To Vote is to Exist

Milton Glaser is one of America’s most famous graphic and poster designers. While his name may not be familiar, his work will be.

Among his designs are I ♥ NY, the cover art for Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits album, and the Brooklyn Brewery’s logo. He has also designed restaurants, newspapers, and supermarkets.

One of his most recognizable works is the I Heart New York logo. In the 1970s, New York City’s crime rate was sky high, it was considered too dangerous to walk around safely in many neighborhoods, and the city stood on the verge of bankruptcy. Ad agency Wells Rich Greene and Milton Glaser were selected to design a logo to be used in a campaign which would hopefully increase tourism and morale.

Glaser’s “I Love New York” was a reaction to this sense of decline. New York was a place only a certain kind of New Yorker could still hold claim to loving. The tourism office launched a $4 million ad campaign, commissioning jingle writer Steve Karmen to make the slogan into a catchy song.

Take a look back at Liza Minelli, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Henry Kissinger, and Cher sharing what they love about NY:

The logo’s creation came after the jingle was written. For Glaser, the slogan was appealing because it was not a sales pitch but rather a belief, or an oath. It did not try to make anyone buy, or do, anything.

He told the New York Times that he spent two weeks drawing a logo with the words “I Love New York” inside two lozenges, and submitted for approval. Then, sitting in a cab en route back to his office a few weeks later, he had another idea. On a scrap of paper, using a red crayon, he sketched the four characters in the logo that would soon be seen all over the world.glaser-vote-is-to-exist

That scrap of paper is now found in the Museum of Modern Art. The logo, for which he received only a very small fee, generates more than $1 million annually for the state in licensing fees.

At 87, Glaser still goes to work every day. He is a winner of the National Medal of the Arts, an honor bestowed on him by President Barack Obama in 2009. He was the first graphic designer to receive the award. When the American Institute of Graphic Arts was looking for ideas for a get out and vote poster this year, Glaser jumped in with a submission.

As he told Bloomberg Businessweek, he felt the message needed to go beyond “go vote”. The message and plea needed to be pushed further, to explain why one needs to vote. His take is that if you don’t vote, you are invisible. His idea: “to vote is to exist”.

This Election Day, get out and vote. Exist.

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