Cinema's go-to poster boy
You know the work of Saul Bass even if you’ve never heard of him. His artwork for the 1958 film Vertigo — a silhouetted man and outlined woman at the centre of a storm-like circular white swirl, orange background, hand-drawn black credits (pictured above) — is one of cinema’s most familiar posters.
A granddaddy of graphic design who made corporate logos, industrial films and Oscar-winning shorts, Bass was a pioneer of creativity and innovation in a movie’s tangential spaces. His visuals and logos for film advertising materials in the late Forties led him to jobs designing posters, and from there he was asked to design title sequences.
He believed that an audience’s involvement with a film should begin with the very first frame, to create a climate for the story that was about to unfold. Alfred Hitchcock was so impressed by Bass’s titles that he asked Bass to storyboard the shower sequence in Psycho, a sequence of no-fat narrative that is still studied and admired today as a masterpiece.
Bass’s posters are the ultimate expression of his ability to convey a film’s mood with minimum fuss and maximum impact. He could get across key elements of a story, even sometimes an entire plot summary, mostly using black, white and one other colour, as well as one visual motif. From his first poster, for the musical Carmen Jones (1954), to his last — a commission for Schindler’s List (1993) that was never printed and discovered after his death, aged 75, in 1996 — he drew dozens of iconic images.
A new large-format book, with thick-stock pages easily removed for framing, collects 20 of the best, from classic to lesser-known. Before him, film posters were basically adverts, a state to which they’ve returned today. It was so much better when they called Saul.
Saul Bass: 20 Iconic Film Posters, is available now.