Celebrating Milton Glaser, the Graphic Designer Behind the Famous 'I ♥ NY' Logo

Graphic designer Milton Glaser, whose work as a graphic designer had a huge impact on visual culture around the globe
Graphic designer Milton Glaser, whose work as a graphic designer had a huge impact on visual culture around the globe | © Neville Elder / Corbis via Getty Images
New Yorker Milton Glaser dedicated his life to artistic endeavors – transforming the graphic design landscape and founding seminal art studios and cultural publications. Culture Trip looks back at his legacy, following his recent death at the age of 91.

The I ♥ New York logo is one of the most ubiquitous symbols in the world – you’ll struggle to find a T-shirt or trinket in New York’s souvenir stalls that doesn’t bear it. But do you know the man behind it? His name is Milton Glaser – and he transformed visual culture during his lifetime.

I ♥ New York became an iconic logo for the city | © Martin Thomas Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Aged 91, June 26, 2020 saw his passing, but his artistic contribution continues to be felt with more than 70 years of his work.

Push Pin Studios was born, 1954

Along with fellow Cooper Union graduates Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins and Edward Sorel, Milton founded graphic design and illustration studio Push Pin Studios in 1954. “Their work combined a fascination with the graphic simplicity and directness of comic books with a sophisticated understanding of modern art, especially of surrealism and cubism” notes Britannica, and it could be found everywhere – in magazines and on book jackets and record sleeves.

Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits album artwork, 1967

In 1967, Push Pin Studios was commissioned by Columbia Records to illustrate Bob Dylan‘s Greatest Hits album. It catapulted Glaser into the spotlight. “Taking design cues from a self-portrait by French-American artist Marcel Duchamp, the poster sees Dylan’s side profile illustrated as a black silhouette, providing a stark contrast to the rainbow-coloured, swirling lines designed to represent the singer’s curly locks,” says design magazine Dezeen.

Milton Glaser designed the cover of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits in 1967 | © Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

New York Magazine, 1968

As his career was taking off, come 1968, Glaser teamed up with American editor Clay Felker to found a magazine designed to compete with The New Yorker. Enter New York Magazine. Until 1977, Milton would hold his post as president and design director – creating everything from its iconic curly logo to posters of the Empire State Building.

I ♥ NY, 1977

You know which one we’re talking about. It’s as simple as it gets, but an instantly recognizable logo that gets straight to the point. Indeed, Glaser did love New York – the place of his birth and death – and when New York state approached him to help promote tourism for the city, then plagued by crime and a financial crisis, he jumped at the chance. He produced the logo free of charge.

After 9/11 Glaser released an update version of the logo with a bruised heart. It appeared in the Daily News with the words, ‘More than ever’ | © Viviane Moos / Corbis via Getty Images

It’s Not Warming, It’s Dying campaign, 2014

Over his long career, Glaser’s graphic design prowess was put to the greater good to tackle global issues. In 1987, for instance, he created a poster for the World Health Organization with the message: “Aids: a Worldwide Effort Will Stop It.” Meanwhile, 2014 saw him launch a campaign to raise awareness around climate change. “The campaign’s visual identity features a green disc obscured by black smoke to symbolise ‘the disappearance of light’ from the planet,” says Dezeen.

Glaser also used his talents to highlight important world issues such as this WHO campaign | © Keystone Press / Alamy Stock Photo

In 2004, Glaser was awarded a lifetime achievement award by the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. In 2009, then President Barack Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts.