Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design, Laurence King Publishing, hard cover, 440 pages, 1484 illustrations, $75.
Multicolored spirals pirouette dizzyingly throughout the opening credits of Hitchcock’s Vertigo … A spare black papercut of a dismembered, supine body conjures up the disturbing premise of Otto Preminger’s film Anatomy of a Murder … These and innumerable other iconic title sequences and movie posters were the creations of genius designer Saul Bass, the artist who turned previously quotidian film elements into a much admired mid-century art form. This first-ever monograph about his deceptively simple, bold, humor-tinged work is co-written by his daughter Jennifer and art historian Pat Kirkham, with an affecting foreword by Martin Scorcese. While highlighting Bass’ movie-related designs, the abundantly illustrated volume delves into the wide range of his gifts, which included filmmaking itself (he choreographed the creepy shower scene in Psycho), as well as designing corporate logos (Quaker Oats, United Airlines), jazzy matchbook sets, sophisticated record jackets, concert posters and artwork for political/humanitarian causes. Bass often referred to his compelling metaphorical designs as “thinking made visible.”