A logo is worth a thousand words according to legendary designer Milton Glaser. The secret to his success? Wearing his heart on his poster.
While you may not instantly recognise the name Milton Glaser, you’re sure to immediately recognise his most reprinted logo. It has adorned billboards, T-shirts, postcards and bottles of water. Not bad for three letters and a symbol – I ♥ NY – that the designer originally sketched in red crayon on the back of an envelope during a taxi ride.
That was back in 1977, when the state of New York City commissioned Milton to come up with a logo to regenerate the feel-good reputation of the Big Apple.
The advertising campaign was so successful the original envelope bearing the doodle now takes pride of place in the New York Museum of Modern Art.
More than 40 years on, this brings us to Milton’s latest project – a campaign to raise awareness of global warming. He hopes that the circular logo he has designed, with colours merging green to doom-laden black, will create a greater sense of urgency around climate change.
The School of Visual Arts in New York, where the designer is acting chairman, has erected a poster on the outside of its building, bearing the slogan, ‘It’s not warming, it’s dying’, which is also the message being pushed on the campaign’s website and Twitter page.
We caught up with Milton to discuss his latest logo and why there was a need to re-brand global warming.
Is the ‘It’s Not Warming’ campaign your brainchild?
The campaign is in fact my idea, in response, largely, to the benign quality that the words “Global Warming” have. The repetition of that phrase has produced confusion and inertia, and as usual, one must begin with the word. “Warming” is comforting, “dying” is frightening. In any case, people have developed immunity to the term “Global Warming” and replacing it is essential to produce any response.
How hard is it to sum up a huge issue such as global warming in one logo, and where do you begin?
What is possible, hopefully, is that a single, strong idea can change perceptions, and even behaviour. I was encouraged in this consideration by the history of the “I love NY” logo that I designed in 1977, which had an effect far beyond anything I’d ever imagined.
In the course of your career you’ve designed everything from children’s books to supermarkets; how do you tap into the mindset of such different audiences?
That question is not easily answered. Today, cultural differences are emphasized and even encouraged, though the entry point to all communication is always empathy.
When sketching ‘It’s Not Warming’, did you play with any different designs?
I’m always fascinated by the idea that there is a value system in design related to simplicity and complexity. The words “less is more”, although terribly clever have also led to significant misunderstanding about what design does and how it does it. The idea behind ‘It’s Not Warming’ is essentially about light and darkness and the associations we have with this very primordial idea. As it happens, the only image I had for this campaign was the one I produced.
The ‘It’s Not Warming’ website doesn’t contain any information on global warming statistics etc. Was this a conscious strategy?
The website is not intended to recommend action. The strategy is to acknowledge what is. The theory being that acknowledgement alone produces change. What we are hoping for, is that the button will be worn by half the people on earth and that alone will produce consequences. The methodology is, if you send $5 through www.itsnotwarming.com, you will receive five buttons urging you to wear one and send the other four to those you love. The manufacturer, Busy Beaver Button Co., have agreed to produce all the buttons using solar power from recycled steel and paper, as well as fulfil all requests on a completely non-profit basis. Our hope is to produce a ‘viral’ effect, where everyone who receives a button becomes an agent for expanded distribution.
Of all the campaigns you’ve worked on, why is this one so important?
Is there anything more important than the survival of our species?
You can read all about Milton Glaser in ISSUE 15 of the Collective on sale now.
Profile photography: Catalina Kruzar
Images courtesy of Milton Glaser