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Dancing in the Streets-How West Side Story & Saul Bass Made Me a Designer

 

MoldaveDesigns design and marketing Mountainside New Jersey Saul Bass West Side Story poster

When I was a kid, I used to keep scrapbooks. Not sports or music, but movie stills, posters and logos. I'd look through the newspapers for movie ads, cut out the ones I liked and put them in a scrapbook- if i liked the logo, I'd just cut that out. I could have dozens of different variations of a logo depending on what size ad it was in or if it was horizontal, vertical, etc. 

I saw most of my movies at the neighborhood theater. The local hardware store displayed the one-sheets in the window for the movies that were playing. Every once in a while, I'd ask the store owners if I could have that month's crop of posters and they more than willingly gave them to me.

Looking back, collecting the posters and paying attention to the art that was being done for the "branding" of the movie was a big step toward my realization that I wanted to be a graphic designer.

I only have one of the original posters - a rerelease poster of West Side Story by the great Saul Bass that hangs in my office. But a lot of the artwork that I loved from the movies and cut out was also his work.

Looking at it now, I realize why his design sense appealed to me:

It was off balance- yet it was perfectly balanced. The art for the film title is in the lower right of the poster, with the credits in white right above it. They are in News Gothic - flush right, not left or centered. This adds to the feeling of space in the design. The rest of it is a huge blank warm red field. 

The title type is hand lettered -  we'd call it distressed now - and looks like paint peeling off a building. I must have drawn and redrawn the abstract dancers dozens of times.

He was a designer that created beautiful things that meant something- there was never any ornamentation for the sake of ornamentation. Whether it was movie posters, film title sequences (check out Vertigo, Psycho, North By Northwest, Spartacus (Kubrick- not Starz), Anatomy of a Murder) or his corporate design work (AT&T, United Airlines, Rockwell International, and more) his designs always told the story about the subject. 

To see more of Saul Bass' work, click HERE

 

 

 

 

 

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