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  • Neil Goodman

Saul Bass - Design goes to the Movies!

Updated: Apr 23, 2021

I doubt there has been a more universally loved graphic designer than Saul Bass. The creator of such iconic brands as Kleenex, AT & T and Warner Bothers, who died 25 years ago on the 25th April, was one of the most influential designers of all time.

His minimal simplicity would become his trademark allowing for legibility and readability in his designs; you really want to look at them! The film titles he worked on brought graphic design to the Hollywood studios. That Bass is even renowned for title sequences is a testament to his creativity. Before Saul Bass entered the scene film titles were usually dull affairs, names and static images. Under his eye, they became pieces of art, statements on the tone, and texture of what was to come.. In the 1956 film, ‘The Man with the Golden Arm’ the Bass designed sequence of off-kilter lines encroaching on the credits and moving in time to the frantic Elmer Bernstein jazz-score. The bar had been set; film makers now needed a graphic designer on board!

The Billy Wilder-directed comedy, “The Seven Year Itch” starring Marilyn Monroe struck a lighter mood, and Bass responded with perky cutout boxes and a vibrant orange, yellow and red colour scheme. This colour scheme, the cutout design and hand-drawn typefaces (he made words powerful without being overbearing) would become a staple of his film poster work over the next 20 years.

As a director, he’s most famous for storyboarding and suggesting the montage and tight framing of the famous shower/murder scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho, though he did make a few short films and a sci-fi feature film Phase IV (1974) later in his career. His last poster design was for Schindler’s List (though it was never used) and the final title sequence he worked on before his death was for Scorsese’s Casino.

His style is still channeled and celebrated by designers today—title sequences for recent films like Catch Me If You Can (2002), X-Men First Class (2011), and of course the hit TV series Mad Men pay homage to the late Bass.

We have him on the wall, here in Good Design HQ too!


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