Bob Dylan Poster by Milton Glaser
Bob Dylan Poster
Milton Glaser, 1967

Q:  What I’m trying to ask about is the range between...let’s talk about specific works...your bookcover illustration for Mauriac’s Therese, for example, which seems wholly within the European experience and, let us say, your Dylan poster, which seems to make a uniquely American statement.

A:  If I talk about the Dylan, you’ll see what I mean. Perhaps you’ll construe your sense of “range” differently. The Dylan emerged from two very different conventions. One is the memory echo I had of a silhouette self-portrait that Marcel Duchamps cut out of paper. I remember it very clearly, a simple black and white profile. The convention of Dylan’s hair really emerged from certain forms that intrigued me in Islamic painting. The union of those two very disparate stylistic phenomena produced something that you called “uniquely American,” right? So it’s funny....What we’re talking about here is believability. What is believable is related to a cultural moment.

       —from the introduction to Graphic Design, by Milton Glaser.

Self Portrait by Marcel Duchamps
Self Portrait
Marcel Duchamps

This silhouette cutout by Marcel Duchamps was in the back of my mind when I created the Dylan poster. This particular piece is probably the most familiar of my works, if only for the fact that nearly six million were produced for enclosure in a Dylan album. One day a French photographer visited the studio and told the following story: He was on assignment traveling up the Amazon and stopped in a village of about one hundred Indians. He entered a hut and, as his eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, he saw the Dylan poster on the wall. He never was able to find out how it got there. In addition to the Duchamps silhouette, the other significant graphic element in this piece is the quality, shape, and color of the hair. In some ways these elements were influenced by my interest in Islamic painting. As I mentioned earlier in the introduction, the combination of the Duchamps portrait and Near Eastern design elements produced a style some now consider peculiarly American.
       —from Graphic Design, by Milton Glaser.

The Dylan poster and Milton Glaser’s excellent Graphic Design book are both available for purchase at