Milton Glaser, when asked if he designs out of necessity or habit:
Well I’m 83 and I realized that when I wake up in the morning the thought of not having someplace to go to work is the thing I dread most, that if I didn’t get up, get dressed, and come here, I would go nuts. And what is most significant to me is that I might do something that I haven’t done before and I might learn something I didn’t know before. Because my work is very different than it was a year ago, or two years ago, or five years and I feel at the brink of a different kind of knowledge that I never had. So I don’t know what to call that; is it necessity? i think it’s necessity, I really think I’d go nuts if I didn’t have it to do…part of it is the realization that there is a purpose to my life.
I hope when I’m 83, I’ll retain that same sense of wonder, that feeling like there is still something new to do, discover, create, and learn.
Looking with Both Eyes Open
For two hours every morning and every evening, I take a bus into New York City to work. I’ve been doing this for three months now so what started as an uncomfortable four hours has become routine. I barely notice the ride anymore. I had sat on the same side of the bus each day until one day two weeks ago all the seats on my usual side were filled. I found myself sitting on the opposite side of what I was familiar with. Looking out the window that ride home felt like a whole new ride.
Familiarity leads to unfamiliarity.
They say artists see the world differently, but I’d argue that artists see what’s really there. I saw John Maeda speak last month and he said artists are like kites; the wind is always there, but kites helps us see it. Maybe artists simply show us what’s already here.
Design Indaba has posted an excellent conversation between two design legends (and personal heroes of mine), Massimo Vignelli and Milton Glaser. Drawing on decades of work, it’s impossible for a conversation between these two to not offer some wisdom, especially considering the different career paths the two have taken:
Massimo: Sometimes you might see trends reflected in certain solutions and things that you do. If it is too trendy, you must throw it away because you don’t want to be caught in that trap. Lella is very good at pointing trends out all the time.
Milton: It also depends on what products you are in. If you are not conscious of trends, you should not be in the design business. I mean trends are what the design business lives on. Fashion lives on trends.
Massimo: Fashion lives on trends, but not design.
Milton: Typography is trendy. All this stuff is trendy because they are of the moment. On the other hand there are those things that you hope will transcend their mobility, but that is not much of the field. Most of the field is based on acknowledging what is around and responding to it – that is the biggest part of the work.
Massimo: In my work, I really react strongly to clients in explaining why it is important that something is not trendy because I feel a responsibility toward the client to design something that is going to last a long time and doesn’t have to be thrown away in a few years from now.
I would die for an opportunity to be in a room with these two. What I like about both of them is they each have a thoughtful approach to their craft. Though their work is drastically different, they both think intensely about what they do and why they do it.
I’m really excited about James McMullan’s new series for The New York Times, Line by Line. The series is about “rediscovering the lost skill and singular pleasure of drawing:”
Drawing, for many people, is that phantom skill they remember having in elementary school, when they drew with great relish and abandon. Crayon and colored pencil drawings of fancy princesses poured out onto the sketchbooks of the girls, while planes and ships, usually aflame, battled it out in the boys’ drawings. Occasionally boys drew princesses and girls drew gunboats, but whatever the subject matter, this robust period of drawing tended to wither in most students’ lives and, by high school, drawing became the specialized province of those one or two art geeks who provided the cartoons for the yearbook and made the posters for the prom.
I’ve been thinking about drawing a lot lately. I’ve been thinking about how I don’t drawn near the amount I used to and I didn’t like that but I’ve also been thinking about how drawing, in many ways, is much closer to our original language. As kids, we draw before we write. In history, pictographs came before letters and alphabets. So why don’t we draw much anymore?
Milton Glaser also points out:
Thought changes our life and our behaviour. 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.
I want—need—to start drawing more. I’m excited to go through Mr. McMullan’s series. Part two is already up and it called “The Frisbee of Art.”