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Google is celebrating the birthday of graphic designer Saul Bass (1920-1996) with a classy animated tribute on their homepage to Bass’s famous film title sequences including Vertigo, The Man with the Golden Arm, Around the World in 80 Days and West Side Story. The piece was designed and directed by Matt Cruickshank who offers some behind-the-scenes production details on his blog.
It’s a busy time for Cruickshank, who is also the illustrator of the new Monsters University Golden Book that will be released next week. It’s available as a pre-order on Amazon for $3.59.
Sometimes simple things are the best. Like scrambled eggs and butter toast,
a tomato sandwich or a cup of soup, simply designed illustrations can be just what is needed. But simple is a misnomer here. While the illustrations below may look simple, a lot of time, planning and expertise went into the final product.
Henri’s Walk To Paris, by Leonore Klein and illustrated by Saul Bass. I first mentioned this here several months back, and it’s now available. First published in 1962, this was Bass’s only children’s book that he illustrated. I’ve written up a review on my blog, if you’re curious.
The colors and spreads look amazing. Universe has done a great job in ensuring that the printing match the original edition, which, if you can believe it, was released exactly 50 years ago. (Universe also reissue M. Sasek’s This Is… Series.) Well worth the wait.
Also, now would be a good time to point out that Universe will be re-issuing Saul Bass’s only (and nearly impossible to find) illustrated children’s book next February. Henri’s Walk to Paris, written by Lenore Klein, was released in 1962. I had a copy of the book for a few years, and found it so unenjoyable that I got rid of it. It struck me as being a failure as an illustrated storybook, and my ex-library copy confirmed that—it had rarely been checked out in decades.
It surprised me that I disliked the book as much as I did because Bass had a sense of humor (and his very able and funny collaborator Art Goodman worked on the book, too). But, the book’s illustrations are excessively formalized and austere (the curse of design for design’s sake), with none of the warmth, humor or vitality that the story required. Using minimalist graphics in a children’s book is a tricky task to begin with, but it’s possible to do it well. Graphic designer Paul Rand pulled it off more successfully in titles like Sparkle and Spin and Little 1. Or simply look to the master of super-stylized children’s book illustration, Abner Graboff. In spite of its shortcomings, if you’re a Bass fan, you’ll probably want a copy of the book, and now it’s easier to find than ever before.
Resistance is futile! Pat Kirkham’s long-overdue book about graphic design legend and motion picture title innovator Saul Bass is finally out. Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design is an epic 440 pages and includes nearly 1,500 illustrations. Designed by Bass’s daugher Jennifer Bass, the book is quite unbelievably the first major American retrospective of Bass’s work.
Bass had a long and infuential career in graphic and corporate identity design, but today he is perhaps best remembered for his groundbreaking motion picture titles, of which there are 70 examples in the book. To create those, Bass collaborated with many animators throughout his career, including Bill Melendez (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World titles), Bill Hurtz (Around the World in 80 Days end titles), Fred Crippen (The Sale of Manhattan and Why Man Creates) and John Whitney, Sr. (Vertigo titles).
When I first became interested in children’s literature I decided that it would be a good idea to teach myself about all the old greats of the picture book world. A good idea, but self-teaching is inherently limited. As such, I’ve missed a lot of folks. For example, until now “Saul Bass” meant nothing to me. Yet after reading the Ward Jenkins post on the Rizzoli reprint of Henri’s Walk to Paris, that is one book I would love to get my sticky digits on. Just gorgeous stuff.
I’ve noticed a couple of folks around the country working to make literary loving hip in the mind of the average consumer with varying degrees of success. One project that has interested me, though, is this Litpunch idea the Twin Cities are engaged in. Basically you get a card, you attend fun free literary events, and if you get your card punched twelve times you get a $15 gift card to a bookstore. I do wish the libraries were involved in some manner but it’s a great notion. Imagine if they did the same thing with children’s literature! I await that happening someday.
This is impressive! Want a fabulous list of in-print books set on every continent of the world? And would you like such a list to also include activities and recipes and the like? Then I think it’s time to take a trip to Read Around the World. It’ll do your old heart good. Promise.
Speaking of recipes, you know that fabulous book Press Here by Herve Tullet? Well, would you fancy trying a mess of Press Here cookies? Children’s Books for Grown-Ups has got the goods. It’s part of a regular “Bookish Bites” series. I’m seriously looking forward to how Natasha will tackle that upcoming Moomin birthday cake. There but for the grace of parental challenges go I . . .
Once in a while at Hark, A Vagrant, Ms. Kate Beaton will reinterpret variousEdwardGoreycovers. Here’s one she may have missed. It appeared recently on the 50 Watt blog and features a Gorey spider. Have you ever seen a Gorey spider? Did you know that you were missing out? That your life contained a gigantic Gorey-spider shaped void?