Saul Bass’ Vertigo movie poster design

An overview of the various designs Bass created for the film: posters, inserts, window cards, lobby cards and ads

Saul Bass one sheet Vertigo movie poster

VERTIGO (1958) one sheet movie poster, designed by Saul Bass

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

Today, April 25, marks the 15th anniversary of the death of Saul Bass (1920-1996) one of the best, beloved and prolific designers of all time.

We’re all familiar with (a fraction of) Bass’ work: the title sequences, movie posters and logos. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Bass designed everything that could be designed during his long and prolific career, from ceramic tiles to album covers, from service stations to buildings and play environments.

Saul Bass has become a rockstar who’s remembered for his greatest hits while all the other great tracks he recorded are being neglected. One of those hits was the movie poster Bass created for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Also known as THE Vertigo movie poster.

There is no such thing as THE Vertigo movie poster.

When Bass worked for film studios he offered them a package: main and credit titles, a symbol or trademark, a screen trailer, posters (half sheets, one sheet, three sheet, six sheet, twenty-four sheet), an insert, lobby cards, a window card, trade ads (six different versions, three colors) and magazine ads (at least 10 different versions).

The Vertigo movie poster that’s become a landmark in graphic design and cinema history is the one sheet poster. Bass also designed other posters, each with a slightly different design, to match the proportions of the sheet they were printed on. Below you’ll find the half sheets and three sheet poster. I haven’t been able to locate quality images of the six sheet poster (which features the same handmade lettering as the Vertigo trailer ) or the twenty-four sheet poster.

The spirals or vortex which appeared in the Vertigo title sequence and on all printed matter of the marketing campaign was created by animation and computer pioneer John Whitney, Sr. (1917-1995).

At least four different silhouette drawings were used during the campaign. They were created by Art Goodman.

Saul Bass Vertigo silhouettes

Silhouettes illustrated by Art Goodman.

Bass created identities for movies. A brand. One single designer who was responsible for the look and feel of the entire marketing campaign of a film. Today it’s different. Various companies are hired for the design of posters, trailer and commercials. The industry has become so fragmented that the amount of movies with a recognizable identity is decreasing each year.

The movie poster continues to inspire designers from all over the world: the following recent movie posters and book cover all are homages to Bass’ work: Burn after reading (2008) , Buried (2010) , Alting bliver godt igen (2010), The terrible privacy of Maxwell Sim (2010)

“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”.

That’s Saul Bass talking about logo design. It could have been about movie poster design as well if we replace ‘company’ with ‘movie.’ Fifteen years after his death much of Bass’ work still looks contemporary or timeless. His work is like good movies like Vertigo: it keeps getting better with each viewing.

Related: Saul Bass title sequences

EDIT: Available for pre-order 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.

Saul Bass Vertigo pressbook

A page from the pressbook, which shows the various poster designs that were used during the marketing campaign

Saul Bass three sheet Vertigo movie poster

Three sheet movie poster

Saul Bass 24 sheet Vertigo movie poster

24-sheet movie poster

Saul Bass half sheet Vertigo movie poster

Half sheet movie poster

Saul Bass half sheet Vertigo movie poster

Half sheet movie poster

Saul Bass insert Vertigo movie poster

Insert

Saul Bass Vertigo window card

Window card

Saul Bass Vertigo lobby cards

Lobby cards

Saul Bass magazine adsSaul Bass magazine ads

Magazine ads. There are at least six different versions, in three colors

Saul Bass Vertigo special movie poster

Limited edition privately printed ‘special poster’

  1. Dan Auiler says:

    Extraordinary and brilliant in your use of image and minimal text. Thank you for your fine work

  2. Steve Carver says:

    Good to see that Art Goodman gets some well deserved credit as a contributor to this classic design. Art was Mr. Bass’ second in command for many years, and was kind enough to interview a young designer (me) who had just moved to LA and was looking for work in the mid-70s. I wasn’t ready for a position with Bass and Co. at that point, but remember Art’s encouragement and kindness during the interview.

  3. Luke Jones says:

    Amazing insight into the work of Saul Bass, the dude’s got skills.

  4. […] Cor de Rosa. Chega perto também do estilo do grande designer Saul Bass em cartazes de filmes como Vertigo, de Hitchcock. É especialmente interessante o fato de que não se trata de uma biografia do […]