In 1977, Herbert Yager interviewed designer and title sequence designer Saul Bass about his approach to designing opening title sequences for films such as North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Psycho.
I began as a graphic designer. As part of my work, I created film symbols for ad campaigns. I happened to be working on the symbols for Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones and The Man With The Golden Arm and at some point, Otto and I just looked at each other and said, “Why not make it move?”
It was as simple as that.
I had felt for some time that audience involvement with a film should begin with its first frame.
Until then, titles had tended to be lists of dull credits, mostly ignored, endured, or used as popcorn time.
There seemed to be a real opportunity to use titles in a new way — to actually create a climate for the story that was about to unfold.
No where in that excerpt did Bass or the interviewer reference Bass’ wife and collaborator Elaine Bass, who worked closely with him on almost all of their film projects. In recent years, there’s been a push to recontextualize their working relationship as a partnership. Elaine did start off working as his employee but clearly they worked as true collaborators for much of their careers.
From 1969, this is the video that Saul Bass made to pitch AT&T on a new corporate identity. What a time capsule. Here’s the logo, which remained in use until 1983, when Bass designed the “Death Star” logo to replace it.
Saul Bass designed the opening sequences for dozens of films, including North by Northwest, Psycho, West Side Story, and Goodfellas. Here’s a look at some of his best work:
(via art of the title)
Fine work as usual from Christian Annyas: a look at the design of the Warner Bros logo from 1923 to the present. The classic “WB” shield of my Bugs-and-Daffy-saturated youth will always be a favorite, but I do like the Saul Bass logo of the 70s and early 80s:
Affleck’s Argo and Soderbergh’s Magic Mike both used the Bass logo in place of the contemporary logo, which is the kind of little detail I love.
Here’s a collection of video and stills from most of the movie title sequences created by Saul Bass.
“PROJECTIONISTS - PULL CURTAIN BEFORE TITLES”.
This is the text of a note that was stuck on the cans when the reels of film for “The Man With the Golden Arm” arrived at US movie theatres in 1955. Until then the credits were referred to as ‘popcorn time.’ Audiences resented them and projectionists only pulled back the curtains to reveal the screen once they’d finished. Saul Bass’ powerful title sequence for “The Man With the Golden Arm” changed the way directors and designers would treat the opening titles.