I’ve seen him occasionally appear at events over the years, but I first met Milton Glaser around 1989-90 at an AIGA talk in Philadelphia. It was held in some beige conference room on the top floor of some hotel in Center City, I forget where. I think I was still in college at the time, very green. After the talk, I approached the man. Out of nervousness, I asked the most tiresome question imaginable: what advice did he have for someone starting in the profession. Mr. Glaser, who towered over me, could have rolled his eyes, and probably felt like doing just that, since it was in all likelihood the thousandth time he’d been asked that particular question. Instead he smiled, took my face in his immense hands, and gave me a pat on the side of the head in the way that a little league coach might. What he said was simple: “Hang in there.”
At the time, I thought I merely got the answer I deserved for asking such a trite question. But then twenty-five years happened, and throughout that time, I hung in there. In the beginning I hung in there because I wanted to, but now I hang in there because I have to: there’s no turning back at this point. The die has been cast.
“Hanging in there” is a simple objective, but it requires nerve, energy, and a variety of personal resources. Hanging in there was never easy and it still isn’t, especially if you’re a creative type who has run his own studio for fifteen years, and you never want a day job ever again (which is good, because regular employment is probably out of the question at this point). Living on your wits is never easy, otherwise everyone would do it—but the satisfaction you derive from making the most of your talents and abilities is as good as adult life gets. Awards and accolades are nice, but the big payoff is the unfettered, fulfilling life you get to live between such high points.
The esteem of people you respect and admire is the other big payoff: Milton Glaser is probably the most revered graphic artist alive. Someone like me receiving a letter of praise from Milton Glaser is like a local bar band receiving a fan letter from Bob Dylan. I’m deeply touched and honored that he would take the trouble to send a kind note like this. To say it means a lot is a gross understatement: after twenty-five years of working as a graphic artist, it’s deeply gratifying to get a nod from one of your heroes. Thanks, Milton.