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Tim Bradstreet

Saul Bass

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I thought it was high time we mentioned Saul Bass here.

As I look through the forum and see recent poster art for movies like Burn After Reading, I considered it time to pay tribute to the maestro of graphic design.

My other purpose is to enlighten folks who may not be aware that the recent revival of Bass' one of a kind style, is not some new hip and cool thing.

No, no. There is only ONE Saul Bass, and a whole lot of imitators. Hey, I'm guilty too. How could you not be inspired by this guy's genius?


Saul Bass passed away in 1996 but he left a legacy of images, logos, movie posters, short films, and opening title sequences the likes of which we'll never see again.

Bass was nominated for 3 Academy Awards (for short films) and won in 1969 for his short, Why Man Creates. His opening title sequences for films like Carmen Jones (1954), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Bonjour Tristesse (1958), Vertigo (1958), Anatomy of a Murder (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), Spartacus (1960), Ocean's Eleven (1960), West Side Story (1961), It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), In Harm's Way (1965), set the film world on fire, and I'm skipping another dozen credits. In the 90's he also worked on three films with Martin Scorcese, but it was the work he created with Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, and Stanley Kubrick, that really put him into the public consciousness.


As a movie poster artist he created dozens of the most memorable poster designs EVER.

That list includes classic designs for -

The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)

Saint Joan (1957)

Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

Vertigo (1958)

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

North by Northwest (1959)

The Cardinal (1959)

West Side Story (1961)

In Harm's Way (1964)

And The Shining (1980), to name just a few. He also designed posters for Grand Prix (1966), Seconds (1966), The Fixer (1968), and Schindler's List (1993), that were not used.

I've seen the Schindler poster but I'd love to see that design for Seconds.


In addition to all of that, Bass designed some of the most recognizable logos of the last half century, among them are -

Geffen Records (1980)

Continental Airlines (1968)

Girl Scouts of the USA (1978)

United Way (1972)

YWCA (1988)

Minolta (1978)

Warner Communications (1972)

Quaker Oats (1971)

United Airlines (1974)

Lawry's Foods (1959)

Rockwell International (1968)

and Warner Books (1963)


In 1960, his storyboards and direction were very largely responsible for the classic "Shower Scene" from the Hitchcock classic, Psycho.

In 1974, he made his only feature length film as a director, the visually splendid though little-known science fiction film Phase IV, a "Quiet, haunting, beautiful, [...] and largely overlooked, science-fiction masterwork".


Here is a very small smattering of some of Bass' wonderful work -





Something you all might enjoy as well is the recent Saul Bass inspired Star Wars clip that made a big splash on YouTube. It's fucking genius -> Star Wars VS Saul Bass


And more great Bass clips at the Tube ---> Saul Bass clips, opening titles, interviews, etc . .


You can check out more Saul Bass here -> Saul Bass on the web

And you can learn more about this modern genius at Wikipedia


So the next time you see a cool looking movie poster, like Burn After Reading, Before The Devil Knows Your Dead, or Clockers, you'll know who the true credit goes to.


- TB

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Great post, Tim!!! Absolute genius of graphic design. I love seeing credits in current movies so obviously influenced by bass' work, ie; Catch Me If You Can. That Star Wars clip has always make me chuckle.


I never saw that poster to "One, Two, Three" that's on Saul Bass site before. Incidentally, that's one of the funniest, most cleverly written films I've ever seen, with an absolutely manic performance by Cagney.

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It's amazing how his influence is so strong in this medium even today.

He's literally one of the most influential visualists Hollywood has ever seen.

If not THE most. You see his influence everywhere if you look, not just the obvious stuff.

And his cartoons too, take a look at that Why Man Creates clip . . . Good God.


I have to own Phase IV. I have to!


- TB

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Guys, I can express how touched to hear you speak of bass in these terms. I don't think people realize how influential and powerful his stuff is and has defined modern design. The stark simplicity and iconic nature of his work influenced me before I even knew what the hell design was... Just recently I designed a logo and you can obviously see the Bass influence. The man redefined the language of iconography.


Great thread.




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