Designer Milton Glaser on Creativity and the Fear of Failure

You may not know graphic designer Milton Glaser by name, but you undoubtedly know his work. He is best known for the “I ♥ NY” logo, his “Bob Dylan” poster, the “DC bullet” logo used by DC Comics from 1977 to 2005, and the “Brooklyn Brewery” logo. He also founded New York Magazine with Clay Felker in 1968 and was one of the co-founders of Push Pin Studios in 1954.

Following September 11th, Glaser updated his iconic “I ♥ NY” design.

Many of Glaser’s designs have achieved iconic status. “The hallmarks of his work are its simplicity, wit and elegance,” said Stephen Holden in the New York Times. “It may be commercial art, but with a capital A.”

In 2009, Glaser was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama, and his work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Smithsonian Institute, and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, among others. Milton Glaser, Inc., which was established in 1974 in Manhattan, is still producing work in a wide range of disciplines. Philip Roth fans may recognize the numerous book jackets Glaser has designed for his friend over the years.


A poster Glaser designed to raise awareness of the Darfur crisis and benefit the International Rescue Committee.

Glaser is an articulate speaker, as well as a talented artist. In this seven-minute video, the renowned designer shares his own views on the creative process and the inevitable fear of failure that all artists confront.

According to Glaser, the best way to achieve creative success is to become a specialist, but he points out that becoming a specialist is antithetical to artistic development. He uses Picasso as an example of an artist who chose creative development over specialization–Picasso was someone who sought out new creative challenges as soon as he had mastered a skill.

Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real.

Designer Milton Glaser (Photo © Eric Johnson)

Glaser also discusses the myth of creative genius and gives advice on how artists can move past the fear of failure. “Find out what you’re capable of doing or not capable of doing,” says Glaser. “Admit what is.” “Embrace the failure.”

Glaser’s talk is from a series of videos on failure from Berghs’ Exhibition 2011. (If you’re reading this in an email, click here to watch the video.)

Milton Glaser – on the fear of failure. from Berghs' Exhibition '11 on Vimeo.

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About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.


  1. […] “Personal development is antithetical to profesional success” says Designer Milton Glaser. Designer Milton Glaser on Creativity and the Fear of Failure | gwarlingo. […]

  2. AC July 27, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I’ve always been a fan of Milton Glaser’s substantial body of work and venerable career. Typography is every bit the art form that painting or dance is, and he shows us this every day.

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