The human body is a contradiction. It’s simultaneously fascinating, grotesque, familiar, and unexpected. Though artists have used the human form to beautiful effect for thousands of years, it’s a relatively recent phenomenon in graphic design—and often more polarizing.
In the new book Head to Toe: Nudity in Graphic Design, Mirko Ilić and Steven Heller chart the history of designers using the naked body as a graphic device. The book documents hundreds of examples, from the overt to the subtly suggestive. And in the process, it explores how public perception of the nude body has evolved from a bold provocation to an established marketing tool. We asked Heller and Ilić to choose five of the most significant uses of the nude body in recent graphic design history, and explain, in their own words, how it’s changed the way we think about nudity, and by extension, ourselves.