If you’ve visited Google today, you will have noticed the brilliant video doodle celebrating graphic designer Saul Bass’s birthday.
Bass died in 1996 but during his 40-year career, he produced film credits, posters, logos and ads for the likes of Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and Martin Scorsese, who praised his talent for creating “an emblematic image, instantly recognisable and immediately tied to the film”.
Transforming title sequences from a routine affair into an art form, he is responsible for the dizzying credits in Vertigo, the iconic opening sequence of Psycho and the grid based on a skyscraper facade that opens North by Northwest.
Today’s doodle pays homage to his most celebrated titles and is set to Dave Burbeck’s jazz piece Unsquare Dance.
The illustration is the work of California-based illustrator Matthew Cruickshank. A graphic design graduate, Cruickshank has worked as a character artist for Warner Bros and Disney and joined Google as an artist and designer in 2012. He’s also a huge fan of Saul Bass.
“North by Northwest may be my favourite piece of [Bass’s] work – nobody had divided screen space like that before with kinetic typefaces, and its still amazing today. His work remains iconic because of the thought behind the design as well as the execution,” he says.
Before being spotted by Google, Cruickshank lived in London. He’s now based in California and has produced around 30 doodles celebrating events such as The Day of the Dead (below), the 150th anniversary of the London Underground and Martin Luther King Day.
Cruickshank designed the Bass doodle in Illustrator before animating it in After Effects. He secured the rights to use the title sequences after contacting Saul’s daughter Jennifer Bass and with a little help from colleagues at Google HQ.
Once the piece was formed, it needed music and as Bass was a fan of Dave Burbeck, Unsquare Dance made a fitting choice.
“The Brubeck track seemed to fit really well with the genres … [and] the Brubeck estate was just as excited as the Bass family and studios,” he says.
The finished doodle is a great tribute to a truly inspirational designer and one that Cruickshank hopes will lead more people to find out about bass and demonstrate the strengths of abstract animation. “The more abstract the better,” he says.
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