Graphic Designer and Film Maker – Saul Bass

Graphic Design Saul BassSaul Bass was born on May 8th 1920 in New York and died in Los Angeles on April 25th 1996.  He came from a Jewish American background of designers and filmmakers. Saul Bass was well known as both a graphic designer and a film maker, winning Academy Awards for several films. In his early career he studied art at the Student’s League in Manhattan, attending classes with Gyorgy Kepes at Brooklyn College.

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Saul Bass had a very long and successful career as a film maker using his graphic design skills particularly on the title scenes. He was responsible for creating such riveting scenes that instead of the curtain coming up once the credits had rolled, the public wanted to watch the film credits and watch his genius as an integral part of the film. He was fortunate enough to have many associations in his film career the most notable of which were Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, and Stanley Kubrick.

postersaul bass famous poster

Saul Bass first came to light in the movie world whilst doing background work when asked by Otto Parminger to do some work for him. Otto Parminger was so pleased with the work that he employed him to be the graphic designer for the title sequences on ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’. The film was about a jazz musician who had a heroin addiction and was very radical at the time, drugs considered to be a taboo subject.  Saul Bass came up with the ingenious design of the animated paper arm of a heroin addict. The heroin was illustrated by the use of text which raced up and down the arm until it formed the high angle shot of the UN building which had been taken from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘North by North West’. The disjoined texts race together and apart in ‘Psycho’ bringing the threads of his work together and illustrating the links.

He also showed his genius in ‘Psycho.’ Saul Bass is particularly well known for his title sequences and in Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’, his sketches for the opening titles highly influenced the famous shower scene that we all know with the jagged bars slashed across the screen in a manic mirrored helter-skelter image – these images set the pace for the most important scene ever to be put on celluloid with the shower scene where the actress is killed with a manic killer stabbing her whilst she is in the shower.

Towards the end of his career he worked with Martin Scorsese on films like ‘The Age of Innocence’ using the powerful use of colour and nature to illustrate the title.

Graphic Designer

Saul Bass was a well known graphic designer for some of the most notable logo designs in the US such as the Bell Telephone Logo which was later to develop into the AT&T globe in 1983. He also produced logos for the well-known jet stream for Continental Airlines in 1968, Dixie in 1969, and United in 1972. He later went on to produce logos for companies in Japan and was responsible for designing the Student Academy Award for the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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