A timely release about one of the great and influential designers of the last century and clearly Pat Kirkham has made this a scholarly work considering the amount of research involved. The title will most likely become the standard biography of Bass. Having said that I was disappointed to find the book had some editorial flaws in its presentation.
Millions of movie-goers are familiar with the stunning credits Bass created (sixty stills are included in a fold-out dateline at the back pages) from Carmen Jones in 1954 to Casino in 1995 and the book rightly devotes a large number of pages to credits and the marketing of movies. My first disappointment is that a DVD was not included with the book. OK, I'll accept that this would involve a lot of extra work (and probably copyright fees to make the book even costlier) and it wasn't in the author's remit so the fall back position would be to show the credits in as much detail as possible: frame by frame to give the reader a feel of how Bass created these powerful opening statements to a movie. Unfortunately many of these credit stills throughout the book are treated more as individual images, in various sizes, rather than shown as a sequence of large thumbnails. Solana and Boneu's Uncredited Graphic Design and Opening Titles
book has a whole chapter on Bass credits and the pages work well. 'Anatomy of a murder' has thirty-two thumbnails, 'North by northwest' has twenty-four. In this book they get six and five.
Chapter six looks at the corporate work of Saul Bass and he worked for a lot of companies. The book's coverage is hardly comprehensive when this kind of design commission looks into every visual corner of a company. Mostly what is shown are a few samples: Fuller Paints gets five photos and a logo; Rockwell International three and a logo; Minolta two photos, two logos and five still thumbnails. These corporate pages throw up another disappointment I had with the book: presentation. Flick through the pages and it all looks clean and tidy but then start to read a chapter and I became aware of the large amounts of empty page space (working white as designers call it) where, as this is a book about a visual subject, images should be working much harder. These are pretty pages rather than practical pages that reveal the full potential of the images to the reader. A good example are two fold-outs showing logos sixteen to a page, actually they would have fitted easily on two pages but on four pages they should have been much larger without destroying the book's design integrity. A spread on AT&T (pages 330/331) has ten images and text that would easily fit on one page.
A book that has plenty of pages using less than 50% of the space for images and text suggests to me that there are too many pages, not enough material to fill or the images should have been larger. It is the latter that is the problem here.
What I found absolutely fascinating were the fifteen pages of notes in the back pages. Predictably set in tiny type yet full of detail about Saul Bass, design and the design community he worked in.
The book's printing is excellent, a nice matt art for the 1484 images using an impressively fine screen (three hundred+) an embossed cover with the 'Bonjour tristesse' logo. 'Saul Bass' is certainly an interesting book but I thought the presentation didn't really display this wonderful designer's work to its full potential, especially his stunning movie credits.
###LOOK AT SOME INSIDE PAGES by clicking 'customer images' under the cover.