History of Graphic Design: Saul Bass

I could not have written a blog post about the history of graphic design and not make a mention of one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, Saul Bass. His unique approach to graphic design was a total game changer in the 1950s and 60s, especially in his field of expertise, film posters and film opening sequences. In all of Bass’s works he manages to sum up the subject of his pieces almost effortlessly with very simplistic paper cut outs, something I always take inspiration from, trying to find the best and most effective way of communicating my message. One of the best examples of this effective method and one of my favourites of Bass’s works is the movie poster he made for the 1960 horror movie “Psycho”. I love the way he manages to sum up the film not even using images but merely in the treatment of the word psycho. By shattering the letters he manages to give an idea of what the movie is about and also subtly refers to the plot twist of the movie, the killer’s split personality.


This simplifying method of his is also reflected in many of his famous movie title sequences. His approach to film title sequences was also revolutionary as he was one of the first designers to use moving images within the title to help communicate the feel of the movie with his title sequence for “the man with the golden arm” being an excellent example of this. The film is about the struggle a heroin addict faces to get off drugs which is effectively represented in the opening titles by the way the white strips are injected onto the screen, echoing the heroin needle entering the body. I find the simplicity of this amazing as it manages to subtly convey the theme of the film in an extremely minimalistic way.

Bass’s work has been extremely influential in the graphic design industry, and this influence is clearly demonstrated in poster designer Olly Moss’s work. Moss, like Bass, has the seemingly effortless ability to capture the entire mood of a film using minimalistic graphics and a very limited colour palate which is why i feel he is such a successful designer. The opening sequence for the movie “catch me if you can” is another example of Bass’s influence in the world of graphic design as it shows Bass’s attitude towards film titles. He believed that they could contribute towards the movie and not merely be a still image to tell the viewer the name of the movie.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s