Saul Bass is widely regarded as perhaps the best graphic artist of the 20th Century due to his extremely popular motion picture title sequences and posters, as well as his undeniably iconic logo designs. While many of his now famous designs have gone by the wayside as companies expanded, folded, merged, etc., we are still bombarded with Saul's work on a daily basis. I was reminded of this this past week, as a coworker sent out an email regarding the sale of Girl Scout cookies. Saul Bass' Girl Scouts logo has withstood the test of time (mostly - subtle changes have been made) and has been in use for well over 30 years now. The great use of negative space makes it one of my favorite logos I have seen, which got me to thinking - what is my absolute favorite Saul Bass logo? Do I have to pick just one? That is a hard crop to choose from... almost every one I would consider a masterpiece. The standouts include Alcoa, AT&T, Avery, Bell, Continental, Dixie, Exxon, Kleenex, Lawry's, Minolta, and Quaker... just to name a few. My personal favorite? United Airlines.
The United Airlines logo may not be his most original or even his most eye catching design, but when the industry is taken into perspective, United has no competition in my mind. The design just makes sense. A stylized letter "U", the angle of the slanted lines fits perfectly onto the tail of a jet. Maybe it is the usage in general that makes this logo so great in my mind. Something about a design standing over 30 feet tall on the side of a jumbo jet has a certain appeal. The spacing of the parallel lines in combination with the curves of the letter-form create the perfect shape to convey a sense of flight, travel and movement. And who can not love an American made logo on an American made plane that is comprised of red, white and blue with stripes reminiscent of the American flag?
Unfortunately, the design was phased out after 37 years in 2010 as Continental and United merged, and was replaced by the much less inspiring globe icon. Ironically, before Continental adopted the globe icon in the 90's, they too had a pretty nifty Bass logo. But perhaps being replaced by a lesser design makes Bass' work stand out even more.
Although many of Saul Bass' creations have disappeared over the years, there are still plenty out there still in use to remind us of the great artist that he was, and his work will continue to inspire.