The Glaser Nobody Knows: Milton Glaser’s Very First Paying Job

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Welcome to The Glaser Nobody Knows, a new 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 There are countless projects by the master, both produced and unpublished, that are unfamiliar even to design aficionados. Glaser was even more prolific and consistently brilliant than you can imagine. All of the items that will be highlighted here are part of The Milton Glaser Design Study Center and Archives at the School of Visual Arts, the chief repository of his legendary work.

On a semi-regular basis, I’m going to dive into the archives to bring you the hidden gems and unknown works that offer a fuller picture of the larger-than-life designer, teacher and citizen of New York.

We’re kicking things off with Glaser’s first paying job, the March 1954 cover of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, a publication devoted to crime fiction. The commission came to Glaser courtesy of the great George Salter, cover designer for Ellery Queen. Salter also taught calligraphy and lettering at Cooper Union, and Glaser had been one of his students.

Although Salter offered to turn over his regular Ellery Queen account to his former student, Glaser decided after his first cover that he preferred to pursue other projects. This particular illustration was unusually literal for Glaser, which may offer some indication as to why he didn’t believe he was suited for Ellery Queen in the long-term. Glaser wouldn’t produce another cover for the magazine until 2016, when the publication asked him to design one for their 75th anniversary issue. The 2016 cover echoes the slow drip of blood seen on his cover from more than 60 years prior.

Glaser considered Salter a major influence, certainly as a designer but particularly as a teacher. As he told PRINT in the June 2010 issue, “He was a man of great integrity, and he was an influential teacher—so decent, so nurturing. I've been teaching for 50 years, and a good part of my life is making sure that the values you have are transmitted. And sometimes you can't do that in your work—you have to do that in a personal way. You can bullshit a lot in teaching, but students understand the distinction between what you are and what you say.”

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.