From the Design Desk: The Devil Is in the Details

Every now and then, a friend or colleague will point something out. In some cases, that something will have been nearly invisible up to that moment, but after we are made aware of it, that something is EVERYWHERE. It’s a strange phenomenon.

The first time I was introduced to the work of Saul Bass, that same phenomenon occurred. Logos that I had been glancing over for years were revealed to be his designs. And I began to see them everywhere. It was like the first time someone mentioned the arrow in the FedEx logo.

But as I delved a bit deeper, the work that resonated and inspired me the most were his movie title posters and sequences. And so, with the season of scary movies and thrillers upon us, it felt appropriate to share some of his work in those genres.


In Bass’s poster for Hitchcock’s Vertigo, he focused on using the series of lines and curves to replicate the visual sensations someone might experience while suffering from vertigo. He does the same in his title sequence, creating a dizzying effect with bright spirals and curves. In that sequence, he also utilizes the close-up of a woman’s face as a reference to the main character’s dangerous obsession with the woman he is hired to investigate.

The Shining

In this poster for Stanley Kubrick’s film The Shining, his use of bright color (there is also a red version) immediately draws your eye. But the face’s eerie under-lit glow—and the way that it mirrors the viewer’s—warns the viewer that there is much to dread about the movie. One also has to wonder if the two lowercase i’s in “Shining” were meant as a nod to the twin girls in the movie.


In his poster for Psycho, it is interesting to imagine what the overall feel of the poster might be without the cracked and ripped typography in the word “PSYCHO” along the bottom. It wouldn’t look like a thriller at all. It is also worth noting that his type treatment along the right side does not feel dated, and in fact is in line stylistically with treatments you’d see today.

Bunny Lake is Missing

In his title sequence for Bunny Lake Is Missing, about the search for a girl named Bunny after her mother reports her missing, Bass uses the tear-away papers as a metaphor for uncovering the mystery of the missing girl. Visually, I love how the tearing has a jaggedness and uneasiness.

This is just a sliver of Saul Bass’s work, but you can see that there always seems to be a purpose and meaning behind his imagery, typography, and composition. All designers today continue to strive for that same sort of second read in their posters, logos, and, in our case here at Chronicle, book covers.

Get 25% off + free ground shipping on Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design. Just enter the code BOOKDUJOUR at checkout through October 21st.

Ryan Hayes

Ryan Hayes

Senior Designer

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