Milton Glasser's "Ten Things I Have Learned"

Took me a while, but I finally came around to reading this famous essay by designer Milton Glasser. I’m really glad I did. Lots of quality, salient advice not just for design, but for living life.

Here are some bits that I enjoyed reading… On “less is more”:

If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realize that every part of that rug, every change of colour, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. That also goes for the work of Gaudi, Persian miniatures, art nouveau and everything else. However, I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

I thought this part, with the heading "Less is not necessarily more”, would be difficult to agree with since I heavily subscribe to the Dieter Rams school of thought that’s literally summed up by the term “less is more”, but I think both arrive at the same place – the alternative that Glasser proposes.

On personal style:

If you are around for a long time as a designer, you have an essential problem of what to do. I mean, after all, you have developed a vocabulary, a form that is your own. It is one of the ways that you distinguish yourself from your peers, and establish your identity in the field. How you maintain your own belief system and preferences becomes a real balancing act. The question of whether you pursue change or whether you maintain your own distinct form becomes difficult...

...anybody who is in this for the long haul has to decide how to respond to change in the zeitgeist. What is it that people now expect that they formerly didn’t want? And how to respond to that desire in a way that doesn’t change your sense of integrity and purpose.

On being open to new ideas, including the possibility that you’re wrong:

There is a significant sense of self-righteousness in both the art and design world. Perhaps it begins at school. Art school often begins with the Ayn Rand model of the single personality resisting the ideas of the surrounding culture…

Schools encourage the idea of not compromising and defending your work at all costs. Well, the issue at work is usually all about the nature of compromise. You just have to know what to compromise. Blind pursuit of your own ends which excludes the possibility that others may be right does not allow for the fact that in design we are always dealing with a triad – the client, the audience and you. Ideally, making everyone win through acts of accommodation is desirable. But self-righteousness is often the enemy.

Reminds me of this Vlogbrothers video by Hank Green about acknowledging your own ignorance and how simple ideas can gradually, unnoticeably germinate into established, limiting cultures. Sadly, societal structures and systems seem to neglect this reality. Instead they demand and reward perfection in whatever sense, or purvey the notion that it’s even an attainable thing.

I completed a trifecta here, but the whole thing shows phenomenal insight that I’m sure I’ll keep looking back at. I wish I read this before going to university.