Saul Bass Life Film Design

“If I do my job well, the identity program will also clean up the image of the company, position it as being contemporary and keep it from ever looking dated.”

Lawry's logo
Lawry’s (original design by Saul Bass in 1959, 3D version unknown)

Alcoa logo
Alcoa (original design by Saul Bass in 1963, tweaked in 1999)

Celanese logo
Celanese (original design by Saul Bass in 1965, changed in 200x)

Quaker logo
Quaker (original design by Saul Bass in 1971, changed in 2010 by Wallace Church)

Minolta logo
Minolta (original design by Saul Bass in 1978, changed in 2003)

Kleenex logo
Kleenex (original design by Saul Bass in 198x, changed in 2008 by Sterling Brands)

AT&T logo
AT&T (original design by Saul Bass in 1986, changed in 2005 by Interbrand)

Lots more examples of Saul Bass logos on designer Christian Annyas’ blog. Christian worked-out that the average lifespan of a Saul Bass logo is 34 years. Hugely impressive, but should’ve been longer in my humble opinion.

Related, from the archives, is the cost of a Saul Bass logo. And head to for a look inside the excellent book Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design.


I ABSOLUTELY agree! Saul’s originals are brilliant. The attempted “3D” update of the at&t logo in particular is plain-old stupid. The re-designer completely missed the point of Saul’s horizontal stripes. In Saul’s original, the variations of width implies the highlight on a sphere. The re-designer curved the stripes, hoping for a more spherical effect, but completely lost the highlight idea. Just a horrible mis-interpretation. But the obviously visually illiterate big shot “suits”, the execs approved it! Go figure. Did their sales increase by “modernizing” the logo so stupidly? I doubt it.

Having been an ‘ inspired student ‘ of Mr. Bass’ design work throughout my career ( 1975 – present ) I have to say that the simplicity of his work is still far superior than ANY updating that has been done ( except that of the AT&T logo ).

I can only hope that the young designers of today’s generation have an opportunity to learn from him, Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Herb Lubalin and all of the other design masters that have influenced and ignited our imagination over the years.

And a huge THANK YOU to you, David, for taking the time and responsibility for posting these great design articles on your site. I’ve really enjoyed all of the content that you post.

Perhaps you can spot light Woody Pirtle, Kit Hendrichs and several of the other more recent great American designers in future posts.

Looking forward to your future posts.

It’s amazing how some designs just survive through time. And although the redesigns are a step back from the minimal and stylish look of Saul’s originals it’s good that the companies had preserved at least the idea behind them.

On another note, Celanese redesign is pathetic :(

Quaker and Kleenex looks like there were made today. Absolutly timeless. The new Minolta feels so overrated, go back, please go back. Saul Bass is a genius. Great work with typography, colours and symbols. I wanna be like Saul.

I have to admit I was never a fan of Saul Bass’s logo work. His film posters and title sequences are incredible (he had an exhibition of his work in London recently: which was well worth seeing.)

But then again I’m not a massive fan of Paul Rand in general either. Never have been. I seem to be in the minority on this blog though! Most large brand identities stay the same for a long time and normally get tweaked rather than changed. I don’t think there is anything mindblowing above.

I await the flaming!

I’m observing that most of the updates have led to an inferior version of the original design. Some of them far inferior.

Next time I land on a clients website and find their identity has been revamped by someone other than me, perhaps I should try not to feel so bad about it :P

This serves as proof that timeless means just that. Most of the redesigns fail in comparison, but most knew better than to stray too far from Mr. Bass’ original designs. That being said, the Kleenex update is totally unnecessary and looses some of the magic it once had. What was Minolta thinking? And I guess I understand Quaker’s desire to update since “everybody’s-doin’-it” but what they came up with really doesn’t translate well across mediums. The only one that I like is at&t, they brought Saul’s design “into the digital age” so to speak, while retaining key qualities of it.

Not going to lie, given the context, the at&t logo needed to change, and it’s not nearly as bad as it could have been. The Minolta either.

Not bad at all.

The rest of them, I’m vomiting right now.

Kleenex and Quaker aren’t really worse. Kleenex because it hasn’t changed that much, and quaker because the original imo just didn’t match the current brand.
I agree with the rest though.

If I was asked by a client to redesign one of these legendary marks I would just stand up and walk out without saying a word. Sorry Saul Bass, they know not what they do.

The bass originals are master works. They should be in museums. Any updates pale as far inferior. I was hooked on Bass since the age of 13 seeing the graphic from” The Man with the Golden Arm” movie poster. It took me 14 more years to find out who this great artist was and knew him as my mentor.

Ouch, ouch!

Who has been destroying every beautiful brand identity that Saul Bass have done?

If someone messes with my logos like that, I am becoming ninja !

The originals win without question. But not only do they win, it’s hard to see any argument for updating them in the first place.

For anyone who may be interested, I worked with Saul during the last half of the 60s as his logo planning and account manager (AT&T, Continental Airlines and Rockwell International primarily.) After I retired, I went on and combined Saul’s teachings with credibility principles in communication persuasion for which I was awarded a Ph.D. If you would like to chat about my personal experiences with Saul, our big AHAH moment while planning the Contiental logo, my Ph.D. work….or most anything about “credibility based” logo planning and design please call me at 808 922 4042 Hawaii Time after 9 am. Mahalo!

The new Kleenex by Sterling Brands is an excellent update. All others went pure horror show.

Saul designed the AT&T in 1983, the graphic standards manuals started to come out in 1984, and the packaging system redesign in 1985 or 1986. G. Dean Smith and Art Goodman, Creative Directors, were also key people in the design, and of course I was there too.

You must have been at BY&A just before me. Your name doesn’t ring a bell. Dean Smith had just died a few days before the day I started. Hired as a senior designer, I eventually became associate creative director. I remember his brother Graham well. And of course the brilliant, talented Art Goodman. Anyone who worked at BY&A knows about the myth and the reality, that although Saul got all the credit, the original designs for many of the logos and brand Identities were done by a group of talented people whose names the public will probably never know. The Pat Kirkham book perpetuates the myth and misses the real story. The office wasn’t just on Sunset Boulevard, It was “Sunset Boulevard” the movie.

NONE of them are anywhere close to the quality of the original, with the exception of the Quaker redo (which is not better really, just not horrible like the others.)

Also, why do people associate gradients with modern or contemporary?? ugh, horrible.

I agree with renee. In my opinion, gradients have no place in logo design. A logo should be easily rendered in a single color without loss of quality or intent. The symbol should be recognizable after being photocopied, faxed, then photocopied again. If a brand wants to “dress” its logo for advertising with the use of gradients and lighting effects, fine. But the single color emblem should be the standard.

I’m torn over the Alcoa redesign. I think the redesign does the emblem a huge disservice by crowding the initial in the smaller box. Not nearly enough white space (or blue space, in this instance). However, the newer blue provides more contrast. Had they kept the original dimensions for the bounding box and changed only the color, I think they’d have possibly improved on Bass’ design. Missed opportunity.

Blasphemy? You be the judge.


This is a bit special.

At age 13 I passed by the movie theather in Pittsburgh and noticed this graphic – Man with The Golden Arm – and it was literally magnetic, I could not walk away until I studied every line – mind you, age 13 just before my Bar Mitzvah and had no clue about anythuing Bass.

In later years I developed a federal graphics career as well as a jewish design and fine arts career. I was the art director of the National Institute of Mental Health and in 1974 there was an attempt to improve federal visual communications and Mr. Bass was the keynote speaker held at the State Dept. I went over to him and told him about the Golden Arm story.

Years later I was exhibiting in a jewish arts fest and a month later found that my designs and Mr. Bass’s designs were lifted and used by some bad guy. I was back in contact with Saul Bass reporting this theft. I also sent him my latest design samples which included the stolen art.

He now was much older and somewhat ill.

He asked me to go after the bastard. His voice now sounded like the “Godfather” giving me instruction. Then he said something that knocked me over. He said, “Your design work is very impressive and my only regret is that I have never created the kind of Judaic artwork you have done – very impressive.” I later caught the bad guy and have not seen any of his theft activity. For a short period of time Saul mentored and made comments on some of my work and soon passed.

To me Mr. Bass was a real design icon.

Avy Ashery, Visual Communications Advisor to the U.S. Congress

What a great story Avy, I enjoyed reading it. How fortunate for you to have had that compliment from Mr Bass. Have a great day.

Share a thought