Saul Bass photograph by: Harrie Verstappen
This month marks the 15th anniversary of the death of a man who is considered, by many, to be one of the 20th Century’s greatest designers, Saul Bass. In fact, if you've ever paid a visit to Hampton HQ you may have noticed that a few of the designers here are fans, the stairwell is dotted with a few his of iconic film posters.
And that is how most people know Saul Bass (at least his work if not his name) through his unique film posters and opening credits design. The Man With The Golden Arm, North by Northwest, Vertigo, Psycho, West Side Story and The Shining are just a few examples of his design prowess within the world of cinema, that made him the go-to guy for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese.
However, he was also responsible for the creation of some of America's most globally iconic brand identities like AT&T, Avery, Warner Communications, Minolta and United Airlines to name a few. The stunning thing is that most of these identities have remained relatively unchanged since their creation over 30 years ago, which is incredible to think of in an era of mass consumerism, where brands are often to be thought of in similar terms to sharks; if they stop moving they die!
The shadow of Saul Bass looms large over the design industry, his visual legacy is everywhere to be seen, as the poster design for films such as Burn After Reading, Precious and opening credits for Catch Me If You Can demonstrate. But more so than that, many designers are loathed to tamper with a Bass identity, seeing it as almost sacrilegious to do so, and heaven forbid you should cock it up, the wrath of your peers could be severe indeed, he is held in such high regard.
But Saul Bass shouldn’t be viewed as some sort of looming design overlord or deity, but rather as an inspiration and a level of creative thinking to aspire to. Bass forged a new way of thinking about design and in particular with regard to design within cinema (both graphic and cinematic) and forever changed the designer’s role within the film industry.
So here's to Saul… Design Legend!