10 Things from Milton Glaser

I came across this list of 10 Things by Milton Glaser, on the art business blog of Barney Davey.  You can also find it on the Milton Glaser website.  I highly suggest that you read his list in its entirety.   In selecting sections from Glaser’s list I left out huge swatches of sage advise and anecdotes for the sake of space.
Milton Glaser’s best known work has been seen by almost everyone on the planet.  Between the Marlboro cigarette package, the FedEx or UPS logos or the I Love New York logo:
It is hard not to like this:
Ten Things I Have Learned
Part of an AIGA Talk in London

1
YOU CAN ONLY WORK FOR PEOPLE THAT YOU LIKE.

2. IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE NEVER HAVE A JOB.

3. SOME PEOPLE ARE TOXIC AVOID THEM.
… the important thing that I can tell you is that there is a test to determine whether someone is toxic or nourishing in your relationship with them. Here is the test: You have spent some time with this person… Whether you are tired or whether you are exhilarated. If you are more tired then you have been poisoned. If you have more energy you have been nourished. The test is almost infallible and I suggest that you use it for the rest of your life.

4. PROFESSIONALISM IS NOT ENOUGH or THE GOOD IS THE ENEMY OF THE GREAT.
…what professionalism means in most cases is diminishing risks… “please do it in the way that has worked in the past”.  …when you are doing something in a recurring way to diminish risk or doing it in the same way as you have done it before, it is clear why professionalism is not enough. After all, what is required in our field, more than anything else, is the continuous transgression. Professionalism does not allow for that because transgression has to encompass the possibility of failure and if you are professional your instinct is not to fail, it is to repeat success. So professionalism as a lifetime aspiration is a limited goal.

5. LESS IS NOT NECESSARILY MORE.
‘Just enough is more.’

6. STYLE IS NOT TO BE TRUSTED.
I think this idea first occurred to me when I was looking at a marvelous etching of a bull by Picasso. It was an illustration for a story by Balzac called The Hidden Masterpiece. It is a bull that is expressed in 12 different styles going from very naturalistic version of a bull to an absolutely reductive single line abstraction and everything else along the way. What is clear just from looking at this single print is that style is irrelevant. In every one of these cases, from extreme abstraction to acute naturalism they are extraordinary regardless of the style… If you are around for a long time as a(an artist), you have an essential problem of what to do. I mean, after all, you have developed a vocabulary, a form that is your own. It is one of the ways that you distinguish yourself from your peers, and establish your identity in the field. How you maintain your own belief system and preferences becomes a real balancing act. The question of whether you pursue change or whether you maintain your own distinct form becomes difficult.

7. HOW YOU LIVE CHANGES YOUR BRAIN.
The brain is the most responsive organ of the body. Actually it is the organ that is most susceptible to change and regeneration of all the organs in the body… the brain is susceptible, in a way that we are not fully conscious of, to almost every experience of our life and every encounter we have…That is why your mother always said, ‘Don’t hang out with those bad kids.’ Mama was right. Thought changes our life and our behavior. I also believe that drawing works in the same way. I am a great advocate of drawing, not in order to become an illustrator, but because I believe drawing changes the brain in the same way as the search to create the right note changes the brain of a violinist. Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.

8. DOUBT IS BETTER THAN CERTAINTY.
Everyone always talks about confidence in believing what you do. I remember once going to a class in yoga where the teacher said that, spirituality speaking, if you believed that you had achieved enlightenment you have merely arrived at your limitation. I think that is also true in a practical sense. Deeply held beliefs of any kind prevent you from being open to experience, which is why I find all firmly held ideological positions questionable…. solving any problem is more important than being right. There is a significant sense of self-righteousness in both the art and design world. Perhaps it begins at school. Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture. The theory of the avant garde is that as an individual you can transform the world, which is true up to a point. One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty. Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise.

9. ON AGING.
Last year someone gave me a charming book by Roger Rosenblatt called ‘Ageing Gracefully’ I got it on my birthday. I did not appreciate the title at the time but it contains a series of rules for ageing gracefully. The first rule is the best. Rule number one is that ‘it doesn’t matter.‘ ‘It doesn’t matter what you think. Follow this rule and it will add decades to your life.

10. TELL THE TRUTH.

 


{A joke}:  A butcher was opening his market one morning and as he did a rabbit popped his head through the door. The butcher was surprised when the rabbit inquired ‘Got any cabbage?’ The butcher said ‘This is a meat market – we sell meat, not vegetables.’ The rabbit hopped off. The next day the butcher is opening the shop and sure enough the rabbit pops his head round and says ‘You got any cabbage?’ The butcher now irritated says ‘Listen you little rodent I told you yesterday we sell meat, we do not sell vegetables and the next time you come here I am going to grab you by the throat and nail those floppy ears to the floor.’ The rabbit disappeared hastily and nothing happened for a week. Then one morning the rabbit popped his head around the corner and said ‘Got any nails?’ The butcher said ‘No.’ The rabbit said ‘Ok. Got any cabbage?’


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2 Responses to 10 Things from Milton Glaser

  1. Terry Rose says:

    Hey Michael,
    I had the opportunity to meet Glaser at the Int’l Design Conference in Aspen back in the late 70’s-early 80’s. I have always been a fan. Once, while working on an important design project for a new client in San Francisco, I lost confidence in my presentation and even though the client approved it, I instead “copied” a figurative silhouette style of Milton’s. I lost the project and the client. Obviously, I never forgot it.

    As an exercise, or diversion, experimenting with another artist’s way of working; dragging paint ala Richter; portraiture ala Hockney, etc. can be fun. Do you ever suggest it to your students?

    Terry

    • mbwilsonart says:

      Hi Terry;

      Thanks for the comment. I do have students copy from (reproductions of) master’s works. Not just the style of the master, but to analyze their strategies for composing, distribution of lights and darks, particular kinds of brushwork or mark-making, that kind of thing. I also try to distinguish between exercises to help them develop skill-sets and exercises to help them develop their own sensibilities and creative processes.

      Michael

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