Baby Faces

Milton Glaser called the typeface he developed for his 1966 Bob Dylan poster “Baby Teeth.” The stair-step—so-called because of the setbacks in the E—was an emblematic face during that period, but the alphabet actually derives from a Futurist typeface used in advertising and propaganda in Fascist Italy during the 1920s and ’30s. It was sometimes labeled “Futurist” or “Futuristic” in type catalogs at the time, representing both speed and the mechanistic aspects of modernity.

 
It was eventually exported to other countries: Glaser apparently first saw it used on Art Moderne printed materials in Mexico. But when he adapted it to spell out “Dylan” on the poster he designed for CBS Records, Baby Teeth took on a new life in the psychedelic era. It would have stayed in that period had not so many contemporary designers revived it in various forms. The most recent high-profile iteration is the logo designed by Michael Bierut for the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City, which, though not exactly Baby Teeth (in fact, it mirrors the Palladian arches of the building), sits firmly within the continuum.
 

 

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

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