Saul Bass

In the following essay I am going to talk about one of the most famous and amazing graphic designers in the world, Saul Bass. The second part is going to be about his life; in the third and fourth sections I am going to talk about his works and the innovations that he brought into the graphic design area and also in cinematography. In the fifth part I will include some final remarks and a conclusion.

Saul Bass was a graphic designer and art director born in New York in 1920. He studied art at Brooklyn College and then, in 1946, he moved to Los Angeles and founded Saul Bass and Associates creating logos for different companies. After moving into the cinematographic area, he started creating trailers and titles for films, at first for Cameron Jones and later on, for Alfred Hitchcock (North by Northwest, Psycho [image 2], Anatomy of a Murder [image 3],Goodfellas, Vertigo [image 4]). The artwork he created for these movies is, in my opinion the reason why Saul Bass is so famous today. He died on April 25th 1996 in Los Angeles of “non-Hodgkins lymphoma, his family said” (New York Times, 1996).

Saul Bass brought important innovations in the ways the cinematographic posters were done “for the first fifty years of American cinema, posters were comprised of either paintings of photos of favourite stars to lure audiences into darkened auditoriums. And that’s the way it would most likely to be today if it weren’t for one man: Saul Bass”- this is how Paul Zimmerman describes the new ideas that Bass introduced into the cinematographic field. He introduced the simple design into film posters’ artwork. His designs are now an important part of the graphic design’s history. Also, Bass is famous as “the man who invented the opening credit sequence as a free-standing-movie-before-a-movie and elevated it into an art” (New York Times, 1996).  I think that Saul Bass managed to capture the essence of design and what it should do, and mastered it: “beneath theory and rhetoric, and well beyond technique and jargon, the reason for design is to speak to people in a language that is familiar, but also new, to entice people to understand an old thing into a new way” (David R. Brown, 1982). The most famous artwork that Bass did is the shower scene in the movie Psycho but, in my opinion, the most impressive and influencing of his work is the poster for the film The Man With The Golden Arm” (image 5) that is a huge step forward, in my opinion, for movie poster designs “with his striking credit sequences and animations, Bass exerted tremendous influence over film title work” (Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, 2005).

It’s easy to see that Bass was influenced a lot by the Bauhaus style and the Russian Constructivism: “Kepes introduced Bass to Moholy’s Bauhaus style and to Russian Constructivism” (Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, 2005). But, in my opinion, Bass had successfully combined his unique style with these two, the amazing result remaining an icon for the art world and not only: “Saul Bass’s work touches people. Not just designers, or students, or observers of design, or those who know and can explain what a designer is and does, but simply people- many, many people. It’s a cliché, but Saul Bass really has done it all. Film. Packaging. Products. Architecture. Corporate Identification. Graphics. His work surrounds us” (David R. Brown, 1982).

I think that Saul Bass’ innovation had a great influence on how we see the movie titles and the posters today and in my opinion, he succeeded in achieving both graphic design and film design absolute success “Bass is the first to disavow the widely held idea that graphic design and film design are closely related disciplines. In medium, time, concept, technique and technical aspects, they are not (…).Yet, Saul Bass has not only mastered both, he is confortable in both” (David R. Brown, 1982).

All in all, Saul Bass was always one of the artists who’s style inspires me and which I appreciate.

Referencing list:

Zimmerman, Paul (no date), Available at: (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Woodman, Jonathan (2005); Oxford Dictionary of Modern Design, Oxford University Press

Saul Bass (no date); Available at: (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Brown, David R. (1982); Saul Bass; Available at: (Accessed 31.03.2011)

Thomas, Robert (1996); Saul Bass, 75, Designer, Dies; Made Art out of Movie Titles; New York Times Obituary; Available at: (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 1: Zimmerman, John; Saul Bass- Portrait (no date); image source: , (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 2: Bass, Saul; Psycho (1960); image resource: (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 3: Bass, Saul; Anatomy of a murder (1959); image resource: (Accessed 31.03.2011)

image 4: Bass, Saul; Vertigo (1958); image resource: (Accessed: 31.03.2011)

image 5: Bass, Saul; The Man With The Golden Arm (1955); image resource: (Accessed: 31.03.2011)


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