The Saul Bass Centennial

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Last Thursday, May 8, would have been graphic designer Saul Bass’ 100th birthday. You may not know his name, but you have no doubt seen his iconic artwork. Bass has always been one of my favorite graphic artists, and it’s really great that he is appreciated for the aesthetic visionary he was.

Bass is best known for his work in film – specifically with directors like Otto Preminger, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stanley Kubrick. His minimalist design philosophy revolutionized how films were advertised. Using a few colors, lines, and shapes, Bass would boil down the ideas of a film into one striking image, rather than using a more classical style to focus on the movie’s stars, as so many posters did in the mid-20th century.

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Bass also created some of the most impressionistic, avant-garde title sequences for films, again reflecting the ideas and situations presented in the film itself. He used all kinds of interesting animation techniques to pull these off, which I have always been mesmerized by. My favorites among these inventive titles are all Hitchcock films: Psycho, North by Northwest, and Vertigo.

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On top of all that, Saul Bass was also responsible for some amazing corporate logos that we have all grown up with. Some of these simple yet effective icons are still in use by their organizations to this day.

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Last year, the Royal Ocean Film Society, a YouTube channel run by the very talented Andrew Saladino, published an outstanding video essay on Saul Bass’ work with film posters – highlighting the designer’s philosophy and style. Take a look below. And be sure to subscribe to the channel for some more interesting film retrospectives!

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