Oddly enough, Judge Mike Rubino found this informative and delightful.
"The role of art is to inform and delight."—Horace
Graphic designers aren't rock stars. They don't sign their work. They aren't gracing the covers of major news magazines. They aren't household names. They just quietly change the world, perfecting how we communicate and operate. Milton Glaser has not only changed the world through design, he's also as close to a rock star as designers get.
Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight is a conversational and informative documentary from first-time filmmaker Wendy Keys. The film opens with Glaser sketching a rooster—a picture subtly paying homage to the logo for his first design studio, Push Pin. The film rarely strays from that established intimacy. Glaser escorts the audience through his offices, his life, and his design theories. This isn't so much a biography of Glaser as it is an examination of his philosophy and character. Not surprisingly, the designer behind the iconic "I (heart) NY" campaign has a lot to say about his beloved city and the accessibility of good design. He does most of the talking in the film, regaling the viewer with stories about growing up in "Little Moscow" or anecdotes about his days running a magazine.
Glaser is still practicing and teaching design, and is responsible for some pretty big projects. He established New York magazine, designed the Brooklyn Brewery identity, and helped define a '70s illustration style with Push Pin Studios. I studied Glaser in college and was still amazed at the parade of projects in To Inform & Delight—his work has stretched beyond Bob Dylan poster art into restaurant and packaging design, brand identity, and publishing. Yet despite all of his work, Glaser remains a modest intellectual, reveling in the simplicity of good food at local NYC eateries, collecting African tribal art, and enjoying the companionship of his wife, Shirley.
The film never lingers on one idea or project too long, and marches along as Glaser strolls about the streets. Design colleagues and clients come forward to sing his praises, something that Glaser quietly accepts but never flaunts. He's a guy who, at 80-something, is still about the work. At this point in his life, he explains, it's more important for him to work on projects he cares about, with people he likes, rather than chase after a paycheck. Glaser's days of designing grocery chains are over; he's much more concerned with political activism and social issues. He talks at length about the need for good design at all economic levels—while most of his clientele are upper class interests, he takes time to apply the same design standards for more pedestrian projects.
To Inform & Delight ends up being a brief, aptly titled documentary that switches efficiently between design philosophy, biography, and lightheartedness. For design students, it's a must see. Just like Objectified and Helvetica, To Inform & Delight speaks to the influence graphic design has on our everyday lives. Milton Glaser is a titan in the industry, and Keys's film does an efficient job at showing us why.
The DVD, part of the Arthouse Films series, features a solid technical transfer. The documentary looks crisp and vibrant and the stereo sound is more than adequate. Also included on the disc—as the sole special feature—is a 25-minute panel discussion Glaser held on behalf of his book The Design of Dissent. The discussion focuses on the design of underground propaganda as a form of political dissent. The discussion is fairly general, but any political specifics feel immediately outdated.
To put it simply: I heart Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight.
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