The Genius of Saul Bass

For decades, movie studios had no clue how to promote themselves. Movie trailers and posters were cookie-cutter affairs, and film title sequences were bland. Enter Saul Bass. At this point, you’re probably wondering who I’m talking about.

Saul Bass was a graphic designer. His designs, particularly his early work in the 1950s and 1960s, revolutionized film posters, movie title sequences, and the way movies were marketed. His designs were iconic, clean, and simple. Bass used typography and concept to convey moods rather than the previously tried-and-true method of film stills and paintings of film stills. He brought minimalism to the movie-going masses. If you’ve seen a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Otto Preminger, Billy Wilder, or Stanley Kubrick, then you’re probably familiar with the work of Saul Bass. He even worked on a handful of Scorsese films, including Goodfellas (1990) and Cape Fear (1991). And his style has enjoyed quite a renaissance in recent years thanks to film posters like this one for Burn After Reading (2008) and the title credits to Mad Men.

Here are some examples of his legendary work.

Here are some examples of his title sequences.

More film posters:

He created a poster for Schindler’s List (1993), although it was undistributed.

I love how this one says so much with so little.


Filed under Movies

18 responses to “The Genius of Saul Bass

  1. Wow! I did not knew that he was the man behind all those Classic posters! I really loved those ones and I went to NYC just to buy some of these. Just to find out that the shop was closed… The Anatomy of a Murder is one of the best out there!

  2. Yeah, the guy is a legend and was very important to the movie industry and title sequences. Because of him a whole lot changed. Nice to see you shine a light on this amazing designer.

    • Glad to do it, and I’m surprised I’d never really known anything about him until a week or so ago. The second I saw his work, I knew exactly who he was.

  3. Very awesome and informative! Those posters are absolutely awesome. I absolutely love the ones for ‘The Shining’, ‘Vertigo’, and ‘Love in the Afternoon’. Great post, John!

  4. It really doesn’t get much better than this. I remember being wowed by his credit sequence work even when I was a kid, especially in the Hitchcock movies. Of course, when I was a kid I didn’t even know the guys name; I just thought Hitchcock was somehow responsible for the credits.

    • Ha… knowing Hitchcock’s obsessive nature, I’m sure he had plenty to do with it, even if he didn’t design it. I tried really hard to find video for the Psycho opening credits but they were all embedding disabled. Same with Goodfellas.

  5. goregirl

    Delightful post sir. I really dig Saul Bass. I seen Seven Year Itch many years ago and do not recall those title credits at all…they are superb! I love the Vertigo and The Man with the Golden Arm posters. I recently borrowed a film from the library called Bunny Lake Is Missing (rather enjoyed it too) and it had a very cool Saul Bass image on it. Have you ever seen Phase IV? It is directed by Bass. I rewatched it during my 70s horror month and quite liked it. It’s got killer ants!

    • I haven’t seen Phase IV, but killer ants are always a good thing. I did just see Bunny Lake a few weeks back and enjoyed it. Literally the only reason I didn’t include it is that I’d already used so many Preminger films. He did the print for The Cardinal, too- another Preminger- and it’s equally awesome.

  6. That is a great post, Professor John!

  7. Saul Bass is one of my favourite designers–not only did he create such fantastic posters and title sequences, but his logos are still used to this day (mostly…I’m glaring at the Girl Scouts of America for slightly altering his logo, the new one throws off the balance of the original).

  8. Neil

    Some nice posters here, although West Side Story was not designed by Saul Bass. Bass created the opening & end titles, but the poster campaign was by Joe Caroff.
    All best, Neil

  9. Pingback: Saul Bass – West Side Story/Burn After Reading – Posters | ashleigh veitch

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