June 27 (UPI) — Milton Glaser, a graphic designer remembered for brightly colored posters, magazines, book covers and record sleeves — and the iconic “I NY” logo — died on Friday, his 91st birthday.
According to Glaser’s wife, Shirley, he died of a stroke, but had also suffered from renal failure.
Glaser also made his mark in publishing as part of a small team that reinvented the Sunday edition of the recently-defunct New York Herald Tribune as New York magazine.
“If they’re talented and they’re lucky, designer-artist-creators get to lob an icon out into the larger culture – Leo Fender’s Stratocaster guitar, say, or Shepard Fairey’s Obama poster. If they’re great, maybe they create two. Milton Glaser, though, operated on another plane – he just kept hitting the bull’s-eye, again and again, throughout his seven decades as an illustrator, graphic designer, art director, and visual philosopher and paterfamilias,” said the magazine’s obituary for Glaser.
Born in 1929 to Hungarian immigrants, Glaser took drawing classes with Raphael and Moses Soyer, the social realist artists, then enrolled in the High School of Music & Art in Manhattan (now the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts).
He then worked for a package-design company before enrolling at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.
Glaser graduated in 1951 and won a Fulbright scholarship to the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna, Italy
In 1954, Glaser opened Push Pin Studios with several Cooper Union classmates in and launched a promotional publication called the Push Pin Almanack, later renamed Push Pin Monthly Graphic, credited with opening up design to a wider range of influences and styles and grabbing the attention of magazines and advertising agencies.
“We were excited by the very idea that we could use anything in the visual history of humankind as influence,” Glaser said.
For one of his best-known designs, a colorful 1967 poster included in “Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits,” Glaser created an outline of the singer’s head that was inspired by Marcel Duchamp as well as Islamic art.
In 1977 Glaser — working pro bono for the New York State Department of Commerce as part of a campaign to bring tourists to New York State — drew “I NY” in crayon on the back of an envelope in a taxi cab.
He expected the campaign to last just a couple of months.
Instead it became a widely recognized symbol of New York City, enjoying enduring popularity throughout the 1980s and a revival after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks felled the city’s Twin Towers.
“I’m flabbergasted by what happened to this little, simple nothing of an idea,” Glaser said in 2011.