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kottke.org posts about Herbert Yager

Saul Bass on his approach to designing movie title sequences

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 26, 2015

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.