Saul Bass Pitches the new Bell System Logo

By December 14, 2011Art + Design, Inspiration

Designer Saul Bass did a makeover of the Bell Telephone System’s identity in the late 1960s. Instead of pitching his design proposal in printed form, he made a 27-minute film.

Bass’ work in logo design and movie title credit sequences spanned the latter half of the 20th century, with prominent work in each field. He worked closely with AT&T, designing not only the 1970 “bell” logo that was ubiquitous for a decade, but also, upon the divestiture of AT&T, he designed the original “death star” logo, unveiled in 1984.

One reason for this bell logo’s ubiquity? That redesign was the largest corporate re-identity program in the U.S., ever. The redesign covered:

* 135,000 Bell system vehicles
* 22,000 buildings
* 1,250,000 phone booths
* 170,000,000 telephone directories

This film was made by his company as a presentation to AT&T executives. It would have extended to be shown to the public, but a number of his ideas in the film were not ultimately adopted, like his phone booth designs, and men’s and women’s uniforms. But a great many were—including, most memorably, the telephone vans and hardhat designs of the 1970s. He designed down to the details, showcasing in this film a myriad of ideas, right down to the yellow pages book designs, cufflinks for executives, and flags.

Bass’ other very recognizable logo designs that persist today include those for Minolta, Girl Scouts of America, Avery International, Geffen Records, Warner Int’l, and many more. Bass’ design for AT&T was the foundation for the logo that the company has today, redesigned in 2005 by Interbrand.

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