Saul Bass’ Advice for Designers: Make Something Beautiful and Don’t Worry About the Money

It comes as no sur­prise that the man who cre­at­ed the title sequences for The Man with the Gold­en Arm, North by North­west, Psy­cho, and Ver­ti­go can tell you a thing or two about graph­ic design. He can even tell his estab­lished col­leagues a thing or two about graph­ic design, as seen in the clip above. The man, of course, is Saul Bass, and this footage of him comes from a long-form inter­view con­duct­ed by design­er and edu­ca­tor Archie Boston.

In 1986, Boston paid a vis­it to Bass’ stu­dio for a project called 20 Out­stand­ing Los Ange­les Design­ers, shoot­ing a con­ver­sa­tion that touched on many sub­jects, includ­ing the emi­nence’s main piece of advice for graph­ic design stu­dents. “Learn to draw,” Bass pro­nounces.

“If you don’t, you’re going to live your life get­ting around that and try­ing to com­pen­sate for that.” Design, as observers of the dis­ci­pline say, ulti­mate­ly comes down to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Accord­ing to Bass, aspir­ing design­ers fail to mas­ter draw­ing, one of com­mu­ni­ca­tion’s most basic but rich­est forms, at their per­il.

The clip just above goes deep­er than giv­ing prac­ti­cal advice, get­ting down to the very rai­son d’être of the graph­ic design­er. Bass puts it unam­bigu­ous­ly: “Aes­thet­ics are your prob­lem and mine. Nobody else’s. The fact of the mat­ter is, I want every­thing we do — that I do per­son­al­ly, that our office does — to be beau­ti­ful. I don’t give a damn whether the client under­stands that that’s worth any­thing, or that the client thinks that it’s worth any­thing, or whether it is worth any­thing. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beau­ti­ful things, even if nobody cares.” Explore our relat­ed con­tent sec­tion below to get an exten­sive idea of the fruits of Bass’ unbend­ing desire to cre­ate beau­ty. You may or may not find, say, his reimag­ined Amer­i­can Bell office lady uni­forms beau­ti­ful, but you can’t deny that they come from a mind whol­ly ded­i­cat­ed to aes­thet­ics — and one that cared not just about the how of cre­ation, but the why as well.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Saul Bass Gives Ma Bell a Com­plete Makeover, 1969

Saul Bass’ Oscar-Win­ning Ani­mat­ed Short Pon­ders Why Man Cre­ates

A Brief Visu­al Intro­duc­tion to Saul Bass’ Cel­e­brat­ed Title Designs

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