Saul Bass is one of those artists that nobody knows, except everybody knows. Wait, what? Let me explain.

If you’re not into graphic arts, movies’ aesthetic or corporate identity it is likely that you’re not familiar with his name, but you’ve seen his artworks. A lot of them, actually. He’s a legend in the world of graphic design, as he redefined the aesthetic of advertising during the ‘60s – ‘80s; few examples are AT&T, United Way, Quaker Oats logos. But as I mentioned before, he’s also the brilliant mind behind a lot of unmistakable film posters and title sequences (Psycho; can’t you feel the movie’s spirit just through those lines in motion? and Anatomy Of A Murder).

So: a story of success.
Because a but is what you were all expecting, right? There it is.
…what happen when your client is Stanley Kubrick?

Something great but hard, since Kubrick is know to be an incredibly brilliant movie director (uh and also, he’s notorious for working his actors to the bone to satisfy his obsession for details in his work. Whatever, right?).

Here we have a series of rejected concepts for “The Shining” movie poster (1978), in which their artistic exchange is captured: papers sketched by Bass, annotated by Kubrick. It can not go unnoticed that the sketches Bass made are all by hand: for each design he created shapes, light and shades through juxtaposition of little ink dots.

“Hard to read, even at this size”, “Hotel looks too sprawling”, “Not compact enough” (sounds a little as a “bigger logo!” style conversations, doesn’t it?), “Looks like science fiction”, or the interest the element of the labyrinth triggered in Bass, only to be later rejected by Kubrick as a maze poster “put too much emphasis on it”.

What’s really fascinating about this rare material is that we can both see the process and complexity behind the creation of a successful artwork -What elements represent the movie, what does they communicate to an unaware audience?- and the way of thinking of two great artistic minds. Enjoy!

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References & further readings:

Saul Bass poster archive.

Pictures: courtesy of The Fox Is Black, from Kubrick’s exhibit at Lacma (Los Angeles, 2012).


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