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Tag: Lawrence King

My Favourite Book of 2011: Dan (Publicity)

by Dan
Design & Typography + Film / December 19, 2011

Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design

The bookstore I used to work at has sadly gone the way of many great independent bookstores in Canada and shuttered-up shop. It used to be on Toronto's Queen West in the days when the street was, well, "grungier" for want of a better word.  

If you don't know the area, the store was near the Art & Design District and the Fashion District. It was right above Blackmarket, a vintage t-shirt store, across the street from MuchMusic, and around the corner from the AGO and OCAD. It rubbed shoulders with boutique stores like Fluevog, small eclectic music stores, a hip urban bike shop and 24-hour grocery store. The owner loved the Beats and was a film critic on the side. Unsurprisingly, a lot of our customers were interested in art, design, film, music, photography and style.

One thing I would get asked quite frequently (apart from "where's the washroom?", "can you turn the music down?" and "where have they towed my car?") was "do you have any books on Saul Bass?"

Along side Paul Rand, Saul Bass was one of the greatest designers of the 20th Century. Even if you don't recognise the name, you would certainly recognise Bass' distinctive (and much imitated) work on films like Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Otto Preminger's The Man With The Golden Arm and Anatomy of a Murder. And if you don't, you should: they revolutionized film title sequences.

If that weren't enough, Bass also designed logos and corporate identities for AT&T, Quaker Oats, United Airlines, Minolta and the Girl Scouts of America.

His output was remarkable.

Strangely, there were no (zero, zip, nada) books available on Bass for the longest time. It seemed almost unbelievable and customers would always look at me skeptically when I told them there was nothing on the shelves. I have to admit that most times I didn't even bother to look it up (which may have contributed to the skepticism) but that's because I knew there weren't any — I would be first in line if there was. You see, I love Saul Bass' work, especially his film work and his use of hand-drawn lettering. Bass' work is truly like no one else's. He was a design original. 

You can imagine, then, how excited I heard about Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design. From seeing it in the Lawrence King catalogue in April to when it was published last month, there was little doubt what my favourite book would be this year. Designed by Bass' daughter Jennifer, written by design historian Pat Kirkham, and weighing in at over 400 pages, the book doesn't disappoint. It is STILL the only book on Bass's work and is must-have for anyone interested in the history of design or film.

If you're only going to buy one honking great big book on American mid-century modern design for your coffee table this year, make sure it's this one. I'm just sorry my old bookstore isn't there to sell it to you.