Milton Glaser Made You Look Once, Think Twice

The greatest artistic fame might be the kind where few people know your name but everyone knows your work, because it feels as inevitable to the everyday culture as fire or the wheel. The fact that one person had to invent it from nothing gets forgotten, or overlooked, as the work becomes part of our shared visual lexicon. There aren’t many artists who get to see such a process happen during their lifetime, but Milton Glaser, the polymathic graphic designer, illustrator, and artist, who died last week, at the age of ninety-one, did.

During the past several decades, anyone walking down Canal Street couldn’t have missed the sidewalk stalls stuffed with products bearing his “I ♥ NY” design: counterfeit T-shirts, onesies, hoodies, license plates, anything, really, emblazoned with the three slightly lopsided letters and the bright-red heart. Especially after 9/11, when it was embraced as a hopeful message, the logo was not just fodder for tourists but an omnipresent symbol for the city itself, as familiar and iconic as the Empire State Building.
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