Design Legend Saul Bass Would Have Been 95 Today
Whether or not you know it, you know the work of Saul Bass.
His work was public and prolific, spanning the worlds of advertising and film, and transforming film titles from a functional necessity to a form of creative expression. Martin Scorsese wrote the foreword to the epic Laurence King-published overview of his oeuvre, saying that Bass’ visual style “defined an era.” And yet many of the logos he created are still in use, with contemporary graphic designers studying the marks he created for the likes of AT&T, Bell System, and the Girl Scouts with reverence. Today would have been his 95th birthday.
In honor of this design giant who still influences the work all of us in the book business, here’s some of Saul’s wisdom in his own words:
“You know, we hear a lot about the joy of creating. What we don’t acknowledge is the anguish and anxiety that come with the territory…Of course the pleasure when it does come can be very intense. Also, the play between pleasure and anxiety is part of the dynamic that makes the creative experience so compelling.”
“When I hit a blank wall, I stop and go to another problem, hitting each one at a productive point. When things are clicking, I keep going all the way. Next thing I know, I’m past it and going on. By simultaneously working on a variety of problems, I find that one creative problem helps me solve another. The underlying ideas and emotions of one problem can often validly be related to another.”
“There are two factors important to me. One is that I work with people I like, and with whom I have an appropriate sense of community. With clients I can respect, who respect me, and with whom I have rich interchange. The other is to do interesting work within this framework. And when push comes to shove, working with the right people may be the most important. You know, the problem may be less challenging, but it can be fun and rewarding to be in interaction with good people.”
“You see an artist, a creative person, can accept criticism or can live with the criticism much more easily than with being ignored. Criticism makes you feel alive. If somebody is bothered enough to speak vituperatively about it, you feel you have touched a nerve and you are at least ‘in touch.’ You are not happy that he doesn’t like it, but you feel you are in contact with life.”
“Somehow, you learn more when you are laughing. When you can sense the good feeling and warm intent of the person who is talking to you. You are more open to positive and joyful people, even if you don’t agree with what they have to say.”
In the video below, see Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design being printed under the watchful eye of Jennifer Bass, Saul’s daughter who also designed it. It’s 447 pages, 1500 images, and full of insight in the form of more quotes, stories, and of course his groundbreaking visual vernacular.
What’s your favorite Saul Bass title sequence? Leave your answer in the comments below.
All images courtesy of Laurence King Publishing
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