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Saul Bass

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Saul Bass

Saul Bass (May 8, 1920 - April 25, 1996) was a graphic designer, but is best known for his design on motion picture title sequences, which is thought of as the best such work ever seen.

During his 40-year career he worked for some of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers, including most notably Alfred Hitchcock, plus Otto Preminger, Stanley Kubrick and Martin Scorsese. His most famous title sequence is probably the animated paper cut-out of a heroin addict's arm for Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm.

Saul Bass designed the 6th AT&T Bell System logo, that at one point achieved a 93 percent recognition rate in the United States. He also designed the AT&T "globe" logo for AT&T after the break up of the Bell System.

Saul Bass was born in May 8, 1920 in New York City. He studied at the Art Student's League in Manhattan until he was old enough to attend Brooklyn College. He began his time in Hollywood doing print work for film ads, until he collaborated with filmmaker Otto Preminger to design the poster for his 1954 film Carmen Jones. Preminger was so impressed with Bassís work that he asked him to produce the title sequence as well. This was when Bass first saw the opportunity to create something more than a title sequence, but to create something which would ultimately enhance the experience of the audience and tell the beginning of the story within the opening credits. Bass was one of the first to realise upon the storytelling potential of the opening and closing credits of a film.

Bass became notorious in the industry after creating the title sequence for Otto Preminger's The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). The subject of the film was a jazz musicians struggle to overcome his heroin addiction, a taboo subject in the mid 50's. Bass decided to create a controversial title sequence. He chose the arm as the central image, as the arm is a strong image relating to drug addiction. The titles featured an animated, black paper cut-out arm of a heroin addict. As he expected it caused quite a sensation.

For Alfred Hitchcock Bass provided effective, memorable title sequences for North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho. Bass also claims he is responsible for the highlight of Psycho, the tightly edited shower-murder sequence, though many on set at the time (including Janet Leigh) dispute this contention.

It was these kinds of innovative, revolutionary work that made Bass the revered graphic designer he is today. His later work with Martin Scorsese saw him move away from the optical techniques that he had pioneered and move into computerised titles, from which he produced the stunning sequence for Casino.

He had been designing title sequences for 40 years before his death in 1996, from films as diverse as It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) to Casino (1995). He also designed title sequences for films such as Goodfellas (1990), Doc Hollywood (1991), Cape Fear (1991) and The Age of Innocence (1993), all of which feature new and innovative methods of production and startling graphic design, and all of which attempt to tell some of the story, be it introducing characters or giving plot clues, in the first few minutes of the film.

He also designed the Student Academy Award for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. [1] (http://www.oscars.org/academyawards/awards/saa.html)

Logos designed by Saul Bass

Selected logos by Saul Bass and respective dates.

Quotes

"My initial thoughts about what a title can do was to set mood and the prime underlying core of the film's story, to express the story in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it."

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