Milton Glaser is the latest visual artist to create a series of posters for the School of Visual Arts in New York’s Underground Images campaign, which has been running since the late 1950s.
The ongoing series features contributors from the school’s current and former design faculty – and has included work by designers such as Ivan Chermayeff, Edel Rodriguez, Paula Scher and Tom Geismar. Glaser himself had already contributed 21 posters over the years, prior to the new series.
The new works will be shown across 276 New York City subway stations and reflect Glaser’s commitment to inspiring social change. “I have an objective with these three posters – although it was implicit in all the other earlier posters – that is, the role of design and art are basically roles that also include social engagement,” he says.
“Not only personal vision or personal talent or personal insight or genius but also an activity that makes people feel that they are involved in something together. It’s kind of the counterpoint to Trumpism, which is ‘me for me’, and it’s a sense that we’re part of a larger system, humanity itself,” Glaser continues. “These posters [go] one step further as the threat to that idea becomes more evident with Trumpism.”
Glaser says that his ‘Give Help’ poster is “an attack on that which is becoming increasingly clear: Trump’s real contempt for Puerto Rico, or for people of colour, and for anybody in trouble who isn’t white and rich”, while his ‘To Dream Is Human’ design references Trump’s attitude towards immigrants.
“He refers to them contemptuously as Dreamers and to [their] deportation, that we may throw them out of this country,” the designer explains. “My attempt here is to transform the word ‘dream’, which is used pejoratively by Trump, into an aspirational word. To dream is human; the most, perhaps, important aspect of humankind is the ability to dream.”
Finally, the ‘Not About Me, It’s About We’ poster addresses the theme of collective experience and the role of art as something that facilitate personal and social change, says Glaser.
“It is the [antidote to] the narcissism and selfishness that exists in human nature. So [this] is a direct reflection of Trump’s attitude toward the world, where everything is about him. Again it’s an attack on this narcissistic, selfish atmosphere that Trump has managed to create. This is an attempt to compensate for that. In the way that art appeals to the most generous part of the human spirit, this is an attack on the most selfish parts of the human spirit.”
The posters are currently on display across the NYC subway system. The SVA has also produced this video with Glaser in which he discusses his approach to the new poster series:
“In this video series SVA has asked some of its most revered designers to reflect on the posters they have created and give some insight into their practice. Here, Milton Glaser, who holds the distinction of creating the most posters – 24, speaks about his works. Glaser, a long-serving faculty member of the College, is also acting chairman of the Board. His prolific career includes designing the I (heart) NY and Brooklyn Brewery logos, as well as co-founding New York magazine. In 2009, he received the National Medal of the Arts, the first graphic designer to receive this award.”
Directed and edited by Nicolas Heller; Cinematography by Oliver Anderson; Colour by Alan Gordon