Few other designers permeate the creative world quite like Saul Bass (1920-1996). Ask any Designer/Illustrator to name their influences (especially those among the new wave of minimalist movie posters) and you’ll almost certainly hear his name. So it comes as a surprise that this is the first biography and career retrospective of this most prolific and influential artist.
Saul’s daughter, Jennifer Bass (Graphic Designer) and Pat Kirkham (Design Historian) present a comprehensive and personal look at a lifetime of work covering Saul’s earliest advertising and album cover designs to his popular movie posters, title sequences, short films and corporate identities. More than simply a retrospective, this is a book Saul had envisaged creating himself and throughout are his first-hand anecdotes and insightful comments relating to his theories on design and relationships with directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Otto Preminger.
The largest section of the book is quite rightly devoted to his work on opening title and credit sequences for film (often in collaboration with his wife Elaine) with notable examples being The Man With The Golden Arm (the one that started it all), Anatomy Of A Murder, Grand Prix and Casino. Interestingly, Saul was also commissioned to design and storyboard entire scenes for Spartacus and Psycho. Included in the book are Saul’s storyboards for Psycho’s infamous shower scene, a sequence cleverly designed to leave most of its brutality to your imagination and in doing so created a classic moment in cinema history. A film that quite possibly would have been reduced to forgettable b-moviedom were it placed in less skillful hands than that of Hitchcock, Bass and Bernard Herrmann.
The following chapter covers a series of short films Saul made with Elaine, sharing their strong creative and ecological values that led onto Saul’s only full-length feature, the psychedelic cult film Phase IV. Completing the book is a large collection of packaging, branding and advertising work for companies such as Warner Brothers, AT&T, Continental Airlines and Quaker Oats, which offer a compelling look at how ‘high art’ concepts can be applied to the mainstream corporate world.
An introduction by Martin Scorsese is recommendation enough for the quality and importance of the work contained, and given the shortage of other titles on Saul Bass, this is a long overdue book that every Graphic Designer should have on the shelf.
Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design by Jennifer Bass & Pat Kirkham
Hardback 440 pages
29.7 x 26.9 x 4.3 cm
Review by Christopher King (aka Wing’s Art & Design Studio) a Freelance Illustrator & Graphic Designer creating hand-drawn & digital artwork for posters, flyers, books & advertising clients. Also something of a movie buff.