The Glaser Nobody Knows: Milton’s AIGA Paperback Push

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The Glaser Nobody Knows is a column featuring work by Milton Glaser that you may never have seen before. There are countless projects by the master, both produced and unpublished, that are unfamiliar even to design aficionados. All of the items in this column are part of The Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at the School of Visual Arts, the chief repository of his legendary work.

In the early days of Push Pin, book covers were among the studio’s primary sources of income; Milton Glaser in particular created striking and inventive covers at a fast and furious pace. So, in 1961, Glaser was a natural fit to chair AIGA’s committee for “Paperbacks USA: An Exhibition of Covers.” (The jurors for the exhibition were art director Irwin Glusker and designers Janet Halverson and George Tscherny.) The call for entries rather formally invited designers to submit their work for the growing market of paperbacks, and took pains to distinguish this work from hardcover book jackets.

“The AIGA recognizes that the paperback is a graphic solution to a specific merchandising problem, and the wide variety of solutions which American publishers have evolved will not be evaluated in competition with casebound books and their particular sales and manufacturing problems. … Today it is now clear that paperbound publishers are not creating a hitherto undeveloped demand for their products; they are filling an already existing need with a product that is attractively priced, attractively sized and editorially diversified.”

Glaser designed this black-and-white brochure, which features two 3D works of design: one open book with eyes peering out from the front and back covers, and another with a mouth extending across the spine. He was always able to find photographers who could really do his work justice; this piece was shot by Sol Mednick. Mednick also photographed Glaser’s painted classical bust for his first SVA subway poster in 1965 (which was among his very first commissioned posters).

Beth Kleber is the founding archivist of the Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives and the School of Visual Arts Archives in New York City. Kleber also curated the exhibition “Primary Sources: Documenting SVA and the New York Art World 1966–1985.” She lectures on design history and research, and assists students and researchers with inquiries on everything from Push Pin Studios to the activities of the renowned artists who have taught at SVA. Kleber has also worked in trade publishing and began her librarian and archivist career at New York Public Library. For more from the Glaser/SVA Archives, head to Instagram.