Saul Bass logo design: then and now

The average lifespan of a Saul Bass logo is 34 years.

Saul Bass logo Lawry's foods 1959
  • LAWRY’S FOODS (1959)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • LAWRY’S FOODS
    3D version. Date unknown

Logo lifespan: 54 years and counting (1959- )

Saul Bass logo Alcoa 1963
  • ALCOA (1963)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • ALCOA (1998)
    Revitalized by Arnold Saks Associates

Logo lifespan: 49 years and counting (1964- )

Saul Bass logo Fuller paints 1963
  • FULLER PAINTS (1963)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • FULLER O’BRIEN
    Only the name has changed

Logo lifespan: 50 years and counting (1963- )

Saul Bass logo Celanese 1966
  • CELANESE (1966)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • CELANESE (200x)
    Designed by Siegel+Gale
Saul Bass logo Continental 1967
  • CONTINENTAL (1967)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • CONTINENTAL (1991)
    Designed by Onoma Design

Logo lifespan: 24 years (1967-1991)

Saul Bass logo Rockwell international 1968

ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL (1968)
The logo was used until 2001, when Rockwell International was split into two companies, Rockwell Automation and Rockwell Collins

Logo lifespan: 33 years (1968-2001)

Saul Bass logo Bell 1969

BELL (1969)
Used until 1984, when Bell became AT&T and Bass was hired to design their new logo
EDIT: Used by telephone company Malheur Bell, Oregon, until 2009

Logo lifespan: 15 years (1969-1984) 40 years (1969-2009)

Saul Bass logo Dixie 1969
  • DIXIE (1969)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • DIXIE (2007?)
    Designer unknown

Logo lifespan: 38 years (1969-2007)

Saul Bass logo Quaker 1969
  • QUAKER (1969)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • QUAKER (2010)
    Designed by Wallace Church

Logo lifespan: 41 years (1969-2010)

Saul Bass logo United Way 1972
  • UNITED WAY (1972)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • UNITED WAY (2004)
    Designed by FutureBrand in 2004

Logo lifespan: 41 years and counting (1972-    )

Saul Bass logo United Airlines 1973
  • UNITED (1973)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • UNITED (2010)
    Designed by Onoma Design in 1991

Logo lifespan: 37 years (1973-2010)

Saul Bass logo Warner Bros 1974

WARNER COMMUNICATIONS (1974)
Currently used by Warner Music Group

Logo lifespan: 38 years and counting (1974-    )

Saul Bass logo Avery 1975

AVERY (1975)
Avery changed their name to Avery Dennison after a merger. The company still uses the same symbol and typeface as in 1975

Logo lifespan: 38 years and counting (1975- )

Saul Bass logo Frontier airlines 1978

FRONTIER AIRLINES (1978)
The logo has been used until 1986, when Frontier Airlines filed for bankruptcy

Logo lifespan: 8 years (1978-1986)

Saul Bass logo Girl scouts 1978
  • GIRL SCOUTS (1978)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • GIRL SCOUTS (2010)
    Redesigned by OCD Agency

Logo lifespan: 35 years and counting (1978- )

Saul Bass logo Hanna-Barbera 1979

HANNA-BARBERA (1979)

Logo lifespan: 34 years and counting (1979- )

Saul Bass logo Boys Clubs 1980

BOYS CLUBS (1980)

Logo lifespan: 33 years and counting (1980- )

Saul Bass logo Minolta 1981
  • MINOLTA (1981)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • MINOLTA (2003)
    Designer unknown

Logo lifespan: 32 years and counting (1981- )

Saul Bass logo Geffen records 1981
  • GEFFEN RECORDS (1981)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • GEFFEN RECORDS
    Original design by Saul Bass

Logo lifespan: 32 years and counting (1981- )

Saul Bass logo General foods 1984

GENERAL FOODS (1984)
The logo has been used until the merger with Kraft in 1990.

Logo lifespan: 6 years (1984-1990)

Saul Bass logo Kibun 1984

KIBUN (1984)
The company still uses the same symbol

Logo lifespan: 29 years and counting (1984- )

Saul Bass logo AT&T 1984
  • AT&T (1984)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • AT&T (2005)
    Redesigned by Interbrand

Logo lifespan: 21 years (1984-2005)

Saul Bass logo Y.W.C.A.  1988
  • Y.W.C.A. (1988)
    Original design by Saul Bass
  • Y.W.C.A. (2004)
    Designed by Landor SF

Logo lifespan: 18 years (1988-2004)

Saul Bass logo Kosé cosmetics 1959

KOSÉ COSMETICS (1991)
Kosé is one of the top cosmetics manufacturers in Japan and in the world. The company still uses the same logo as in 1991

Logo lifespan: 22 years and counting (1991- )

Saul Bass logo Getty Center 1993

THE GETTY CENTER (1993)
Still the same symbol

Logo lifespan: 20 years and counting (1993- )




Fifteen years after Bass’ death, a book about his work finally hit the shelves: Saul Bass: A Life in 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”. — Saul Bass

Bass certainly did his job well, he created some of the most recognizable and iconic logos of all time, but they’re gradually disappearing. The most recent death of a Saul Bass logo has been the famous United ‘tulip,’ which was used by the company for 37 years until the merger with Continental in 2010. This caused quite a controversy in the design world, because 1) you don’t mess with a Saul Bass logo 2) you don’t replace a Saul Bass logo with a generic clipart-like version that’s much worse than the original.

I thought it would be interesting to find out what happened to Bass’ other logo/symbol designs and was surprised to see how many of them are still alive.

Some facts and figures about the logos: 15 years after Bass’ death 13 of the 23 logos displayed above still remain the same (this also includes refreshed logos), 6 logos ‘died’ when companies went bankrupt or merged with others. Only 4 logos were replaced by completely redesigned versions. Most significant proof of a job well done is the longevity of Bass’ logos. The average lifespan of the 23 logos on this page is 34 years.
Let me repeat that:
The average lifespan of a Saul Bass logo is 34 years.

EDIT: “YT” in the comments points out that the Bell logo was used until 2009, which makes the average lifespan of a Saul Bass logo even more impressive: 35.0869565 years.

EDIT 2: Josh Kasten kindly provided some additional information: 1) The Celanese re-design was executed by Siegel+Gale 2) Both versions of the Geffen logo were designed by Bass/Yager & Associates. 3) The Alcoa revitalization was done by Arnold Saks Associates in 1998.

EDIT 3: Available from Amazon:
Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, by Jennifer Bass and Pat Kirkham.


Designed by Saul Bass’s daughter Jennifer and written by distinguished design historian Pat Kirkham, who knew Saul Bass, this book contains more than 1,400 illustrations, many from the Bass archive and never published before, providing an in-depth account of one of the leading graphic artists of the 20th century.

Hardback | 1484 illustrations, 440 pages | £48.00 | Published in the UK by Laurence King Publishing.

  1. Nice post Christian, Bass was a true legend.

    I find many of the refreshes featured above actually weaker than the originals, most notably, Dixie, Girl Scouts, and Kleenex.

    I’ve never liked that 2005 at&t font, I find it awkward to look at and limp.

  2. Very interesting indeed, a case study to watch and make treasure of , thanks!

  3. Eric Ressler says:

    The original logos are better in every case, hands down.

  4. Vinay Pateel says:

    Totally agree with all you guys above..
    The original logos are much better than the redesigned versions..
    I’m not saying they are irreplaceable. Although they are timeless and could serve the lifetime of a company, a thoughtful designer could definitely come up with a redesign which is refreshing enough. The redesign teams for all the Bass logos have failed in doing so.
    Respect to the Logo Lord.

  5. James Hollis says:

    I agree that the redesigns are a little underwhelming. But lets not forget that the often overwhelming factor of client choice can play a part in how these logos end up being ‘modernised’

  6. john spiegel says:

    Bass still remains the best!
    Great design is hard to beat!

  7. Ryan says:

    I actually prefer the United Way redesign: perfect circular shape and plain colors (no gradients whatsoever). The shape is also easier to recognize.

    Undoubtedly, Saul Bass was good, but not everything he created was perfect, especially if we take into consideration the concept of the icons.

  8. Ken says:

    It took me a while to see what even changed in the girl scout logo (aside from the color). He had some great designs.

  9. Dean Oakley says:

    Wow… every redesign pretty much sucked.

  10. YT says:

    The Bell logo was actually used by the Baby Bells that formed as part of the breakup in 1984, and it remained in use until 2009: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_Bell_Operating_Company

    So you can tack 25 years to that one.

  11. samantha says:

    the new girl scouts logo actually is a lot worse. the girl on the left has no definition!

  12. Andy says:

    Hmm. United (2010) looks a lot like Continental (1991). This is a very cool post and an exceptional blog.

  13. Jason Grube says:

    Saul Bass was a legend but even legends aren’t perfect. There are one or two stinkers in his portfolio.

    Besides Geffen and ywca the updates are down-grades. The updated Continental and Quaker logos make me want to stab myself in the eye.

  14. john says:

    The original was much better in almost all the designs.Saul Bass logo was just amazing. The new logo are weaker and thin,and they don’t stand out.

  15. Matt says:

    @Andy: United’s new logo looks identical to Continental’s ’91 logo because United and Continental merged in 2010. The new airline gets the United name, but Continental’s logo and typeface. very weird to see.

  16. Josh says:

    Christian,

    I wanted to share some information with you that would help you in your comparison between the Saul Bass identities and the re-designs/revitilizations and the lifespan of those works.

    First, the Alcoa revitalization was designed by Arnold Saks Associates in 1998.

    Here is a link for your reference:
    http://www.saksdesign.com/CI/CI_Alcoa.html

    Also, The Celanese re-design was executed by Siegel & Gale, but I’m not sure of the exact year. I think it was 1988, though.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1988/05/26/business/the-media-business-advertising-doyle-graf-awarded-hoechst-celanese-job.html?src=pm

    Lastly, the design for Geffern Rerecords (the volume identity) is also a Saul Bass design. It appears in the book “Trademarks, Logos, Stationery Systems and Corporate Identity U.S.A. by Alvin Rosenbaum.

    I hope this information was helpful for you.

  17. Derek says:

    @Samantha: What I like about the Girl Scouts refresh is that the left-most girl actually has what appear to be “sweepy” bangs (my wife’s term, not mine), which are a little more modern than the original hairstyle depicted. I also like that tip of the hat to the Fleur De Lis, with the pointed tip on the bottom.

    But can we talk about the General Foods logo for a minute? That thing was way before it’s time. Almost looks like something the skate company Element would throw on a T-shirt and sell at Zumiez today…and he created that in 1984! It’s amazing how well the majority of his designs hold up today.

  18. Jim says:

    It’s nice to see. But I gotta agree with the majority here: nearly every redesign shown here is weaker than the original.

  19. Saul Bass was truly a talented designer and his logos seem timeless. As far as the redesigns go, they are most certainly weaker than the original, but let’s be honest, it’s a very high bar to reach to redesign a better solution than that of a Bass.

  20. Saul was a pure designer and his work will never get old. I met him on numerous occasions in LA where his studio was. He said great design will always stand out and last forever. His lead designer was a great guy by the name of Art Goodman. I tried to get a job right after Art Center, he told me to come back in 5 years. I did and he still didn’t hire me. He was a design inspiration.

  21. jack says:

    The United Way logo is the only one that significantly improves the logo. Nice.

  22. Aaron says:

    Amazing. the only one he didn’t nail was United Way..they did a good job of improving on his mark. He is so underrated and appreciated. Not nearly enough people know about him.

  23. logo designs says:

    The logo designs look great. Being a blog writer personally, I truly appreciate the time you absorbed. The new airline gets the United name, but Continental’s logo designs and typeface. very weird to see.

  24. Peter says:

    Yep. The originals are better. The redesigns are poor.

  25. Rui says:

    United way still uses the Saul Bass original, with a slight color change.

  26. Who thought that a bevel would improve a Saul Bass logo? i.e. Lowry. Aren’t we over bevels yet?

    I agree that most of the originals were far better than the makeovers.

  27. The originals are way more sophisticated than the refresh – if it isn’t broken then dont try and fix it.

  28. Andy Fuller says:

    Such iconic logo identities! I alway remember the animated swishing Hanna Barbera logo with the music – it’s imprinted on my brain. This, and his other logos have certainly stood the test of time!