| Titling Sequences & The Role of Saul Bass

Saul Bass was a Jewish-American designer, who became famous both for his corporate identity and graphic work as well as for his contribution in the film industry. Born in 1920 in the Bronx, New York, he created some of the most compelling images of American postwar visual culture, such as corporate identity campaigns for AT&T, Quaker Oats and United Airlines (Bass and Kirkham). However, in the late 1950s, Bass extended the limits of his graphic design career by starting to make film titles. Without a doubt, among his best-known works in film are the title sequences for such classic films as Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho (1960), two motion pictures that have played a significant role in the development of this new genre in film industry.

Before the advent of Bass’s title sequences in the 1950s, not much action was happening in the actual titles sequences. Film titles in American movies of the early to mid-1950s generally followed the style of a rather static kind of graphic design mostly found in typical Hollywood title designs at the time. These early title sequences, called “title backgrounds”, consisted of a fairly short list of credits, written in unimaginative lettering, displayed over a static image that often represented the genre of the film (Kirkham). In fact, in an interview with Los Angeles-based graphic designer Pamela Haskin, Saul Bass himself qualified older titles as being made “strictly with typography, mostly bad typography, and constituted the period when people were settling in, going to restrooms, or involved in chitchat” (13). In other words, the projectionists at the time only pulled the curtains once the titles were finished, letting the audience know that the actual movie was starting. Thus, nothing was truly genuine in film sequences before the arrival of Saul Bass in the film industry in the late 1950s.

My initial thoughts about what a title can do was to set mood and the prime underlying core of the film’s story, to express the film in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it.
– Saul Bass

Opening title sequence for the AMC series Mad Men. Image Source: http://suvanisuri.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/mm_end_frame1.jpg

Opening title sequence for the AMC series Mad Men.
Image Source: http://suvanisuri.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/mm_end_frame1.jpg

With Bass’s collaborations in films such as Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm and Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho, the American designer served as a kind of founding figure who paved the way for graphic artists to follow, developing an aesthetic which has the ability to offer a reading of the film and its main theme before the film even begins. The typography combined with the animated graphic elements allow this to happen in Bass’s opening sequences. Needless to say that even today, we still have homages to Bass: the opening sequence for the AMC television seriesMad Men, which combines several elements from Bass’s previous works, is among the most current ones.

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Sources:

Bass, Jennifer, Pat Kirkham and Martin Scorsese (Foreword). Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design. Laurence King Publishers, 2011. Print.

Haskin, Pamela. “Saul, Can You Make Me a Title?” Film Quarterly. Vol. 50, No. 1 (Automn 1966): 10-17. JSTOR. Web. 23 September 2013.

Kirkham, Pat. “Reassessing the Saul Bass and Alfred Hitchcock Collaboration.” West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture. Vol. 18, No. 1 (Spring Summer 2011): 50-85. JSTOR. Web. 4 October 2013.

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| Think Before You Pink

While I was watching Léa Pool’s documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc. as part of my research for the final assignment of my multimedia class, I learned about an organization called Think Before You Pink. This specific organization is a project of Breast Cancer Action, which was launched in 2002 in response to the growing concern about the overwhelming number of pink ribbon products and promotions on the market. Their campaign calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions.

The truth is that companies put pink ribbons on absolutely anything in the name of breast cancer, and this year is no exception; you can find the pink ribbon symbol on cleaning agents, groceries, toilet paper, office supplies, beauty products, apparel, alcohol… you name it ! (Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director of the organizationOdds are you can find a pink ribbon option almost anywhere.

This website helped me a lot for my documentation and data gathering for my infographic video about breast cancer, since it addresses the matter with the critical eye I was looking for. I think that it is important to raise awareness of this tidal wave of pinkwashing, especially as we are halfway through Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

| Information is Beautiful

Visualizing the major causes of death in the 20th Century.

Visualizing the major causes of death in the 20th Century.

This week I started doing some research on infographics videos, because I am very much interested in exploring this medium for my final assignment.

While I was doing some preliminary research, I stubbled upon this very captivating site called Information is Beautiful. Basically, their goal is to dedicate the website to distilling the world’s data, information and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and, above all, useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams.

One infographic that relates specifically to the topic I am planning on working on for my final assignment illustrates 20th Century Death Causes. I fact, I plan to work on breast cancer, and according to the visual below, cancer is not the number one cause of death around the world. Because we hear so much about cancer and its prevention in our Western society, we would be tempted to think that cancer would have to number 1 death toll worldwide. Therefore, it is surprising to see that other non-communicable diseases (excluding cancer of course, which has a category of its own) are the number cause of death, representing 1,970 million deaths.

Cancer and its death toll.

Cancer and its death toll.

Cancer is the cause for 530 millions deaths around the globe, and breast cancer alone causes 36 millions deaths (the most significant one being lung cancer).

I might consider doing some sort of circular diagram (animated, of course) for my final infographics video.