The Dylan poster by Milton Glaser (b. 1929) adorned countless dorm rooms and record stores throughout the world in the late 1960s. It was included as an insert in the sleeve of Dylan’s 1967 album Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. Although Dylan hated the album and afterward left Columbia Records, Glaser’s poster continued to enjoy an illustrious career in museum collections.
The fine-lined yet striking profile of the enigmatic singer-songwriter is captured here as a mere silhouette. The black face is set off against a magnificent head of multicolored hair. With his head bowed, Dylan, who was already a star at the time, gives the impression of being withdrawn and absorbed in thought. Milton Glaser drew inspiration for his iconic poster from a silhouette self-portrait by Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), who at the time had a studio next door to his in the same New York building. The brightly colored waves of hair, which stand in sharp contrast to the face, show the influence of Glaser’s engagement with Islamic decorative arts. And his Babyteeth typeface, which is perhaps used most prominently in this poster, was modeled on a sign he saw in Mexico. These disparate influences, brought together here intuitively, are characteristic of Glaser’s graphic design, which derives its appeal from a lighthearted whimsy coupled with visual variety and poetic wit. Glaser and his colleagues at New York’s Push Pin Studio thus took a stance against the objective rigor of Swiss Style, the then dominant force in the United States. The numerous citations of Glaser’s poster reveal how it inscribed itself into the collective visual memory. André Broussard (b. 1984), for example, took it as a template for a poster he did for a group in Lafayette, Louisiana, supporting Bernie Sanders’s (b. 1941) US presidential campaign. (Bettina Richter)