Milton Glaser is one of the most free-thinking and groundbreaking graphic designers of all time. He speaks poetically, with wit and perspective, but don’t just take our word for it…
If you understand what Art does, which is basically to make you more attentive, that’s what Art does: it makes you more attentive. In the presence of Art you become more aware of what is real. Right? Because that is a survival tool. You better know, as a species, what is real if you want to survive. So in the same way as meditational Buddhist practice teaches you not to pre-judge things, Art is a place where the possibility for understanding what you’re looking at exists. Design is something else. Design has no such elevated purpose in it’s own aspect.
So what you want to do, as it seems to me, and what I have always wanted to do in my life is see whether I could introduce an occasional idea about art, which was not about form, but always about experience.
Whether that in the presence of something I did, somebody would become more attentive. And that has been a good rule for me. And in the thing that I did, I used a quote from Cicero, which is to inform and delight. The purpose of art is to inform and delight. And that is a fabulous definition. And so as a designer who is conscious of the effect of your work, you don’t want to make more merchandise necessarily, or at least you wouldn’t want to design the contentious stuff. But ultimately if you want to have a larger framework, and to the experience of looking at what you do if somebody becomes more attentive you have done something significant. And you have not been caught in the inevitable trap that we all have to get trapped into terribly. You know, 21st century capitalism. That the meaning of life is about selling a lot of stuff so that you can make more money. It’s very hard to resist that inevitably because we all have to have a practice to live our life. But if you don’t think of that as your highest aim, occasionally you can do something else.
That’s everything I know, just to let you know… (laughter)
I think (many) intelligent books are on anthropology, and brain structure, and the nature of society. The thing is that it is all outside of our professional life. Most of it is. You know, it’s all about the other things. More and more it’s understanding about what human beings mean to each other.
What happens is you get very professionalized and read only things that relate to your profession. The more interesting thing is to see how everything relates to it. You know there are no independent acts. So, you start reading these things about behavior and you learn more about what design can do, then a book on Industrial design. I mean the most interesting part is how the brain works, and what it responds to that’s the most useful thing. But you have to understand how to integrate it and how to pull it into your understanding and how it informs your professional work.
There’s nothing to be of any danger of, because nobody can predict what’s next. A trail of events could change everything overnight, and the pursuit of what’s next is essentially career anxiety. You think if you know what’s next, you’ll be able to anticipate what’s going to happen and you can prepare for it and take advantage of it. It’s nonsense. If you understood the nature of the human brain, you’ll be prepared for what’s next.
Well, I guess I have a process, (and) my process depends on doing the work. I mean, I sit and I can do it, and I just get to it. At this point, I would say that I work very fast because I don’t have an idea that process is supposed to take any time. And since I believe that I really know everything I need to know, it’s all there, I can access it all very quickly because I don’t think it takes time. And I don’t think it’s difficult
Everything you believe is true. And if you believe it’s difficult it’s difficult. If you believe it’s easy, it’s easy. So experientially I just have access to my experience.
Somebody once said to me, that when you see some one working they produce a lot of heat. You know that they’re doing it wrong because heat is the manifestation of resistance. And when you see somebody working and it’s easy, you know they’re doing it right because they’re just doing it and they’re forgetting this idea of resistance being a necessary part of the process. If you don’t think it is, it disappears.
Well a simple expression of it is suspend belief. Don’t believe anything. Only observe what is. I say this everyday, at least once, “Belief is the closing of the mind.” So you have to be very careful of what you believe. And if you don’t believe and you just observe, there are great benefits.