February 1, 2012
Like Father, Like Daughter
Saul Bass, the legendary designer of title graphics, finally gets his due.
Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design
By Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham
440 pp., $75
Few cineastes would disagree that, among designers of motion-picture graphics, Saul Bass is the king of them all. Over a 60-year career, the graphic designer created title sequences for more than 50 movies, including Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm, Martin Scorsese’s Casino, and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and North by Northwest. In addition to doing the titles for Psycho, Bass storyboarded the film’s pivotal shower sequence, one of the most famous scenes in cinema history. He also directed several films, and designed many recognizable logos and ad campaigns.
But in all these years, there has never been a major book on the designer—until now. His daughter, Jennifer Bass, and the design historian Pat Kirkham combed through his entire archive—housed today at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts—to redress this oversight with the massive tome Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design (Laurence King), a 440-page book that weighs in at just under seven pounds.
Jennifer Bass, a graphic designer herself, explains that she had been thinking about such a project ever since she was eight years old, when she overheard a conversation her parents had about Saul wanting to do a book on his life and work—a project that he began but never completed. “The spirit of the book he started is within this book,” she says. “After his death, it became very clear to me that there was so much additional material that would be really important and exciting to include.”
Bass had insight into his process, having often worked alongside her father. Growing up, she would go with him to his office on weekends, where he encouraged her to work on her own projects, while he designed his. “There were a couple of times when what I was doing actually triggered an idea for him,” she says. One day, at home, she was playing with a fancy new toothpaste that had just come out. As she squeezed the red-and-white-striped paste into a design on the bathroom mirror, her dad walked in and saw what she was up to. “Many years later, this image came back to him as he was exploring ideas for the cover of the AIGA Graphic Design USA 2 annual.”
Bass cherished working on the book: “It had such deep meaning for me that I want to embark on something else that I can be equally passionate about.” Her next Saul Bass–related project? “I would love to do a reissue of a series of furniture pieces that my dad designed for his own personal use,” she says. “They are beautiful and simple, with lots of little drawers with dividers for arranging and organizing things. We really enjoy them, and it would be great to have them out in the world for others to enjoy as well.”