Saul Bass On His Approach To Designing Movie Title Sequences

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Saul Bass On His Approach To Designing Movie Title Sequences

Graphic designer and Oscar-winning director Saul Bass worked with some of the most creative filmmakers in Hollywood to set the tone for their work through his unique title sequences for films ranging from Psycho to Goodfellas.

In 1977, Bass sat down with Herbert Yager to discuss his process and the theories behind his signature contribution to film: the title sequence.

Following is an excerpt from their conversation, as found in the Saul Bass papers, which reside at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library. The interview was conducted as part of the film, Bass on Titles.

How did you get involved with movie titles?

I began as a graphic designer. As part of my work, I created film symbols for ad campaigns. I happened to be working on the symbols for Otto Preminger’s Carmen Jones and The Man With The Golden Arm and at some point, Otto and I just looked at each other and said, “Why not make it move?”

It was as simple as that.

Until then, titles had tended to be lists of dull credits, mostly ignored, endured, or used as popcorn time.

There seemed to be a real opportunity to use titles in a new way — to actually create a climate for the story that was about to unfold.