The Glaser Nobody Knows: Milton Glaser and David Freedman on the ‘Search for Beauty’

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When print publications were alive and well, paper companies would bankroll elaborate promotional pieces to plug their products. Gilbert Paper’s “The Search for Beauty,” designed by Milton Glaser and David Freedman in 1993, was no exception.

With a mandate from Gilbert simply asking the piece to be interactive and appeal to an international audience, Glaser conceived of a high-concept project that required the participation of many designers.

He sent out 176 visual questionnaires asking artists to respond to prompts asking for beautiful examples of a typeface, human face, fruit, color, landscape, background, and foreground. He received 82 responses from designers, including Henrietta Condak, Stephen Doyle, Wim Crouwel, and Shigeo Fukuda, publishing them all in a booklet along with some composite illustrations featuring unexpected combinations of works from different artists. Ultimately, “The Search For Beauty,” wrapped in a blank translucent visual questionnaire and packaged in a striking pink envelope, represented an artful bit of data visualization.

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.