Designer and longtime SVA faculty member Milton Glaser, who recently passed away at the age of 91, left an indelible mark on the American and international visual landscape. It does not, for example, get more iconic than "I ♥ NY." From magazines (New York, The Nation) to logos (Brooklyn Brewery, The Rubin Museum) to cultural touchstones (his Bob Dylan poster, Mad Men), Glaser was a prolific, wide-ranging designer whose work ethic was unmatched. But for all the big-name campaigns and well-known works, there are scores of other projects you might not know that he had a hand in. Here are five pieces—undersung, offbeat, or just kind of fun—from Glaser’s expansive oeuvre.
DC Comics has had a fair share of logo turnover for a brand whose main IP—Superman, for example—is meant to be timeless and iconic. In 1976, Glaser designed what would be DC’s longest-running logo, the classic “DC Bullet” which features off-kilter “DC” letters with four stars, evolving elements of the brand’s past while establishing a fresh identity for the changing media landscape.
The logo came at a time when publisher Jenette Kahn wanted to take the company in a bold, new direction, and Glaser delivered. The "Bullet" made its mark through the Golden Age of DC Comics and was ultimately replaced in 2005. Three new versions have been put out since Glaser’s, which many agree remains the brand’s high-water mark.
Sesame Place Amusement Park
Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Place? When the children's educational play park, located outside of Philadelphia, opened in 1980, it was directly owned by Children’s Television Workshop, the New York City-based nonprofit behind the long-running public television show. Glaser was engaged at CTW for design work between 1981 and ’83, and during that time, he created the park’s logo, a custom typeface, and also contributed to the architectural layout.
“It's an epic project,” says Beth Kleber, head archivist for the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives. “He and his team adapted the Sesame Street characters to be rendered in 2D. They did signage and way-finding, attraction design, restaurant design, you name it.”
Peter, Paul and Mary Logo
In the 1960s, Glaser became well-known for his flamboyant, psychedelia-tinged record covers and posters but even some of the simpler designs had lasting impact. Glaser often worked for friend, famed manager Albert Grossman (Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, The Band); one of Grossman’s clients was the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. While at Push Pin, Glaser designed Peter, Paul and Mary’s first, hugely successful album, including using the typeface Kalligraphia for the band’s name. It became their name-brand typeface, a logotype synonymous with the folk revolution, which the group kept through their 1960s heyday, and ended up deployed in a number a creative ways, from promotional packaging to neon.
In the late 60s, Glaser was hired by MGM as chief designer on the ad campaign for Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s first American film, the counterculture romp, and ultimate box-office bomb, Zabriskie Point (1969).
As writer Kurt Brokaw, then advertising creative director at the studio, tells it, “Glaser worked up a slew of fabulous posters—American flags set aflame by hippie protestors, closeups of police in ominous gas masks, custom-crafted peace symbols hanging between sweating breasts, et al. The one-sheet exploratory comps certainly captured the movie and the era.” Antonioni had a different vision for the film’s marketing, and Glaser’s trippy illustrations became destined for the archives instead.
Elektra, Asylum and Nonesuch Records
Glaser designed for many different facets of the recording industry—eye-catching promotional posters and album covers, but also company logos and brand identities. In 1983, he designed the logo for Elektra Records, as well as its subsidiaries Asylum and Nonesuch.
The Elektra and Nonesuch logos in particular draw on the labels’ rich history, using the twisted end of a a guitar string and bars of musical notations as foundation of their respective designs. During the 1950s and early '60s, Elektra concentrated on folk-music recordings, and was soon one of the first labels to sign acts from the new wave of American psychedelic rock in 1967. In 1964, they launched the best-selling classical budget label Nonesuch, which later became a pioneer in "world music" well before the term had been coined.
Elektra, with Nonesuch in tow, merged with Asylum Records, founded by David Geffen, to become Elektra/Asylum Records in 1972.
Many thanks to Beth Kleber for bringing these to our attention. The Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives, part of the Visual Arts Foundation and housed within the SVA Library, is an unmatched resource for those interested in diving deeper into Glaser’s work—visit them here.