” 


A total of 1,100 images are featured in Milton Glaser: Pop (Monacelli/Phaidon 2023) present Glaser’s work across these two decades, from pencil and ink drawing, to painting, monoprint, wood, linocut, pastel and watercolor, including many previously unpublished pieces. The book is co-authored by Steven Heller, an MFA co-chair at the School of Visual Arts where Glaser taught for over 50 years; Beth Kleber, the founding archivist for the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives; and Mirko Ilic, a designer/illustrator, and former collaborator of Glaser’s.

An exhibition of select original works from the book will go on view at SVAs Gramercy Gallery from May 17ththrough June 5thInfo

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