Saul Bass

Saul Bass

Saul Bass was a prominent American graphic designer of the twentieth-century. He largely designed motion picture title sequences, corporate logos and movie posters. He was a pioneer of the modern title sequence designing. He enjoyed four decades of successful career in his lifetime, winning Academy Award for his exquisite graphic designing. His iconic title sequences appeared in the popular films, such as, The Man with the Golden Arm, Psycho and North by Northwest.

On May 8, 1920, in Bronx, New York, Saul Bass was born in the household of Eastern European Jewish immigrants. He attended the James Monroe High School from where he earned his graduation. In 1936, he received a fellowship to the Art Students League in Manhattan. He then went on to study at Brooklyn College, attending night classes with a famous Hungarian-born designer, György Kepes. Upon completion of his studies, he worked as a freelancer for several advertising companies and agencies, including the illustrious Warner Bros. He moved to Los Angeles, where he pursued graphic designing as a commercial artist. During 1940’s he took up some Hollywood projects, which involved the print work for promotional purposes. In fact, he started up his own practice in 1952 and a few years later established his private firm as Saul Bass & Associates.

In 1954, Bass finally had his big break as he was offered a job by the filmmaker Otto Preminger to design a poster for Carmen Jones. His work left a remarkable impression on Preminger, who availed his expertise yet again for his film’s title sequence. With the opportunity, came the realization that the title sequence can not only be served as mere static credits but it can enhance the watching experience of the audience. Bass realized the potential of title sequence if incorporated with the right audio and visual sequence can help set the mood and theme at the opening of a film.

After his debut work in the Hollywood, he worked for several reputable production houses. In 1955, he produced title sequence for The Seven Year Itch. However, he did not earn his reputation in the Hollywood until he made his contribution to Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). The film focused on a musician’s struggle to defeat his heroin addiction. As to underline the intensity of then tabooed subject, he featured an animated paper cut-out arm in the film title which had a sensational effect on the audience. Besides, another notable filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock brought him on board for the title designing of his films. Bass developed iconic, influential and noteworthy title sequences employing distinguished kinetic typography for motion pictures, including North by Northwest (1959), Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960). He was the first to introduce this technique in Hollywood films which previously employed static titles.

Bass regarded title sequence designing as an art with its unique purposes. His creation was based on the philosophy of enlightening the audience about the subject of the film and invoking their emotions accordingly. Another one of his philosophies stresses on rendering the ordinary, extraordinary, by acquainting the audience with familiar objects in an unfamiliar way. His graphic work in Walk on the Wild Side (1962) and Nine Hours to Rama (1963) are the epitome of this philosophy. The former features an ordinary cat as a dangerous predatory creature and the latter represents the internal mechanism of a clock embodying a large landscape. Some of his other popular title sequence creations include Spartacus, The Age of Innocence, The Shining and Casino.

Kleenex Logo – Designed in the 1980s

Kleenex Logo

Girl Scouts Logo – Designed in 1978

Girl Scouts Logo

Continental Airlines Logo – Designed in 1967

Continental Airlines Logo

Anatomy of a Murder Title Sequence – Designed in 1959

Anatomy of a Murder Title Sequence

Vertigo Posters – Designed in 1958

Vertigo Posters

The Man With The Golden Arm – Designed in 1955