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Saul Bass

One of the most memorable times with Saul alone with no distractions from others, was when we were discussing the logo design strategy for a new client ---- Continental Airlines.

Saul Bass (1920-1996)

Saul Bass


Memories | Continental Airlines

This was sometime in 1967. I had just taken two weeks with another associate who took photos while I directed what to shoot. The objective was to show Continental management what the public saw at ticket counters, city ticket offices, inside airplanes ---- or what we would call today "all touch points".

I came back with 1500 slides. Saul and I were in a late night meeting discussing what the Continental look meant, and what inference we could make for a new Continental logo design as the beginning of a new image program. I remember Saul saying something like, "If this were Western Airlines, we would just make a "western" looking logo complete with an "out west look" reminiscent of cowboy gear. But this was Continental, an airline known at the time for its high service image.

After a while discussing several themes, I pulled hard into my social science education at UCLA and said to Saul, "why not communicate Continental in all areas just like Continental is, just like it conducts itself in real life? The ticket counters would get rid of the old design themes and look super efficient --- a place for great service. The city ticket offices would be interesting and have things to see around Continental's route structure while also looking super efficient".

This hit Saul, I recall, like a revelation. I was also applying what I had learned in a previous job selling packaging design that the package should communicate the product inside. This time Continental's package would communicate the product inside which was super service in the form of a logo.

Saul said something like, "yes, and we will start by symbolizing what Continental does. We must symbolize Continental's business which is that of an airline but different from the rest of the airlines which had "bird" symbols at the time. And it must look "high tech" and "friendly" ---- important traits of super service.

Since Continental was really the smallest of the carriers (only 41 aircraft), Saul added "large" as a third trait which was not really stretching reality as Continental really operated like any of the large carriers at the time. What Saul was doing was describing what I learned several years later in graduate school to be credibility traits in communication persuasion.

Continental Airlines

The Continental logo turned out to be the first credibility based logo design I helped plan and develop. Saul created AT&T and several other logo designs after that which followed the rules of credibility based logo design discovered that late night in 1967 in Saul's office. It would be another 20 years that my book, The Power of Logos: How to Create Effective Company Logos, NY: Wiley, 1997 would introduce the theory of credibility based logo design based on my Master of Arts thesis research on Saul's teachings discovered that night.

  You may also be interested in:

AIGA: Saul Bass (external link)

Saul Bass on the web (external link)

Design Museum (external link)

2007 Powerlogos Design. All rights reserved. 'Powerlogos Design', 'Credibility Based Logo Design', 'Logo Implementation Guidelines' and Logo Planning Report' are registered 
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