Profile of Graphic Designer Saul Bass

Saul Bass (1920-1996) was a Bronx- born graphic designer who took his New York style to California and became famous for his work in film and classic logo design. He studied in New York at the Art Students’ League as a teenager and developed a unique style that is both recognizable and memorable.

Saul Bass’s Style

Bass is famous for his use of simple, geometric shapes and their symbolism. Often, a single dominant image stands alone to deliver a powerful message.

These shapes, as well as type, were often hand drawn by Bass to create a casual appearance, always packed with a sophisticated message. His ability to create such a powerful message with basic shapes makes the work even more impressive.

From Print to Screen

Bass is best known for his work in film. He started out in the industry doing poster design, first hired by director and producer Otto Preminger. Bass had an uncanny ability to capture the mood of a film with simple shapes and images, much like his other work. He would go on to work with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorcese and design classic posters for movies such as The Man with the Golden Arm, West Side Story, The Shining, Exodus, and North by Northwest.

From poster design, Bass would move on to creating impressive title sequences for many films, such as Psycho and Vertigo. These opening credits felt like animated graphic design, maintaining Bass’s print style for a consistent branding of a film.

This work would continue late into Bass’s career, designing title sequences for Big, Goodfellas, Schindler’s List and Casino. To top off his involvement in the film world, Bass won an Oscar in 1968 for his short film Why Man Creates.

Corporate Branding

Along with his impressive film portfolio, Bass was responsible for creating memorable logos, many of which still exist today.

Through his freelance work and with his firm Saul Bass & Associates, he would create identities for companies such as Quaker Oats, AT&T, The Girl Scouts, Minolta, United Airlines, Bell and Warner Communications. In addition, Bass designed the poster for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and several Academy Awards shows.

Sources:

Richard Hollis, "Graphic Design: A Concise History." Thames & Hudson, Inc. 2001.

Philip B. Meggs, Alston W. Purvis. “Meggs’ History of Graphic Design.” Fourth Edition. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. 2006.

Design Museum, http://www.designmuseum.org, "Saul Bass: Graphic Designer"