Chances are, you’ve seen some of Saul Bass’s work without even knowing it. He was the creative force behind the logos of big-name companies such as Kleenex, Girl Scouts of Quaker Oats, United Airlines, and so much more. Together with his wife Elaine, he pioneered movie stylized title credits that primed audiences for the movie’s tone and pacing. As such, Saul Bass is considered the most accomplished graphic designer of the twentieth century. To know more about him, here are some facts:
1. Bass broke into the film industry when director Otto Preminger asked him to design the poster for the film Carmen Jones (1954).
- Before that, Bass was working as a freelance designer for several advertising companies and agencies. He eventually started his own company, Saul Bass & Associates.
- Preminger was so impressed with his work that he asked Bass to direct the title sequence, too.
2. It was in making title sequences that Bass recognized their potential to prime audiences for the rest of the movie.
- He continuously broke new ground with his work. He invented kinetic typography with the title for the films Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), and Psycho (1960).
- Before Bass did title sequences, film titles and credits were usually played on the theaters of movie curtains. Every film Saul Bass worked on was delivered to theaters with the note: “projectionist – pull curtain before titles.”
3. Bass’s longtime partner-in-crime was his wife, Elaine Makatura Bass.
- They first met at his company, when Elaine filled in the position of his assistant. Soon, Bass was giving her a lot of important work, such as co-directing the title sequence of the film Spartacus (1960).
- Saul and Elaine were married for 35 years and had worked together for 40 at the time of his death in 1996.
4. Bass has been credited as a “pictorial consultant” or a “visual consultant” on a number of films.
- It was Bass who drew the storyboards for the shower scene in Psycho. Alfred Hitchcock followed these perfectly. From this arose a myth that it was Saul Bass who directed that famous scene.
- His work has ranged from drawing storyboards of pivotal scenes to directing the opening and closing title sequences and credits. It can be said that every title sequence that sets the theme or mood for the film owes its legacy to the work of Saul and Elaine Bass.
5. The average lifespan of a Saul Bass logo is a staggering 34 years, according to a study.
- The main reasons established for the change of logo is a company merger or the company’s closing.
- Redesigns of company logos still use the Saul Bass original as a base, or else make minimal changes, such as the Girl Scouts of America logo in 2010.
6. Bass’s work in title sequences and logos has won him numerous awards, fellowships, titles, and honorary doctorates.
- These include doctorates from the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design and the Philadelphia College of Art, a fellowship from the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, and the title “Honorary Royal Designer for Industry” from the Royal Society of Arts of London.
- His work has also been exhibited internationally in countries such as Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, and the UK.
Saul Bass expanded the field of graphic design and challenged its boundaries. He will forever be remembered as an inspiration to today’s graphic designers and motion graphics artists.