A tour of iconic designer Milton Glaser’s Philadelphia legacy

The visual luminary, who died at 91, created the look of the Franklin Mills Mall and Sesame Place.

A Glaser-designed entrance at the former Franklin Mills Mall in 2016

A Glaser-designed entrance at the former Franklin Mills Mall in 2016

Courtesy Dan McQuade
danya

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Milton Glaser died this weekend on his 91st birthday. Illustrator, adman, publisher and more, he created some of the most famous archetypes of American pop culture in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

The graphics luminary, who suffered a stroke and kidney failure in his Manhattan home, was undeniably a New Yorker. His most famous mark was I <3 NY, he designed Brooklyn Beer’s famous logo, and he cofounded New York magazine.

Glaser’s deft hand did extend to the Philly area, however.

His works in the region included a striking animal poster, a kids theme park logo and the entire identity of a shopping mall. He was also the subject of a Philadelphia Museum of Art retrospective in 2001.

Here’s a look at the highlights of Glaser’s Philadelphia legacy.

Philadelphia Zoo ‘Carnivore Kingdom’ poster

Poster created for the Philadelphia Zoo in 1988 by Milton Glaser

Poster created for the Philadelphia Zoo in 1988 by Milton Glaser

Milton Glaser

When the Philadelphia Zoo’s Carnivore Kingdom exhibit opened in the early 1990s, it was a major milestone for the park. “Gone are the cramped cages and concrete floors of years past,” read a press release about the $6 million project ($11 million in today’s dollars), according to the Morning Call.

It has since been replaced as the zoo’s large-predator home with the Big Cat Falls, and its giant boulder-like structures now form the Water Is Life area for otters and red pandas. But the exhibit is memorialized for all time in a promotional poster created by Glaser in 1988. (You can buy prints online for $150 via Glaser’s website.)

The designer described the image as more complicated than usual, though he was obviously proud of the final result:

A design that plays with the idea of negative and positive space, dealing with a leopard that is represented three times, in positive, in negative and with an enlarged detail of the head. More complex than my usual posters.

Franklin Mills Mall logo and theme

When it opened in 1989, the Franklin Mills Mall was considered state of the art. Instead of following the normal bland design for an indoor shopping center, the 1.6-million-square-foot destination in Northeast Philly was fashioned in the shape of a lightning bolt.

Its various sections were delineated by different hues, and sculpture-adorned entrances in geometric swaths of color welcomed customers to its hundred-plus stores and two separate food courts. At the top of each entryway was a giant version of the mall’s logo — a kite-and-key arrangement in honor of the shopping center’s namesake, Benjamin Franklin.

All of the mall’s identity, from the theme to the layout to the signage, sprung from the mind of Milton Glaser, who cited Franklin Mills in his official bio (albeit only in the longer version, which he called the “interminable length” edition).

If you visit today, you won’t see much of Glaser’s work.

Simon Properties, which also owns the King of Prussia Mall, announced a major revamp in 2014. The renovated center now officially goes by Philadelphia Mills, although most people still use the old name.

Thirty years after he began work on it, the last of the kite-and-key entrances was dismantled in 2016, but textbooks still reference Franklin Mills as one of the great examples of holistic design.

A book called “The Integrated Manual for Marketing, Advertising, and Public Relations” references Glaser’s efforts there:

Marrying text and image requires great care and can elicit precise meaning as we see with the Franklin Mills logotype and brandmark. … The graphic provides an index, pointing to Benjamin Franklin, cleverly connecting to our elementary history and science lessons with the geography of the iconic shopping mall.

Sesame Place logo and design

Glaser’s first major contribution to the region was Sesame Place, the children’s educational play park located just north of the city border in Langhorne, Pa.

When the kids-focused destination launched in 1980, it was directly owned by Children’s Television Workshop, the NY-based nonprofit behind the long-running public television show.

Glaser was engaged there for design work between 1981 and ’83, according to his website. During that time, he created the logo and also contributed to the park’s architectural layout.

Now 14 acres instead of just three, and fully outfitted with multiple action rides and water features, the attraction is still the only entirely Sesame Street-themed amusement park in the U.S.

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