Another week, another design documentary. Wendy Keys’s portrait of Milton Glaser follows hard on the heels of Gary Hustwit’s Objectified, but where that film attempted a macro-level account of design’s social impact, this personalized piece offers an affectionate, almost hagiographic profile of a local industry giant.
A native New Yorker, Glaser has a deep-running relationship with the city: Having attended LaGuardia Performing Arts High School—for which he designed a new identity—and the Cooper Union, he created the classic I ? NY campaign and cofounded New York magazine. (More recently, he designed Brooklyn Lager’s look.) With his penchant for fluid lines and simple, almost cartoonish figures, Glaser also helped define psychedelia, and has lately been delivering more directly political work for The Nation.
Through interviews with the icon, his peers and students, the film shows how socially and pedagogically engaged, active and influential Glaser remains in his ninth decade. He also has considerable charm and humility—even if, in his younger days, he believed “I could make a fruit pie out of shit.” Keys could have offered a stronger critical account of his work’s innovative qualities, however, and her straight-and-narrow visual technique is disappointing. Surely Glaser the trailblazer warrants a more stylistically adventurous tribute than this.