"Design is thinking made visual." — Saul Bass
Who he was:
Saul Bass was a designer, director, and animator. Bass was born in New York City May 8th, 1920. He studied at the Art Students League and later at Brooklyn College. In 1946 he moved from New York to Los Angles, California. In California he worked for several advertising agencies before opening his own firm called Saul Bass and Associates. Saul Bass passed away in 1996.
What he did:
United Way, AT&T, Girl Scouts of the United States of America, United Airlines, Quaker Oats, Exxon, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, et cetera.
If you can imagine an image associated with any of the above words you are probably imagining the work of Saul Bass. During his 50-year career Bass worked on projects that have since become pop icons. In both New York and LA Bass worked on reconfiguring typefaces in movie titles and advertising.
Bass’s imagery is characteristically stark and symbolic. He often reduced the design to a single image placed in the center of the page. This type of imagery was uncommon during the 50s and 60s. Bass's first image to gain popularity was his work on "The Man with the Golden Arm". Instead of using the image of the main actor in the ad Bass chose a wood block print of an arm. The arm was angular and the entire composition consisted of basic colors. This arm was effective in capturing the essence of the heroin addicted main character without directly showing his image.
He may be most well known for his work in collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock. It is common belief that Bass was even the one to direct the famous shower scene in the Hitchcock film Psycho, however still much controversy surrounds this statement. The scene does contain many of the same characteristics of Bass's work that primarily relied on images rather than text or dialogue.
At one point going out to see a movie at a theater meant more than seeing the feature presentation and ten minutes of previews. Audiences were shown short films or animations before the main attraction. When this element of the movie going experience faded Bass incorporated it into the opening credits. He used his graphic design skills in combination with his direction skills to make the opening of the movie more than an introduction but a short feature in its own right. The New York Times referred to Bass as, "...the man who invented the opening credit sequence as a free-standing 'movie before a movie,' and elevated it into an art."
In addition to working with other directors on their projects Bass created a few of his own. He often worked with his wife, Elaine, a fellow graphic designer. Their short animated film Why Man Creates won the couple an Academy Award in 1968.