Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

Bass as a bill poster
The cover of Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, published by Laurence King
(Image credit: TBC)

There is no single word to sum up the work of graphic designer Saul Bass, who so succinctly defined entire movies with just one image. Luckily, there are now 440 pages to do the talking in Laurence King's (opens in new tab) long-awaited book, Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design.

Of course, this new tome has its fair share of images too, more than a thousand of them, in fact: old photographs, product labels and movie posters in that unmistakably jerky style. Equally resonant are the stills of Bass's (opens in new tab) now mythical film title sequences. Remember the fruit machines at the start of Ocean's Eleven, illustrated with hundreds of dots like Vegas neon? Ever see Anatomy of a Murder (opens in new tab), with that staccato Duke Ellington score synched to graphic body fragments on the pavement? Classic Saul Bass. As is, perhaps, his most famous work, from Vertigo (opens in new tab) (a sequence unambiguously referenced in 2007, when the TV series Mad Men debuted its titles, featuring another faceless, falling man).

You see tributes to the graphic designer everywhere. Yet this book is the definitive homage, discerningly and lovingly edited by his daughter Jennifer Bass, now a designer herself, with a foreword by Martin Scorsese, who collaborated with him on Goodfellas (opens in new tab), Cape Fear and other films. Just thinking of those titles makes you want to hide beneath the covers. Such was the power of Bass's visuals. Perhaps you could call him the Man with the Golden Arm (opens in new tab), after the Otto Preminger film whose titles he designed. After all, nearly everything he touched turned to cinema gold.

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

Poster for The Man With The Golden Arm, directed by Otto Preminger, 1955

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

Tone Poems of Color album cover, 1956

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

Poster for Saint Joan, directed by Otto Preminger, 1957

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

Poster for 'Vertigo', directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1958

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread from the chapter on Anatomy of a Murder, directed by Otto Preminger, 1958

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

The symbol of the male figure became so synonymous with the film that it was possible to remove the text for programmes and invitations altogether

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread from the chapter on Bonjour Tristesse, directed by Otto Preminger, 1958

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread from the chapter on Exodus, directed by Otto Preminger, 1960

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread showing the scorched invitations to the Exodus premier

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread from the chapter on Spartacus, directed by Stanley Kubrick & Anthony Mann, 1960

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread showing Bass as a 'bill poster' for an article in Show Business Illustrated, 1962

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread with the poster and idea sketches from the chapter on Seconds, directed by John Frankenheimer, 1966

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread from the chapter on Lawry's Seasoning & Food Company, Saul's first major identity campaign, 1950s and 1960s

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread from the chapter on Hunt Foods after it took over W.P. Fuller & Company and asked Saul to devise a new logo, 1960s

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread on a selection of designs for Ohio Blue Tip Matches - a division of Hunt Foods, c. 1963-65

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

Saul with some of the work produced during the identity design process of Celanese Corporation of America, 1965

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

Saul in his office, 1970s

(Image credit: TBC)

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

A spread of from the chapter on United Airlines advertisements, 1989

(Image credit: TBC)