With these three directives, and a word to spare, design icon Milton Glaser met a recent WIRED Design|Life request to present his design philosophy in ten words or fewer:
Solve the problem. Aspire to beauty. Do no harm.
As a fan of Glaser’s genius and work, and the Creative Director responsible for helping to establish and uphold standards at Second Avenue, I am delighted generally by the artist’s incisiveness, and specifically by the priorities implied in the ordering of his guiding principles.
While my coworkers lovingly tease that I am our Chief Beautification Officer and do my work by sprinkling pixie dust, Glaser’s philosophy corroborates my contention that design application must first address practical needs, or solve the problem at hand. Next a solution can aspire to beauty, which in our work might manifest itself in the appeal of an illustration style or the elegance of a user interface. And finally, after some give-and-take between problem solving and beautification, a do no harm filter should be applied. At Second Avenue this step is crucial since on one level design cannot obscure the authority or hinder the accuracy for which our work is known, and on another level, design cannot detract from our goal of improving educational outcomes. In fact, if I were to amend Glaser’s philosophy to better fit our checks and balances, I might change to final directive to Do good. and save another word.