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.
About the AuthorSteven Heller is the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts. He writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review and the Graphic Content blog for T-Style. He is the author, coauthor, and/or editor of more than 120 books on design and popular culture, including the forthcoming New Ornamental Type (Thames and Hudson).