Although you certainly recognize many of the logos he designed, you may not recognize the name behind the icons. Saul Bass holds a prominent place among the logo designers of his generation, thanks to the logos he created for Bell System, United Airlines, PanAm, the Girl Scouts, Kleenex, and more. He is also well known for his work on dozens of title sequences (opening credits) for movies like Psycho, Ocean’s 11 (the original), Big, and The Seven Year Itch. Mr. Bass even won an Oscar for his delightful and somewhat odd short film, Why Man Creates. After his death, The New York Times called him “the minimalist auteur who put a jagged arm in motion in 1955 and created an entire film genre… and elevated it into an art.” They could have said something very similar about his logo design work.
We are big fans of his simple, bold logos. Here are a few things he said about his work, problem solving, and creativity that will appeal to small business owners and logo designers alike:
“Design is thinking made visual.”
“Work? It’s just serious play.”
“I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.”
“There is nothing glamorous in what I do. I’m a working man. Perhaps I’m luckier than most in that I receive considerable satisfaction from doing useful work which I, and sometimes others, think is good.”
“Symbolize and summarize.”
“Interesting things happen when the creative impulse is cultivated with curiosity, freedom and intensity.”
“Sometimes when an idea flashes, you distrust it because it seems too easy. You qualify it with all kinds of evasive phrases because you’re timid about it. But often, this turns out to be the best idea of all.”
“Failure is built into creativity… the creative act involves this element of ‘newness’ and ‘experimentalism,’ then one must expect and accept the possibility of failure.”
“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares, as opposed to ugly things. That’s my intent.”
“The most stimulating source for a solution to a problem comes from the problem itself. This is the real source—the problem defines the solution. It is when you look at what other people are doing that you are liable to come up with a stereotyped answer to your problem. Each problem contains unique elements. No problem is exactly like any other. The only way you can find a good answer is to clearly understand the question. You can’t find the answer by using somebody else’s answer to another question. I am not even saying this is bad. It is merely untrue. It is not so much a moral issue. It just doesn’t work!”
—Saul Bass, Logo Designer
For those looking for more on Saul Bass, David Airey as LogoDesignLove has a nice blog post featuring the story of how he came up with the logo design for Minolta and a short video of Saul Bass offering advice to design students.
A sample of Saul Bass’ logo designs: