Hello guys! Today’s post is a tad different but extremely special to me. I recently went back to school, namely Graduate school to get my Master’s degree in Media Design, at Full Sail University. In the first course, Mastery: Personal Development and Leadership, we had to write a research paper discussing someone who inspired us and is a master in our desired field. As you can see, I chose the renowned designer Milton Glaser. We had to discuss several things based on our course reading as well. I thought it would be nice to share some of my school journeys with you all for these next twelve months. I will also include a video link at the end which is our turning point video project describing what we want out of this degree program. So, without further ado here is my essay.
Milton Glaser and Me
Milton Glaser is a renowned and celebrated individual in the graphic design community. His contributions to this field are considered the embodiment of American graphic design to this day. Glaser inspires me every day and has proven to be a Master in his field. He co-founded Pushpin Studios, founded New York Magazine with Clay Felker, established Milton Glaser, Inc and has a prolific body of work scoping from iconic logos (i.e. I Love NY & New York Magazine) to graphics and architectural works. (Argent, n.d.) His path like many others did not come easy and takes hard work and hours of trial and error. Milton Glaser has unconsciously, like many Masters before and after him, gone through what Greene (2012) talks about in his book Mastery, The Creative Task, Creative Strategies, namely cultivating negative capability, and a Creative Break Through. It would be preposterous to believe that Glaser never went through an emotional pitfall and after much research, it is clear that he went through a conservatism stage and found a way to overcome that in his rise to Mastery. Lastly, in the reading Santiago Calatrava is profiled as using Natural Powers for his Creative-Active Phase. (Greene, 2102) Calatrava and Glaser have two similarities in their style and way of thinking that make them Masters in their own right.
According to Greene (2012), “Your creative task may not rise to the same obsessive level as it did for Edison, but it must have a degree of this obsessiveness or your efforts will be doomed” (p. 180). Glaser’s path relates to this simply by his tenacious lifestyle. After graduating in 1951 he studied in Italy. Then a few years later he started his own design firm called Push Pin Studio. From that point on he founded other firms, became the art director for New York magazine and designed many iconic designs like the “I Love New York” logo (Milton Glaser, 2017). To accomplish all these tasks and more one must have an obsessive nature toward their path. Glaser never lets up on his path and it has led him to become one of the most well known and respected designers in this field. As Masters move through their creative task their minds tend to narrow. One way to combat that is through cultivating negative capability. Milton always talks about other artists and how they influenced his work. “Truly capable people in all fields can temporarily suspend their ego and simply experience what they are seeing, without the need to assert judgment, for as long as possible” (Greene, 2012, p. 181). This quote from Greene shows how Milton cultivated negative capability. He let go of his ego and experienced art from all over and from other Masters in their field. His biggest inspirations were Picasso and Morandi and he stated in an interview with Holland (n.d.) from Step by Step magazine that, “Picasso and Morandi represent the full range of human artistic possibilities.” He allowed his mind to entertain a wide range of different ideas and used them to make his work richer. There comes a point in every Master’s life when they hit a creative breakthrough. Sometimes a person needs to take a step back from their work. Your work needs to be looked at impartiality to be reworked and improved upon. (Greene, 2012) In researching Glaser’s path, I did not find a direct relation to his creative breakthrough but I found something indirectly related but just as profound. Poynor (2009) of Creative Review stated the following:
Linked to this is Glaser’s commitment to drawing as the most effective means of becoming attentive — always a central purpose of art. Most of the time, he rightly observes, we operate on ‘cruise control’. Only when Glaser draws something does he see it fully and he believes that looking at drawing can help the viewer to become more attentive, too. (para.4)
In this statement, it is shown how this relates to a creative breakthrough. Glaser has to draw his work out in order to fully see his work. Being always on the go or on the computer can narrow one’s way of thinking or make it less exciting. As designers, we need to step back and see our work flat to perfect it better.
Masters in all fields will at some point deal with an emotional pitfall. It can be through complacency, conservatism, dependency, impatience, grandiosity, and inflexibility. (Greene, 2012) It is not stated outright whether Milton Glaser has dealt with any emotional pitfall. But, based on Glaser’s statements in his Ten Things I Have Learned essay and his interview with Step by Step magazine it can be assumed that he has dealt with Conservatism before. Conservatism stops the creative sparks needed in your life to continue on your path to Mastery. Glaser made two significant statements that lead me to see how there was a huge possibility that he fell into this specific emotional pitfall. In his interview with Step by Step, he told Brad Holland (n.d.), “You never lose the fear that you are going to mess up and your whole reputation will be ruined” (para. 30). This leads me to believe that Milton like many other Masters struggled with being fearless in what he did at times but, based on the work he has accomplished it is clear he overcame that fall. Another example is in his Ten Things I Have Learned Essay he talks about how professionalism does not permit for transgression because transgression allows failure while professionalism does not. (Glaser, n.d.) He mentioned how in his early career he wanted to be professional but, he realized that professionalism was a limitation. This further proves Glaser overcame that pitfall because he now understands that it is ok to fail and try new things in the name of creativity. Lastly, I feel it is important to note that while he never seemed to fall into the inflexibility phase, I think he was very much aware of it. In his essay, Glasser (n.d.) stated, “One of the signs of a damaged ego is absolute certainty…Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right…” (para. 8) It is in this statement that Glaser shows a clear understanding of the need to be flexible in your thinking to be a Master.
Milton Glaser is a man like no other. While there are some cases where people are similar, I feel Masters need to be so unique it is hard to compare them. This is true with Milton Glaser and Santiago Calatrava. I read and read all the people profiled in the Creative-Active phase but, I could not find any person who fits with Glaser perfectly. That was until I compared Glaser’s mentality with Calatrava’s. They are vastly different men but, they have two key components that stood out to me. One was that both men had a similar outlook on certainty versus doubt. Secondly, they both were advocates of drawing being a necessity in the creative process. Santiago always had to perpetuate an attitude of dissatisfaction to help keep his energy up for designs that dragged on. (Greene, 2012) While Glaser said, doubt is better than certainty as one of ten things he learned. (Glaser, n.d.) Both of these accounts exhibit that both of these men remained in a continuous state of flexibility. They saw the need and importance of holding onto that feeling of uncertainty so their work would never become dull and lifeless. Glaser spoke on numerous accounts about the importance of drawing. One such statement was, “Drawing also makes you attentive. It makes you pay attention to what you are looking at, which is not so easy.” (Glaser, n.d., para. 7) While Greene (2012) spoke about how Santiago always began with drawings and how he felt he could not create the same if he only worked on the computer. Again, this relation is notable in both men because this is validation for all designers that the drawing stage of the creative process should not be ignored or skipped. Their paths may not be one-hundred percent similar in the slightest but, Glaser and Calatrava both have exceptional and inspiring stories about their path to Mastery.
Milton Glaser’s journey to Mastery was no easy feat. Like many before him, Glaser had to figure out his Creative Task and how to cultivate negative capabilities. He went through his emotional pitfalls and creative breakthroughs. He rose above them to become the renowned graphic designer that he is today. Glaser and Master Santiago Calatrava proved how being flexible and trusting your process can lead you to become a prolific figure in your field. Glaser went to college and did his due diligence in life. He worked hard to create the name he has for himself and, it is one of the many reasons that he is an inspiration to me and so many others. I can only hope that someday someone will title their essay Kathryn Calderon and Me the way I have with Milton Glaser.
Argent, P. (n.d.). “Milton Glaser: Always One Jump Ahead”. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://www.miltonglaser.com/milton/#1
Glaser, M. (n.d.). Ten Things I Have Learned. Retrieved May 12, 2018, from https://www.miltonglaser.com/milton/c:essays/
Greene, R. (2012). Mastery. NY, NY: Penguin Books.
Holland, B. (n.d.). Step-By-Step Magazine Interview with Milton Glaser. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from https://www.miltonglaser.com/milton/c:interviews/#1
Milton Glaser. (2017). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1.
Poynor, R. (2009). Glaser’s inner artist. Creative Review, 29(5), 52-55.
I really hope you guys enjoyed this essay. I loved this essay a lot and how much I worked on it. Below I am going to include the video project link and my Tumblr link that documents my Mastery Journal.
Turning Point Video:
Tumblr: Kathryn’s Mastery Journal