It could be argued that Bass sparked a revolution in Graphic Design, when first entering into the design of title sequences in the 1950’s. Upon writing for Graphis Magazine in 1960, his article "Film Titles – a New Field for the Graphic Designer," highlighted the advantages and possibilities of this new medium.
Bass’ aim was to capture the essence of the motion picture in a compelling way. His titles set up the scene, similar to a Shakespearian prologue, we the audience were offered visual clues, tones and themes. The animation techniques use were groundbreaking, as Bass introduced a new kind of kinetic typography. No longer would the titles appear as static text upon the screen or even the theatres curtain. Type would now move, be alive and become an essential part of setting up the narrative.
A Graphic Designer by trade, Bass was born in 1920 in the Bronx, New York to Eastern European Jewish immigrant parents. After studying Art part time in Manhattan and then attending night classes at Brooklyn College, Bass then married Ruth Cooper in 1938 before his Hollywood career kicked off in 1940.
Creating print advertisements and film posters was where Bass began, until when working on the film poster for Otto Preminger’s film Carmen Jones (1954) he made a significant breakthrough. His film poster impressed Preminger so much so, that he also commissioned Bass to produce the title sequence as well. The beginning of the modern film title was soon to be realized for the first time.
Bass would continue to produce title sequences for many big budget films during an impressive design career spanning five decades, until his final title sequences for Casino (1995) and A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies (1995).
In addition to his contribution to film and title. sequence development, Bass also created many post war logos that became synonymous with American and western capitalist culture as a whole, such as Warner Communications, Kleenex, AT&T, United Airlines, Quaker Oats and Continental Airlines to name but a few.
The impact of Bass’ innovation sent ripple effects through the industries of creative design, film and animation. Technology has brought us new advantages and faster systems to be able to create effects and replicate the techniques that Bass pioneered from the comfort of our homes. When attempting to create our own posters and titles today, we can surely appreciate and admire him even more given the fact that he produced much of his historic body of work with traditional design and film technologies.
Having been a professional designer myself for little over 6 years, I can only be thankful to greats like Saul Bass for altering the landscape and in a way opening up many more opportunities for designers to follow.