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A New Book Explores the Iterative Nature of Milton Glaser’s Designs

Penned by the late design icon himself, Sketch & Finish juxtaposes over 70 finished works with original sketches, which he called “pictures of the brain.”

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Sketch & Finish: The Journey from Here to There, Milton Glaser, Princeton Architectural Press, 168 pages, $20 Princeton Architectural Press

In New York City, everywhere you look you encounter the work of one of America’s most prolific graphic designers, the late Milton Glaser. From I ♥ NY memorabilia sold along Chinatown’s Canal Street to the green labels of Brooklyn Brewery beer, Glaser’s designs continue to define the city’s visual culture even after his death this past June. While most New Yorkers hardly think about the work that goes into these ubiquitous logos, they all began the same way: with a simple sketch.

In the case of I ♥ NY, it was a small scribble in red crayon on an old envelope, drawn in the back of a cab. “I was doodling on the way to a client meeting and another idea suggested itself,” Glaser writes. “This little item that almost didn’t come into being has become my most frequently reproduced work.”

A brand-new book penned by Glaser explores the iterative nature of his designs by juxtaposing more than 70 of his original sketches with finished works, including the 1967 psychedelic Bob Dylan poster for Columbia Records and a 1987 World Health Organization poster for AIDS awareness. The designer described a sketch as a “picture of the brain” and an exciting glimpse into how the artist’s mind functions. A sketch isn’t just a drawing that awaits completion, “it’s the mind’s introduction to a creative journey,” he writes, “You don’t know where you’re going, but the answer lies in your brain. If just needs to be uncovered.”

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